Here’s the whole problem with the internet in a nutshell. No matter how nice or amazing or beautiful something looks online, it’s always better in real life. The internet, try as it might, cannot convey all of the senses. In some circumstances, that is a good thing.
Fagan is a small black lab and collie mix. He’s as smart as an honors student and fast as The Flash. Even at 14 years old, Fagan can run laps around dogs half of his age. He does an excellent job of patrolling the garden, making certain rabbits and other beasts of the field keep their distance.
Fagan and I made it to the “Niagara Falls of the West” with about an hour of daylight remaining. Surrounded by cliffs, the falls were fabulous. I had no idea they were even part of the western US. Thanks to a rainy spring, the flow of the falls was near full power. More than 900 feet wide and 200 feet tall, they roared and sprayed. I took another hundred pictures for future painting reference. Coming from a state where flash floods occur regularly with spring and fall storms, I have a deep respect for the power of water.
And then Fagan’s leash broke.
The dog decided to go on his own adventure.
Fagan ran like his life depended on it, ears pinned back, eyes wide and wild, occasionally circling back because some new scent caught his attention. I guess he really needed to stretch his legs.
I start yelling his name, and a few other Falls tourists joined me as Fagan ran and ran and ran. Forrest Gump would have been proud. I wasn’t worried about him hurting himself or anyone else, but I knew leashes were the rule and hated the feeling of breaking the rule in a public place. A couple people thought it was hilarious and pulled out their cell phones, taking pictures and video of the dog zooming around like it was possessed. Every now and then, Fagan would stop, fall to the ground, and wiggle and roll around on his back, making all kinds of weird growling and moaning noises. Fagan spread scents of all sorts across southern Idaho, marking territory as if he were the first explorer in westward expansion ignorantly staking claims to a land already owned.
With the help of two teenage boys and a handful of snacks, I was eventually able to wrangle Fagan. I re-fashioned the broken leash into a slip knot and looped it around his neck. He was panting heavily, but he was so, so happy.
I don’t have the foggiest idea what Fagan got into as he ran around the Idaho park, but he smelled horrible. Wet dog would have been an improvement. I loaded up the putrid malodorous beast into the car and had to roll down the windows as the gag-inducing fragrance seemed to take over the entire vehicle.
Tens of thousands of miles and years later, when the trip was long finished and I tried to trade in the car, I could still catch whiffs of Fagan’s Falls Adventure.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
— Robert Frost
Except for the occasional emission of noxious gas immediately followed by the rolling down of windows, Fagan slept and snored the entire way from Twin Falls, Idaho to Portland, Oregon. Which is too bad, because I really think he would have enjoyed the latest novel by Fredrik Backman.
I saw Mt. Hood standing sentinel, protecting Portland from visitors from the east.
I lift my eyes up to the mountains…
I didn’t really want to carry him, so I convinced Fagan to walk into the hotel with a handful of treats. I scrolled through the images on my phone until I found the perfect picture and stayed awake all night painting. With the completed canvas propped up in front of the flat screen TV, I left a short note.
To Whomever Cleans This Room,
May this painting inspire you to press on through life’s valleys
to experience the soul-filling joy of mountaintop views.
“Oh, the places you’ll go.”
— Dr. Seuss
Fagan and I made it to the Oregon Film Museum in Astoria, Oregon shortly after lunchtime. The museum is in a former county jail, from 1914 to 1976, according to the dates on the front of the building. It was the setting for the opening scene of the movie The Goonies. I was quite surprised by the number of people gathered around the museum, taking pictures and videos. I counted at least four different news crews on location, each vying for a good spot near the black, bullet-hole-ridden Jeep Cherokee parked by the entrance.
I left Fagan in the car, walked toward the building, and learned it was the 35th anniversary of the date The Goonies released. The city of Astoria was celebrating by hosting a watch-party later that night. A number of people who appeared in the movie were scheduled to sign autographs and share behind-the-scenes stories from the filming.
I had practiced what I would say on the drive from Portland, but it didn’t make a difference. I walked up to the admissions counter where stood Sean Astin, who played Mikey in the movie. He was being interviewed alongside Claire, the curator of the museum. For a moment, I was completely star-struck and tongue-tied. His bushy-haired, jean jacket-wearing, inhaler-sucking lead character in the movie was my very first crush.
And then Claire spoke up.
“You should be interviewing her,” she said, pointing a finger straight at me. “She’s a real-life Goonie.”
And that is when my adventure went viral.