Chapter Eleven -- A Trailer and a Trip

I smoldered all the way to San Diego. Sonya was wise enough to leave me alone and Matilda knitted quietly in the back seat. I, personally, was focusing on getting to San Diego without being involved in a road rage incident.

By the time we pulled into Sam's I had my full wits about me again and had come to the determination that it was best just to ignore Matilda. She didn't talk anyway, and maybe she would disappear just as mysteriously as she had appeared. I had contemplated using force to dislodge her, or calling the police, but I didn't like the potential outcomes of either of those solutions. She didn't smell or make noise and was a moderately attractive woman. I studiously ignored that fact that she had graced my bed one strange night; it was best just to pretend that episode had never happened.

When we arrived at Custom Trailers, Sam Adams himself was there to greet us. Sonya and I got out of the truck, and Matilda didn't move. Sam assured me that everything was ready to go and proceeded to lead us on an inspection tour of the new rig. We examined every hatch, door and latch; every appliance got tested, including the small shower and toilet. The satellite system was up and running and the WiFi was amazingly fast. Sam pointed out that his receptionist had stocked the refrigerator and kitchen pantry as requested by Sonya; that was something I hadn't thought of, and I appreciated Sonya's attention to detail.

As soon as the inspection was finished, Sam's team began to transfer our belongings into the trailer; everything but the personal items went into the storage room. Sonya supervised that operation while Sam showed me how to operate and maintain the solar, propane and plumbing systems.

The living area in the trailer wasn't large but it had a set of bunk beds, the upper a small twin and the lower a small full which converted into a table for four, a small desk with chair and all the various entertainment devices. It was cozy and very nicely appointed with a farmhouse style d├ęcor.

Sam's team had taken charge of my truck, first fueling it up from their on-site diesel pump, then giving it a full once over. After that they hooked up my trailer, explaining each step of the operation to me as they went; it was surprisingly quick and easy. They showed me how the cameras on the trailer were now fully connected to the screen in the cab, making driving a rig of that size much easier. The truck had been fully setup from the factory to tow this sort of rig, the fifth-wheel hitch had even been pre-installed at the factory. I knew all of this but I was still amazed at the level of information from and control I had over the trailer from the driver's seat of the truck. Technology was truly an amazing thing.

Even more amazing was the fact that I could see everything about the truck and even remotely start it from the desk inside the trailer. Cold mornings up north suddenly looked a whole lot comfier. I could also monitor my propane, solar and battery levels in the trailer from inside the trailer; as well as control the temperature in the stalls and the temperature in the walk-in game fridge. One of my intended uses for that trailer was hunting trips, so the small walk-in fridge was essential. This was the reason my living space had been kept so small, I wanted storage space for supplies. I was happy to sleep in a tent in anything but subzero weather and I had even ordered a small diesel fired tent heater of the sort I'd used in my days as a Jarhead.

As we left Sam's I discussed the next steps of our journey with Sonya. Our first overnight stop was in El Centro, which was about two hours away -- possible three with traffic. In El Centro I was scheduled to meet with the first of my dogs and we had a reservation at a nearby campground to stay the night. I reminded Sonya that we had a lot of online deliveries pending and we needed to double check the delivery points. What had been decided to make the most sense was to have items delivered at each location to General Delivery at the Post Office or the reserved camping spot I intended to stay at.

Sonya went through each and every order, and even called a few sellers and suffered through customer service hell to ensure each and every order we had placed was on schedule for delivery where and when we wanted it. Thankfully, we'd have almost everything delivered in the first three days. There would be a few items later on but the stuff I wanted with me for the trip would be on hand; I wouldn't be forced to settle for whatever I could find at the local super-stores.

The trailer had a large built-in storage area wide enough to accept even a full-sized pallet of goods if necessary. While that isn't huge it was useful for this adventure, and I suspected it would be very handy down the road.

All the way to El Centro Sonya worked on these details, I drove and learned to manage the trailer, and Matilda knitted.

Chapter Twelve -- The Bitch called Mila

It's a funny thing how the distraction of business can make time truly fly by, the GPS was telling me to take the next off ramp seemingly minutes after we left the mad house traffic of San Diego behind. Getting to the campground was a short bit of grueling work, I wasn't used to driving a rig this large on side streets and every maneuver took extra concentration. At one point I actually had to snap at Sonya to leave me alone before I forced her to drive us to our reserved camping spot.

We made it to the RV camping ground and we thankfully had a pull through spot, they were slow this time of year and that made everything easier. I didn't know if I was ready to try to back the trailer up into a tight spot yet even with all the electronic assistance.

After we pulled in and stretched our legs Sonya walked back up to the office to register us into the camping ground. This was the one and only time we were staying in a commercial campground, after this we would be staying in private lots where horses were allowed. While Sonya took care of the paperwork I set the trailer up and disconnected the truck, I was here to purchase a dog and didn't feel like dragging the rig around to the breeder's semi-suburban home.

With the truck disconnected from the trailer I put it in park and looked back to Matilda. "Out", I told her, "go help Sonya set up the camp". With that Matilda stowed her knitting, grabbed her voluminous shoulder bag and slipped out of the truck. I breathed a deep sigh of relief and watched as she walked back to the trailer and slipped into the living quarters.

I texted Sonya and let her know where I was going and drove away, it was a relief to have a few minutes alone after the last 24 hours and I really just wanted to breathe.

A text came in from Sonya reminding me to pick up our deliveries before the Post Office closed, a quick change of course and I pulled up to a medium sized building plastered with US Mail slogans and a prominent US Flag out front. The wait in line wasn't long and after a quick show of my ID I was directed to pull up to the loading docks out back and I could load my packages.

I found the loading docks easily enough and carefully backed up to the loading itself and got out to greet the two workers waiting there. I hopped up on the dock and introduced myself to an attractive woman (about my age), and a young "just out of young adulthood" aged man -- both were dressed in the official uniform of the United States Post Office. They pointed out the three pallets of goods they had for me.

One pallet only held only my much-desired Smoker/BBQ, it was a charcoal unit and was portable; camping was going to be a lot more fun. As we surveyed the other two boxes of pallets I explained that I was travelling and noted that most of those boxes were probably not even close to full. I also noted how it might be easier if we simply combined the boxes before we loaded them. The young man admitted that they did have a cardboard baler and the cute lady added that it wouldn't be a problem.

We quickly worked our way through the boxes, combining or even eliminating them complete and started loading the truck. It was made much more sense to only have a 5-gallon bucket of flour than a box containing a 5-gallon bucket of flour. Within twenty minutes the truck was loaded and we were carefully loading the BBQ into back of the Ram. There was a pile of cardboard and packing material left on the dock; I felt a little guilty and a very grateful for their help. I shook their hands, thanked them and slipped each a fifty-dollar bill and then made my exit.

Off I went to meet a dog named Mila, apparently she was waiting for me just ten minutes down the road.

The breeder's house was in a good neighborhood where each house had about an acre of land around it, the house itself was well maintained and basically just your non-descript ranch style home. I knocked on the door, introduced myself and after your standard pleasantries was led a large, fenced back yard where a troop of happy, tail-wagging Rottweilers greeted us.

All were bade to Sit and sit they all did, tails still busy bruising the world around them and happy grins on their faces. Mila was called forward, she popped up happy as could be and trotted over. We leashed her and I took her from the pen while the breeder gave treats to the rest of the pack and fawned over them for being "Soooo good".

The breeder came out and proceeded to run Mila through her paces, she was a well-formed and well-trained bitch of very impressive bloodlines. Most importantly she liked me and I liked her. My situation had been well discussed between us via email beforehand, including his ability to visit and examine the dog at any point in the next 18 months and reclaim her if he felt she was being abused. This guy truly cared about his dogs.

It was an easy decision to make after only spending about a half an hour with Mila, she needed to come with me -- this was the travelling companion I had been looking forward to.

Chapter Thirteen -- Road Trip Night One

Mila took to the truck like a pro, when I opened the back door she hopped right in and sat on the seat looking around with that big, goofy grin on her face. It was nice looking in the side mirror on the short trip back to the campground, that happy, face-in-the-wind look was something only a dog could pull off. My arrival back at the campground was interesting. I backed the truck in near to the trailer's storage room doors to make the off-loading job easier, grabbed Mila's leash and took her out to meet our travelling companions.

Mila's happy, "Gosh, it's so nice to meet you" attitude won Sonya over in an instant; but Matilda first scurried over to the pickup and set her big bag carefully down in the back seat. She then came over and with a genuine smile (something I don't think I'd seen out of Matilda yet) greeted Mila. As happy as she seemed to be to meet Mila the initial scurrying somehow didn't make sense.

The breeder had provided me with a few essentials for Mila including a leash, a long tether and the like. Mila was still new with us and we couldn't be sure she wouldn't bolt back to her pack so I tethered her to the trailer with food and water and we turned our focus to the supplies in the truck. It took almost two hours to unbox, sort and stow all of the supplies. The pile of packing detritus in the back of the truck was quite impressive and the afternoon was fading towards evening. Matilda had disappeared back inside of the trailer.

I mentioned going to get food for dinner, Sonya merely shook her head and pointed to a small pile of superstore bags filled with plastic wrappings and other shelf-goods wrappings. The quick explanation was that internet taxis were easy to use and she had made a quick grocery run. The sound of the gas stove firing up confirmed that Matilda was busy putting together a meal. What could I say? I directed her to our new portable camping table and chairs and asked her to set them up under the trailer's awning; I grabbed my new tent out of storage and went about setting up my sleeping quarters.

I had the tent up and was working on my cot when Sonya popped her head and announced that she had finished, I asked her to visit the campground office and see if there was anyplace we could deposit our truck bed full of shipping trash. By the time I'd finished setting my room Sonya had returned with the news that we could use their dumpster; I suspected she had sweet talked the young male clerk but I didn't mind.

By the time we returned from cleaning out the bed of the truck Matilda had our dinner on the table. We washed up and sat down to eat, the simple dinner of potatoes with sausage and peppers smelled wonderful. Matilda took her bowl and headed for the truck, I said "NO" quite loudly and pointed to her spot at the table. She shook her head at me and turned to go when I again spoke loudly "Sit. Eat"; Matilda shrugged her shoulders and joined us at the table.

The food was amazing, the weather was delightful and even Mila lying on a blanket near the table seemed happy. It was our first time eating together and perhaps our first moment of relaxation in weeks.

The meal complete, Matilda began clearing up, Sonya rose to help her but a word from me stopped her. It was time for business and I sent her into the trailer to gather our laptops. While Sonya pulled our IT out and set it up on the table I moved the TV from inside the trailer to the outer wall mounts under the awning; it wasn't a difficult or time-consuming operation and modern flat screens are feather lite. By the time Matilda re-emerged from the trailer we were set up and ready to go, Matilda was headed for the truck when I spoke out again and told her: "Sit, Listen". Down she sat.

I went into the walk-in fridge and grabbed three beers; we could have a beverage while we worked. Neither of the ladies objected so we all had a beer while we went over our itinerary. Sonya and I took turns casting from our laptops to the big screen, it was much easier to work on things when we both saw the same information. We started with our route map and planned destinations, I projected the map and then Sonya would take over and project the particulars of each stop. Matilda sat and watched with wide eyes; I'm not sure how much she understood but I was never sure of anything with Matilda.

After we had finished with the current trip schedule we bade "Goodnight" to Matilda, she merely nodded and left for the back seat of the truck. Our beers were empty so I decided we could have night cap while we finished up, I grabbed a bottle each of wine and bourbon and two glasses. (The wine was sweet white spring wine if you must know, for it was springtime and that is what you drink in the spring.) As we sipped Sonya started going over some minor business details we had neglected the past few days, the heavy work could wait for tomorrow -- it was time to wind down.

As we relaxed and calmly discussed some of the minor details Matilda emerged from the back seat of my truck, walked over and disappeared into the trailer's storage room. Sonya and I shared a curious look and then sat back to watch. A moment later Matilda re-emerged with blankets, pillow and linens under arm. She carefully closed and latched the storeroom door and then disappeared into the back seat of the truck once more.

I looked to Sonya and said, "This will not do."

Sonya giggled a little wine giggle and replied, "I know."

"Look", I said, "no matter how clean and fastidious Matilda is the truck will start to smell if she sleeps in there".

Sonya was already operating her computer mouse, "I know", she replied, "I found another tent just like yours, and it will be in Flagstaff by the time when we get there tomorrow." She added "Hush now and let me order the rest of her bedroom."

A moment later Sonya looked up with a smile and commented, "I think Matilda is going to be with you for a while, you didn't sleep with her did you?" With that she gave a tipsy giggle and went off into the trailer taking her laptop and wine glass with her.

I sat back, took a deep breath and then finished my glass of bourbon. When I took the TV back inside Sonya was already snoring in the bed with Mila lying next to her; apparently Sonya had a new buddy.

I closed up, locked up and took myself off to bed.

Chapter Fourteen - Flagstaff

The next morning dawned bright, clear and crisp as spring mornings in the desert are wont to do. I needed to relieve myself and I was quite sure Mila would be in the same boat, I pulled my shoes off and tried to sneak into the trailer. Mila was there and I asked her to wait. After a very quick trip to the toilet, I leashed Mila and off we went to find her a suitable spot. I politely turned away while she did her business for even dogs like to have their private moments.

I tethered Mila to the side of the trailer near the awning and a horse blanket on the ground under the awning. I really don't like tethering my dogs, or any animal for that matter, but the reality is that no animal, including people, rehomes easily -- well maybe with the exception of Matilda.

The door to the camper was open and I could smell the intoxicating aroma of brewing coffee coming out. I hoped that breakfast was coming with it and hurried to pack up my little tent-bedroom. Setting up and tearing down a new tent always takes twice as long the first time you do it and so it did. By the time I had stowed my tent, the ladies were sitting at the table and I saw a steaming plate of food and a hot mug of coffee at my spot. That was all the encouragement I needed. I strode over to the table, sat down, thanked the ladies and dug into what was laid out for me; it wasn't what I would have made but looking a gift horse in the mouth is best left for fools. It was a damn good breakfast and the coffee was exactly how I liked it. It didn't hurt that there was sugar, cream and even a chocolate shaker sitting in the middle of the table, really more than was necessary but who complains when being spoiled.

Breakfast eaten and a second cup of coffee consumed we proceeded to break down the camp. Breaking camp with a rig this size was a complex process and we weren't practiced at it yet. Matilda tidied up from breakfast while Sonya stowed the table and chairs and made sure the storage room & cold storage were ready for the road. I began disconnecting the rig from ground power and water, shut down the propane tanks and the hooked it up to the truck. Matilda had finished in the camper so I asked her to check around the area for any trash that may have escaped. I took over inside the camper, retracting the sliders and double checking everything was secure. Exiting the camper, I doubled checked all doors and windows on the entire rig, lowered the hard-shell awnings and raised the leveling jacks.

While Sonya took Mila for one last walk, I double checked all the lights on the full rig and climbed in. A moment later the rear door opened and Mila hopped in. No sooner than had Sonya closed the door than, quite literally, the cat came out of the bag.

A cacophony of sound erupted from the back seat and I twisted in my seat so fast that I nearly wrenched by back. A large black and brown creature was standing on Matilda's lap hissing and growling like it was ready to kick-off world war three. Matilda was looking at me with fear and confusion in her eyes and Mila, who had only barked once thankfully, was merely sitting there with a look of confusion on her doggy face. Meanwhile the cat continued to carry on like someone had just pissed on it's head.

Poor Mila, you have to look at things from her point of view. First of all, she was in a strange place with a strange new family; on the other hand, she had just got to go for a walk, got told she was a good girl, and now she was getting to go for a ride. Mila liked those things and everything was great until she smelt that new smell and sniffed the lady's bag. That was when the cat had acted so impolitely. Mila didn't care about cats: you couldn't eat them, they didn't like to play, and they smelled funny. Mila decided to ignore the cat just as soon as the cat ignored her.