John Steinbeck once took his French poodle, Charley, on a famous road trip that turned into one of my favorite works of nonfiction, “Travels with Charley.”
Charley remained at Steinbeck’s side as the author motored across America, taking the back roads that led to interesting little hamlets populated with interesting people.
As novice members of the kennel club, my wife, Betty, and I decided to begin a new tradition — travels with Jack Bauer — at least once a week. Our 13-week-old, 7-pound, half Shih Tzu, half Maltese man-eater loves to ride in the car. At least we think he does, because JB doesn’t make a peep while snuggled up against his puffy bone pillow in the back of his carrier.
Betty packed a picnic lunch for the humans and plenty of water and puppy kibble for Jack Bauer. We headed up Route 28 with no particular destination in mind, only the hope that we’d find adventure around every bend.
Well, if not adventure, at least a park where we could stop and stretch our middle-aged legs, and where JB could chase some leaves, nibble on grass, and do what good little doggies are supposed to do.
We spotted plenty of parks in Hooksett, but a couple of miles north of Manchester does not an adventure make. Fortunately, I married a bloodhound — I mean, Betty. She has an impeccable sense of direction and gets as engrossed in a map as I do listening to Chris Matthews interrogate Reince Priebus.
In no time we’d entered Wolfeboro, that picturesque New Hampshire village on Lake Winnipesaukee. I wanted to pull a Steinbeck and wander into a diner, order a cup of joe, and mingle with the locals. But there were no diners on 28, just one woodsy cabin development after another and high-end harbors, housing impressive vessels bobbing gently in the water.
Traffic increased, as did the urgency to find a spot for Jack Bauer to do his thing. A large expanse of lakefront sand, or that elusive park, would do just fine. But as we headed west on Route 109 toward Moultonborough, desperation intervened. We pulled off the side of the road and onto a patch of grass next to a creek. There was just enough room for JB to sniff around and then sit slack-jawed as a swarm of bikers roared past us.
We’ve been told that Jack Bauer isn’t old enough to strike that iconic pose to let his owners know that he’s done his thing(s). So Betty and I used our joint powers of observation and hoped for the best. JB looked at both of us as if to say, “What are we waiting for? Let’s hit the road!”
It was now approaching 1:30, and Betty and I still hadn’t found that perfect spot for lunch. Then, just over the horizon, the travel gods delivered. That beacon that welcomes road warriors from coast to coast gleamed like an eternal light.
The Golden Arches were just moments away.
No, Betty nor I came face-to-face with bears at Yellowstone, but John Steinbeck would’ve gotten a kick out of this scene: Two New Hamphire-ites in folding chairs, dipping snap peas into hummus on a shady patch of grass in a McDonald’s parking lot, watching Jack Bauer wrestle a pinecone.