On Thursday morning, August 23rd, we set out from Round Rock, Texas with six cats, five birds, our house plants, and a small trailer full of miscellaneous stuff, including the office equipment and furniture Rich needed to set up an office since he’ll be working from home for IBM. Lucky guy!
Rich had built a carpet-covered platform in the back of the truck for the cats and placed foam between the back of the truck and the cab so the cats could go back-and-forth. In the very back of the truck was a large cage with the birds along with a kitty litter box (see the pictures in the previous article).
While I expected the cats to be difficult to handle, they were amazing travelers. After an hour or so of intermittent yowls, they settled down. The first day, Jujube, Pu’Yi and Lunetta chose to lie on top of each other on the floor in the back of my seat. The others, Ariel Anne, Zephyra and Goldakevtch sprawl in the back with the birds. The canopy of Rich’s truck has small windows, which we left open so there was plenty of air flowing in the back.
Throughout the day, the cats would migrate to the back or come in the front for some attention. When it got dark, they tended to stay in the front. In the afternoon, most of them would be in the back, sleeping together in a giant pile. Even though the cats can be snippy at home and hiss at each other, they were like best friends the entire trip.
Because of the vibration of the truck, the water in the birds’ water bottles would flow out. We therefore had to fill their water bottled multiple times during the day and spray them with water when it got warm.
Being it was August, I was deeply concerned about the weather. Miracles of miracles, the route Rich chose through eastern Texas was unusually mild with the temperatures lingering in the high 80’s and mid-90’s until we reach Amarillo, our stopping point for the evening. For most the day, the sun was hidden behind pale gray clouds as we passed through farm and ranch land in Lampassas, Brown, Taylor, and a multitude of bitty towns that skirt the Great Plains with names like Arson, Radium, Old Glory, Peacock, Roaring Springs, and Loco.
Because Texas received an usual amount of rain this year, everything was pleasantly green. As we approached Amarillo, however, the landscape became bleaker and significantly hotter. I crossed my fingers hoping our motel room had an outside entrance and our room was towards the back so we could sneak the cats inside.
Rich had made the reservations in advance. And since Microsoft was paying, he chose slightly more upscale establishments like Comfort Suites. As we approached the Amarillo Comfort Suites, I gasped. We’d been driving for hours without air conditioning since the truck was having trouble pulling the trailer with the air conditioning going. The temperature was hovering around 100… and not only was multiple signs posted on the doors of the Comfort Suites proclaiming not pets allowed, but the hotel had just four doors inside: One through the lobby, one through the back opposite the lobby and two on either side of the building.
Thinking quickly, we requested a room on the first floor towards the back. We quickly launched a plan to park in a restaurant parking lot in back of the hotel. Rich removed the screen from the window of our room. My job was to snatch the cats out of truck, one at a time, climb over a short wall, run across a grassy area then hand the cat to Rich through the window, which he’d open and close as necessary.
We were lined up to go when one of the desk clerks from the hotel came out the back door to throw something in the dumpsters. Hearing the birds in the back of the truck, he came over to investigate. Fortunately, I had the tailgate up in the truck so he couldn’t see the kitty litter box. However, if he looked through the cage, he would have seen three sets of yellow and green eyes staring back at him. In addition, there was a very interesting tortoiseshell “bird” with a long black tail lying on top of the cage. And in the front seat were two more cats.
I tersely answered his question, hoping that he’d go away. No such luck. He kept asking questions. I needed to get him away from the truck so I yanked off the birds’ water bottle, which Rich had wired to the cage and explained that I need to fill the bottle with water.
“Come inside,” he offered. “We have cool water inside.”
“Oh no,” I barked, “They need special water. Yes, special water that I have in the front of the truck.”
I could feel Rich looking out from the window and wondering what was happening. It was a dreadful situation. I needed to get the cats out of the hot truck, but I could open the doors or lower the tailgate for fear that they’d run out or worse, the motel clerk would see them.
Finally, he went inside and I started migrating the cats inside. After racing back-and- forth four times and having to crawl on my hands and knees inside the truck, by the bird cage and over the kitty litter box, I grabbed the last two cats – Golda and Ariel – slide out of the truck backwards, raced across the grass with a cat in each arm, and chucked them at Rich through the window.
Rich, trying to grab both cats at once, ended up getting scratched. But, at least the cats were all inside! To minimize the presence of the cats, we locked them in the bathroom with their litter box and some food and water. We then went back outside and sprayed down the birds, who can better tolerate the heat, which was dissipating with the setting of the sun. An hour later, the temperature was in the low 70’s.
The next morning, at around 5:30 a.m., we boldly carried out the cats through the side door. After a quick breakfast, we headed for Texline, the last town before the New Mexico border.