Ah, Salem. The well seasoned traveler, pictured here on the center console observing the vast stretch of road to wherever-the-heck her people are taking her this time. This was taken in 2011 on our way back to Minnesota from Colorado – where we had just accidentally purchased a home (but that’s a story for a different day).
Salem wasn’t always such a sweet travel companion, and this photo compels me to tell you about her first road trip.
Allow me to set the scene. It was 2010, and Shawn and I were heading to Charleston, SC for a 3-month stay. This was part one of a 5-year plan to determine where we might eventually like to live (my husband has a 5-year plan for everything except for me – I was a 7 year plan, but that’s a story for a different day).
The cars were packed. Shawn’s car had our laptops, printer, various work related needs, and clothing. My car was packed with the more important items – Kali (dog), Remy (cat), and Salem (cat.) The litter box was in the far corner of the hatchback, and every other available bit of space had blankets, cozy beds and toys to keep everyone happy on the 3-day drive.
As I loaded the critters into the car there was a brief bit of concern and bemusement, but all 3 quickly selected a bed and settled in. The vet had told me to let them get used to the car for a good 10 minutes, administer Benadryl and wait another 10 minutes for it to kick in, and then hit the road. Knowing I’d only be 20 minutes behind him, Shawn set off. We’d meet up at lunchtime.
Have you ever attempted to give a cat medicine? This, in and of itself, was a 30-minute process fighting with feline jaws of steel. My at-first-calm cats were now crouched in the corner of the car hissing, the dog was terrified, and I was covered in hair, sweat, various bleeding scratches, and half a bottle of Benadryl.
I waited the requisite 10 minutes and lowered myself into the drivers seat. One glance at the rearview mirror assured me that everyone was settled in, but then I backed out of the driveway and the howling began.
There is a distinct meow that cats emit when traveling. It’s as though they immediately assume they are on their way to the vet-of-doom. The pitch lowers, the cadence slows, and the length of the note is extended so as to instill the greatest level of guilt in their person. The first 5 minutes were funny. The next 30 minutes were less amusing. But then we hit the freeway, and the Benadryl kicked in.
You may be assuming this means that they relaxed and took a siesta. You would be wrong. Suddenly, the low-pitched howling turned into panting and a high-pitched hissy fit. Remy jumped into the front seat and I nearly swerved off the road at the sight of her. She was foaming at the mouth (pink from the Benadryl), her eyes were the size of saucers and she was frantic to get into my lap.
Salem, on the other hand (paw?) was trying a different tactic. Also foaming, she had both paws up on the back window and she was meowing at a manic pace. It had the desired affect. The car next to me honked and I glanced over to see a lady pointing at the back window in horror. I hissed at her and sped up.
20 minutes later we had a blowout. I’m not talking about the tires. Someone had partaken of the facilities in the back of the car, and they were clearly unwell. My eyes began to water, and even the dog started to gag from the horrific stench.
By the time the situation was remedied I was at least an hour and 1/2 behind Shawn, exhausted, and ready to howl myself. As a last ditch effort I decided to pop in a CD. As a joke, my mom and dad had given me a CD at Christmas called, “Relaxing music for cats and kittens.” I figured it couldn’t hurt.
To my absolute amazement, it worked! Everyone descended into a peaceful slumber (I mean except for me, I’m a better driver than that, you know?) Sweet lulling piano notes, soothingly soft violin, the sound of gently rolling brooks. Masterfully compiled, certain instruments would come from different speakers throughout the car. Bliss!
And then it happened.
Song number 3 began to play. DO NOT PLAY SONG NUMBER 3. At first it was a lively little medley, but when the chorus hit a bird began to chirp from the front speaker. From a sound sleep, Salem launched into action. That bird was going to be hers. There was a flying of fur as she landed in my lap, used my chest as a launching pad, and flew to the top of the dashboard looking for the offending prey.
Luckily, this happened near the turnoff where I was to meet Shawn for lunch – only 2 hours late. I opened the door and emerged from the car a defeated woman. I was a vision with straggly hair, various cat scratches, and flecks of litter. And yes, this could explain why he didn’t propose sooner.
I’ll never know what happened in that car during lunch, but some sort of an agreement must have been reached. The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful, and the critters have been just fine in the car ever since.