Banjo’s Big Day + Reunions and Sookie on the Water

When our days are this full with friends and special events because we’re in a town where we know people, I have a hard time organizing this blog.

You’d probably appreciate it if I waited for a week to pass, then threw each topic into its own post so you could see (or skip) the post about local friends, then see or skip the post about kayaking, etc. But I enjoy blogging more in real time; it’s become a way I process this unusual life on the road. Plus as soon as we’re done at one location, we’re at another where I’m too busy experiencing that place to go back in my mind and blog about the past place.

So, here we go with another disjointed post. I imagine when this celebratory visiting is done and we’re all alone traveling west, this blog also will fall back into its former, more streamlined self.

I’ve Pet that Dog

You know Banjo has quite a following among my friends online, both here and on my social media feeds. Now, finally, the world has been introduced to Her Highness.

My friend Jacqui turned me on to the Instagram feed called _IVEPETTHATDOG a few years ago, where this cute kid has pictures taken of him (his mom is behind the camera) petting dogs at local parks, and he posts the pictures with a couple of humorous descriptions and anecdotes about the dog. The feed is utterly charming.

When I realized that the kid lives in Tracy’s hometown, Cedar Falls, I hatched a plan. As soon as we got out here, I contacted the kid (his name is Gideon) and arranged for Banjo’s online debut.

Gideon and his mom graciously came out to our campsite and chatted with us while Banjo made friends with Gideon. What a nice young man: he’s been petting dogs officially (hee hee) since he was eight, and he has more than 70,000 followers on Instagram alone (he’s also on Facebook and Twitter).

So, not only did we meet the star of I’ve Pet that Dog and the mom behind the scenes, but we learned what good dog people they are, and of course that translates to what good people they are.

And now Banjo’s fun description and stately self is going viral. In one day she received more than 3.000 likes on Insta.

As my friend Whit says, Banjo is humble. Instead of searching the internet for fans who might pay for her autograph, she’s lying in the tall grass behind the trailer, probably collecting ticks. Good girl.


At least once a day here we’ve been treated to a reunion of Tracy’s friends and family. Sometimes I’m having too much fun to remember to take photos, like when we were treated to dinner by two of Tracy’s cousins, Gary and Mary, out on Gary’s deck. It was a beautiful night, with a deer visitor and Banjo learning about Milk Bones. All the occasions have been enjoyably laid back and peppered with old stories and plans for the next year.

Above is when Dave and Deb from Elkader spent their one day off from the brewery (half day off, actually) by meeting us at, you guessed it, a brewery partway between their town and where we’re camped. We got so relaxed sitting out by the dam in this little town, enjoying the breeze on the deck and each others’ company, that when the brewery closed, we surreptitiously stayed on the deck, moving our chairs back as the sun lowered in the sky, trying to deny that the day was waning. It was one of those days that shouldn’t have to end.

Rich and Rhonda, above, were the only folks I remembered to photograph from the BBQ we had outside the trailer with maybe ten other folks. Tracy went to school with Rich (and Dave, and everyone else at the BBQ and in our Iowa photos), and it’s a thrill to watch them all catch up with each other or shoot the shit so easily. People in the Midwest do seem much less uptight than on the East Coast, and my Midwesterner visibly relaxes when he’s back here.

Sookie and My First Trips Out

We’re camped on Big Woods Lake, which isn’t particularly interesting for a kayaker, but I really wanted to get Sookie in the water by myself to see what she’s like, so we unloaded her from the roof of the truck, and I’ve taken her out for about an hour every day before the sun gets too hot.

She fits me really well: not as long an narrow as my former kayak but longer and more narrow than my first one, if you follow me. I feel comfortable in her but I can also make my way across the water efficiently.

I am investigating the feeling that she tracks to the left, which has me puzzled. I didn’t notice this when I tried her out with Mary when we did the trade (and clearly neither did Mary), so either this is due to me being off balance in my seat or my stroke right now, or maybe a plastic kayak will warp in the hot sun on the truck roof? When we’re camped next to water again, I’ll get Tracy to try her out and do a little deducing. In the meantime, Sookie and I are getting along as good partners.

Tiny House Update

This freaking model house is so small, so fiddly, so difficult. There are steps down into that pool that I had to cut from wire and glue on to the railings using tweezers at the most ridiculous angle.

And, like Sookie, so pink! What’s with that HAPPY decoration and the fake balloons? There’re supposed to be more decorations in that spot, so we’ll see. But I’m proud of the spiral staircase I seem to have magicked into being, with tiny bits or wood and paper and glue.

Now that the frame and inner walls and stairs are complete, I can set to making the furniture and decorations, which should be easier on the road because I don’t have to pull out the whole house each time, just my one bin of supplies.

Up next: Des Moines for another visit with Dave’s sister Molly, who is my talented, famed, sweet-as-can-be radical tattoo artist. Stay tuned for what Molly and I cook up in her tattoo studio.