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  • Writer's pictureAdy

Cross Country Trip With Mia

Updated: Jun 29, 2022

In March, the North American Dog Sports Association held its Invitational and Judges' Workshop in Nevada. I am a big fan of road trips, and it had been years since I'd been on a vacation, so I decided to take advantage of this opportunity and turn it into a cross-country trip with the bestest girl, Mia.

Mia is no stranger to road trips. At 10 months of age, the day that I met her, I put her in the back of the car and drove 13 hours straight from Florida all the way back home to Arkansas. Mia turned out to be a great travel companion, even though she had never been in a car before, except for short trips to the vet as a puppy.

Choosing which of my four dogs should accompany me to Nevada was not easy. However, Mia had an advantage over the others. In addition to being a great traveler, Mia also had a Rally trial coming up in April, and, if we were to bring home that Excellent title that we worked so hard for, I knew that we couldn't put training on hold for two weeks while I was away. So after a short deliberation, the decision was made. The chosen one was Mia, and we were going to train along the way on our cross-country trip to Nevada.

Somewhere in Wyoming

Our final destination was Carson City, and I decided to take the Northern route from Arkansas. Big mistake! The weather was not our friend and, right out of Nebraska going into Wyoming, we got caught in a nasty storm. We were forced to pull into a truck stop where the storm had us pinned down for the entire night. Mia and I snuggled in the back of the Jeep while the storm raged outside with gusts of wind that made the car shake constantly. Having lived in Arkansas for a few years, we are used to stormy weather, but a storm in the desert is a totally different story. The experience of being stuck in the back of the car in the middle of nowhere was quite scary, but we managed to get a few hours of sleep, and in the morning we were pleasantly surprised to discover that we were definitely not in Oz and that we were still in Wyoming.

Somewhere in Wyoming

The tail of the storm was still whipping around the plains but the worst of it had passed us, so we decided to get back on the road. We finally hit blue skies after driving for a few hours west, and the drive turned into the joyride we had been hoping for as the vast desert opened up before us.

Somewhere in Wyoming

As the miles piled up behind us and the destination grew closer, we searched for a place to stop, stretch our legs, get gas, eat something, and train. I love road trips partly because they allow me to discover and explore places I would otherwise never see or even know existed.

Point of Rocks, WY

Point of Rocks, Wyoming is exactly such a place. With a population of 56 people, one gas station, and awesome panoramic views, this tiny settlement had a unique charm that we just couldn't resist. We walked around the two blocks that contained the entire town, we trained, we ate, we fueled and then we hopped back on the road.

Point of Rocks, WY

We made it to Utah and stopped for the night. The next day we woke up and went to see The Great Salt Lake. It was a beautiful morning and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mia and I were the only ones there and that there were no restrictions for dogs.

The Great Salt Lake, UT

This was every dog owner's dream. At last, a tourist attraction where you don't have to bump into dozens of people and their sometimes unruly dogs. Wide-open spaces with gorgeous views where you can let your dog run free to enjoy freedom without restrictions.

The Great Salt Lake, UT

We had a lot of fun, we trained some more, and we took a bunch of pictures, but after a few hours of walking around the beach and, after hitting the visitor center for some souvenirs, we were ready to put some more miles in towards our Nevada destination.

Bonneville Salt Flats, UT

The road took us across the Bonneville Salt Flats. This is the home of land speed events where world records are set by cars, trucks and motorcycles every year. We weren't planning to stop, but the eerie, unearthly landscape and the very cool races I had seen on video were impossible to resist.

Bonneville Salt Flats, UT

The visit was short because we realized we were limited to the parking area once we got out of the car. Everything around was covered in a thick layer of salt and I was hesitant to let Mia walk on it, fearing that it might hurt her paws. So, after taking in the fantastic view, snapping a few pictures, and stretching our legs a bit, we got back on the road again.

Somewhere in the Nevada desert

We stopped a few more times along the way to train and potty, and we were pleased to find a few secluded spots with awesome views and plenty of room to run and chase the ball. We reached our destination that night and we got some well-deserved sleep but not before Mia performed a thorough inspection of the hotel room before giving her stamp of approval and settling for the night.

Cason City, NV

The next few days in Carson City were so much fun! We spent a whole weekend in the company of dog people from all over the US and Canada. We learned a lot, we made a few friends and we got to see NASDA's best dogs in action. If you're having a hard time finding me in the group photo, I'm the first from the right, kneeling.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Monday morning we found ourselves back on the road again. This time, we took the Southern route home, not just because I didn't want to get caught in another snowstorm - much fun as it was - but because there were several places on my bucket list that I had yet to visit. These were the places that I didn't get the chance to see on my previous trips to the desert and I wasn't going to miss them again.

Lake Tahoe, NV

Our first stop was Lake Tahoe, which was a hop skip and a jump from Carson City compared to the many miles we covered from Arkansas to Nevada and the many more that laid ahead of us on our way back home. The drive took us up, and up, climbing more than 1400ft in only 20 miles.

The lake was quite a sight to behold, but the experience was an overall disappointment. It was out of season, so almost everything was closed including most public access to the lake. After driving around and looking everywhere, we found a few places that still allowed access, but not one of them was dog-friendly. Ok, Lake Tahoe. You don't like us; we don't like you. We weren't sad to leave this place behind and, with an easy heart, we hopped in the car and back on the road again.

Walker Lake, NV

Our next destination was Death Valley, but on our way there, we stumbled on another gem hidden in the desert. Walker Lake is a gorgeous place with a great view of the mountains in the background and a beach that stretches for 20 miles.

Unfortunately, this charming place turned out to be an extremely dangerous one. Walker Lake is located near Hawthorne Nevada, the world's largest munitions depot, and its shores have been used repeatedly for testing explosives. Supposedly, unexploded bombs are still scattered around and sadly this beautiful, quiet, beach had been turned into a minefield.

Walker Lake, NV

Although the lake was littered with explosives ready to turn this idyllic place into a war zone if you took one wrong step, Walker Lake had a great feel to it, and Mia and I loved being there. We couldn't walk down to the beach but there were huge wide open spaces all around us and we took advantage of the fact that again, we were completely alone there. Mia was happy to chase a few balls; we trained, we walked, and we reluctantly said goodbye to this beautiful place before moving on to our next destination.

Somewhere between Beatty and Death Valley

We made it to Beatty, Nevada by nightfall, the closest town to Death Valley, just a few miles from the border with California. On our potty walk before turning in for the night, Mia and I got to meet the stray donkeys of Beatty roaming the streets late at night looking for scraps and eating pretty much anything they could find in every trash bin they could get into and ravage.

Apparently, Beatty is very proud of its stray donkeys because the next morning, looking for souvenirs, we found the same stray donkeys on the front and center of every postcard bearing the name of the town.

Death Valley, CA

After breakfast, we got in the car and drove to the Valley. The stunning landscape revealed itself to us as soon as we got out of town and we were in for one of the most astounding traveling experiences of our lives. The majesty of the massive mountain range reigning above the deserted, lifeless plains was the very first thing that struck us as soon as we passed the welcome sign into the valley.

Death Valley, CA

Chunks of volcanic rock scattered on both sides of the road, the cold, naked face of the giant mountains, and the greyish-yellow sand that shed its vegetation with every mile made it easy to see why "Death" was the word that came to mind when people decided to name this place.

There is no way to truly appreciate how ubiquitous life is on Earth until one finds himself in a place with no life at all. It is an odd feeling and an eerie experience to see the landscape completely barren for miles; no birds flying across the sky and no bugs crawling in the dirt or buzzing in your ear. The valley was dead silent, and all the familiar nature sounds were gone. This was probably what Mars would look and feel like if it had an atmosphere.

Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley, CA

There were a few people visiting the place but the valley was so vast and the arid sand mixed with salt stretched for so many miles that, unless you were near one of the main attractions such as the Golden Canyon, Devil's Golf Course, Badwater or the beautiful Artists Palette, it was easy to find yourself completely alone and feel like a pioneer on an intergalactic expedition.

Badwater Basin in Death Valley, CA

Mia blended perfectly into the landscape. Her wolf-like features and her wild demeanor, both things I love so much about her, really came alive amid the arid desert that surrounded us. Watching her run free, she looked like a species indigenous to the place.

Death Valley was probably the most astounding place I've visited. I am a very seasoned traveler and, having been to more than 20 countries on three continents and almost 30 states within the US, this statement says a lot. If you ever get the chance to see it, don't miss the opportunity. There's nothing else like it. It was with a very heavy heart that we said goodbye to this place.

Death Valley, CA

As Death Valley remained behind us and the road stretched out ahead, cutting the desert in a seemingly endless and perfectly straight line, we wondered what other cool things we would come across on our way back. We had just one more stop planned for this trip and we were open to anything interesting that the road might bring us.

Area 51, Amargosa Valley, NV

Surprisingly, we didn't have to wonder for long because, after only one hour's drive, we came upon Area 51. It was a totally unexpected sight. To be more precise, it was the visitor center of Area 51, not the actual place where they keep all the aliens. The military base was not accessible by road as far as we were told, and we had to accept the sad truth that there were not going to be any close encounters of the third kind for us that day.

The wind that day was really strong and, posing for the picture, Mia had a hard time keeping her eyes open while the hair on her back was being blown in all directions but, she was a good sport and kept the pose until I managed to snap a couple of semi-decent shots.

Grand Canyon, AZ

The next day we crossed into Arizona and, after a few hours' drive, we reached our final stop: the Grand Canyon. Mia and I have been very spoiled crossing and exploring the desert. Most of the places that we visited were intimate, secluded, and solitary. The Grand Canyon was the exact opposite. As we approached, the traffic gradually thickened until it forced us to a complete stop, and for the next hour, we painfully inched our way to the park entrance.

We paid for a very pricey ticket into the park and spent another 20 minutes looking for an empty parking spot. There were dozens of cars and hundreds of people crowding our path everywhere we turned and I was starting to get the feeling that this visit was going to be a huge disappointment. However, after finding a parking spot and making our way to the South Rim, that feeling was gone and I was left in a state of complete and total awe.

Grand Canyon, AZ

The first sight of the Grand Canyon delivered a visceral, physical reaction similar to the one you get when looking down from a very tall building, only a hundred times more intense. I was frozen for several minutes waiting for my stomach to descend from my throat and my eyes to get used to the overpowering vastness of the landscape.

Grand Canyon, AZ

We made our way to the edge and then down the South Rim trail that curved its way alongside the ridge among the heavy foot traffic of hundreds of tourists. Mia was not happy with the huge crowds of people and neither was I but we managed to find several spots where we could at least pretend to be alone and enjoy the sight of this beautiful national monument.

Grand Canyon, AZ

On our way back we stopped to take some pictures. I found a few spots with amazing views where I stacked Mia and asked her to hold the pose while I was taking the pictures. Little did I know that a well-trained dog was such a rare sight that it would steal the thunder from one of the most beautiful places in the world.

People were stopping on the trail and shifting their camera focus from the beauty of the canyon to Mia who was proudly holding her pose on the edge of the ridge. I had no idea that a simple stay command would stir such interest, especially when the sight behind us was absolutely breathtaking. We exchanged a few words, answered a few questions about training, and then we made our way back to the car, stopping for a few more pictures along the way.

Grand Canyon, AZ

A great surprise awaited us in the shade under the trees next to the parking spot where we left our car. As I was loading Mia in the back of the Jeep I caught a glimpse of its brown-reddish fur and I got closer to investigate. It was a huge, beautiful elk taking her afternoon siesta right there, just a few dozen feet from the crazy tourist traffic.

She seemed totally comfortable and not at all perturbed by my presence. I started taking pictures and getting closer and she allowed me to get within 10 feet of her, all the time posing like a pro. You could tell that this was not her first encounter with the camera. I thanked her for her patience and I skipped all the way back to the car, my heart filled with joy and my camera filled with precious pictures. Now we were ready to head back home.

Somewhere in Oklahoma

We put some more miles behind us that evening and the day after. We stopped along the way a few more times and, we managed to snap a few more cool pictures in a cotton field that we found right off the road in Oklahoma.

Coming from Europe, I was fascinated by the desert the first time I saw it. I grew up amongst mountains and green plains and the sight of such a foreign landscape has always had a special appeal to me. Mia seemed to love every minute of our trip but I have a feeling that it had less to do with the natural beauty on display and more to do with the fact that she had me all to herself for more than a week.

Somewhere in Oklahoma

I had a great time, and got to see a lot of places that were missing from my bucket list but, most of all, I got to share these memories with one of my four-legged best friends. Farewell desert, until next time when we shall return we will miss your beauty and your limitless landscapes.

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