FLASHBACK: Shifting Gears

Jul 29 2010

What follows is a piece I wrote for an online publication back in 2004.  What some of you may know is that back then my brother and I were pretty active in the “Dog World”.  We raised and showed Boxers, and eventually, Kelly and I also showed a Cavalier King Charles.

The dog world is a very strange place.  If you’ve seen “Best In Show” – well – yeah.

So anyway – here’s the article I wrote – and every word is true:

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Shifting Gears

by Pete Perry ~ Wiltwyck Boxers

January 2004

I’ve been to my share of dog shows over the past 10 years – some local, some not so local.  Many times there are headaches and heartaches. This weekend moved to the top of the headache list for me.

We had planned to enter “Mister” in the Buffalo shows a long time ago.  This was supposed to be a couple of “test shows” to see if he was ready.  He doesn’t always LOVE to show and we were waiting for him to come up to his full potential.  The point is, we’d been waiting for this for a while.

The headache started on Thursday night, when I found out that my 1999 van had blown a head gasket and shouldn’t go on long trips.  Friday morning was spent looking for alternative transportation, none of which was really reasonable. Renting a car was going to be much too costly.  Another option was to go for the Saturday show only and return with my brother – who already had to cut the trip short due to unexpected commitments – but the thought of not seeing Mister, or worse yet, pulling him, was out of the question.  The only feasible option was to drive an hour out of the way and pick up my wife’s car.  Unfortunately it is a small sporty model left over from her early mid-life crisis (when she became a mom and got a tattoo and a sports car – temporary insanity).  MUCH too small a transport vehicle for a comfortable trip with a 70 pound Boxer.

OK, dilemma solved and off we went. Fortunately for Mister, who lives with my brother, he got to ride in my brothers much roomier Volvo.  We recently discovered a shortcut to our mentor’s house (which was near the show site), shaving about 1/2 hour and $20 in tolls from our 5 1/2 hour trip.  This route was a much more beautiful trip than the NY State Thruway – with mountains and valleys and stretches of deserted highway overlooking small northern snow-covered towns.  Wonderful ride.

Our dog got his doors blown off both days of the show, placing third in his class of three.  There’s your obligatory heartache.  You grow to accept and even expect defeat at dog shows.  No big shake as they say.  The people we met and the friendships that were strengthened have value that far exceeds ribbons. Rosettes would be nice though.

As I said, my brother and partner in crime was forced to leave after the Saturday show, and taking the new “back route,” was home in under 5 hours and before sunset.  Me?  I stuck around until 2:30 on Sunday since Boxers were not on until 1pm.  Ironically (and for the sake of adding a little foreshadowing), I had earlier had problems getting my wife’s car to turn over in the cold Buffalo morning air, and I had turned to a friend and remarked at how I NEVER have car problems.

After the show on Sunday, I hit the road, and after a McDonald’s hamburger and large diet soda, I was on my way.  Of course I decided to take the short way home hoping to be able to tuck the kids in at bedtime.  The shortcut’s hilly and twisty road had areas that were slushy and some that were downright icy, but nonetheless completely manageable.  I decided after about 30 minutes that I might be best served to stop and get a gallon of windshield washer fluid.  I filled up the car – but of course there is always more in the jug than will fit in the car – so into the backseat it went, next to the CRATED 70 pound Boxer.  Yes, I had actually managed to get the crate in the car, open it, and persuade my dog to get into it.  A rather funny sight.  Pulling away from the Quick-Mart I made note that it seemed hard to get the car into gear.  Oh well, onward – only 4 1/2 hours to go!

The shifting problem worsened and it soon became painfully obvious that I had blown my clutch.  I was now stuck in 3rd gear and faced with hills and snow and slush and ice, not to mention stop-signs and red lights.  After some quick thinking and a phone call to dear old dad (since I was of course without a map!), I figured out how to get to the thruway and decided that once there, I could force it into 5th gear and cruise home without stopping.  No easy task though as I still had 25 miles of hills and towns with red lights before I could get to the highway. After one wrong turn and an illegal turnaround to get back on track – then timing several stop signs and red lights PERFECTLY and really ticking off quite a few fellow drivers – I found an interstate that led eventually to the thruway, jammed the car into 5th and got it up to cruising speed and remembered that I would still have to navigate a toll booth or two.  THANK GOD for EasyPass, as I simply left the car in 5th and cruised thru the Tollbooth at more than SEVEN TIMES the speed limit!!!  (They ask for 5mph – HA!)

Home free!!!  On the thruway – 325 miles till the next tollbooth and nothing standing in my way!  Or so I thought.  After a few phone calls to let everyone know that the plan had worked and my ETA, I realized that I had to relieve myself!  That large diet soda was starting to kick in.  Well, they used to call me Iron Bladder in college and I can still hold my own (pardon the pun), so I decided that I had no choice but to do just that – hold it for 4 1/2 hours.

I lasted about 3 hours.

In that three hours, I had devised a plan that involved an empty Dr. Pepper bottle from Friday night.  However I knew that the hole was too small to avoid disaster and 12 ounces wasn’t gonna cut it either!  Then I remembered the windshield washer fluid.  I opened the window and dumped about a half gallon onto the thruway.  Of course half of that came back in the car and got all over me and Mister, but oh well.  So at 70 miles per hour, in the dark and the snow, with wind blowing small animals across the road,  I put my pants around my knees, slid the seat way back and proceeded to thank God I was a man!!!  Oh the joy of relief!

90 miles to go.  Home free.  Except there was one thing I had left out of my calculations:  Driving a car in 3rd gear at various speeds and 5th gear at various speeds tends to use up more than the usual amount of fuel.  I was almost out.  I’d have guessed that I would now only make it to within 20 miles of the house.  My tank was now as empty as my bladder.  I slowed down to 60, found a nice big tractor trailer to tailgate, and called Dad to put him on standby.  Luckily I made it by the skin of my teeth, again cruising thru the tollbooth at completely unacceptable speeds, to leave the car at the park-and-ride and transfer all of its contents into Dad’s car for the ride back to my house.

All of its contents except that yellow windshield washer fluid, that is!

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One response so far

  1. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Yer a big damn dork, dude.

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