Improve my cross-country drive!
June 11, 2016 12:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm driving from Memphis to Seattle alone with a dog in July. What can I do, aside from the obvious podcasts, audiobooks, etc., to make the trip minimally stressful and (hopefully) fun?

The pup and I are hitching up and moving to Seattle this summer, and are driving my car out there while my stuff gets shipped.

I'm particularly interested in places I can stop along the way for some quick sight-seeing that are dog-friendly. I'm passing through Kansas City, Omaha, Rapid City, Billings, Missoula, Bozeman, and Spokane.

Also, since I'll be alone, I'm concerned about having to leave her in the car to take bathroom breaks or get food. Aside from the obvious dog+hot car=BAD situation, she pretty much ONLY has separation anxiety when I leave her in the car, and she'll wail very loudly in a way that sounds like she's dying. My plan is to lock her in with the air on (probably with a sign to that effect on the glass) or open the windows a few inches, and just be quick about it either way. Any tips about that are welcome.

Generally, any suggestions you have for making this trip fun are welcome!
posted by deus ex machina to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Get you an audiobook narrated by Will Patton - he does some Steven King and some James Lee Burke - and several bags of Bigs branded sunflower seeds along with empty shopping bags for the shells. Recommend bacon or Frank's flavored. Have a safe trip!
posted by ftm at 12:35 PM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

The first thing I thought of, when you mentioned keeping toilet breaks short, was a Shewee. But that's only from my experience, as a man, of finding it more convenient when traveling with a dog, to nip off into the bushes and keep the dog in sight.

So. Yes. Do with that suggestion what you will.
posted by howfar at 12:36 PM on June 11, 2016

I can't recommend a harness enough. I drove cross-country with my dog last year and a dog + highway speeds + physics = disaster if you get in a crash or have to brake suddenly. I got a Clickit harness which at the time was the only one available that was actually crash-tested.

With a dog and traveling in the summer, unfortunately you'll be limited to drive-throughs or places where you can park in shade and take the dog on line with you (so, outdoor counter-type places.) Keep in mind that car A/C doesn't work if the engine isn't running.

I'd put a blanket and a toy in the back, and situate her in such a way that you can see her from the rear-view mirror. My dog liked it when I talked to him while I drove, but YMMV.
posted by Automocar at 12:43 PM on June 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: If I lock her in with the air on, it'll be with the engine running, using a spare key. Don't love leaving a running car unattended, but it's an option.
posted by deus ex machina at 12:48 PM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I looked into this for a much shorter solo+dog road trip last summer and found that some rest stops do allow you to bring dogs into the bathroom or even into the rest stop.

Other ideas:

- For bathroom stops, look for gas stations with single-person bathrooms that have the door outside. You can probably just bring the dog into those. Also, porta-potties.

- I've used the site BringFido to find dog parks, dog friendly restaurants, etc. when traveling. There are also apps for your phone that will help you find these things.

- How does your dog do with being tied up outside of places? You probably wouldn't want to do that at a big rest stop, but if it's a little restaurant where you can keep your eye on him, it's probably better than being in the car.

- For Montana/Idaho, check out which national parks on your route are dog-friendly.

In general, I've found driving long distances solo with a dog is kind of a drag because of these issues. I would suggest doing any sightseeing or sit-down restaurant meals at the beginning or end of the day, when you can leave the dog in the air-conditioned motel/hotel room.
posted by lunasol at 1:36 PM on June 11, 2016

We did a long, summer road trip with our dog a couple of years ago. Since there were a bunch of things in Bozeman we wanted to see during the day, we got about seven hours of daycare for our pup at Tail Waggin' Ranch.

It is the most delightful place-- all the dogs were romping, frolicking, snuggling, snoozing, and just generally having the grandest time. I almost wanted to stay there with her.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:52 PM on June 11, 2016

One of the only dog parks near Spokane is right off an interstate exit near the Idaho/Washington state line in Liberty Lake, WA. Patricia Simonet Laughing Dog Park . I haven't been to this one with my dog, but I've driven by it a lot. It looks like a good place for your dog to get a good run in.
posted by ilovewinter at 2:12 PM on June 11, 2016

Response by poster: She's fantastic in the car. It's like a sedative. She passes out once I get on the highway like clockwork. She'll be in the back with the seats down, so a harness is probably a no-go.

Great tips so far, thanks!
posted by deus ex machina at 6:23 PM on June 11, 2016

LaQuinta Inn is great for traveling with dogs - no extra pet fees (unless, of course, you/your dog dramage something. I just did a solo, 5 hour trip with my dog and decided that if I had needed to make a pit stop, I would have left her in the car with the engine and AC running, but would have locked the doors with the key fob. A bit unnerving but it was the best I could come up with.
posted by sarajane at 7:28 PM on June 11, 2016

It'll make your trip take longer, but geocaching sounds like a pretty good match for this. They're everywhere, they're all outside, you can take your dog with you as you look for them, and it's fun! You can do as many or as few as you like at your own pace, and you don't have to plan them ahead of time.
posted by Dilligas at 11:10 PM on June 11, 2016

She'll be in the back with the seats down, so a harness is probably a no-go.

I don't mean to harp on this, but I would strongly urge you to change your mind on this point. Even if you have a tiny dog, terrible things can happen to them if you crash or even brake suddenly.

I realize that the vast majority of people puts dogs in cars without restraining them in any way, but that doesn't make it a wise idea.
posted by Automocar at 1:07 PM on June 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also: Make sure to pu copies of your dog's immunization records, and rabies certificate in your glove compartment. (And make sure your dog's flea treatment + bordatdella and lepto shots are 100% up to date.). This will make everything so much easier if, for any reason, you end up wanting or needing a few hours of doggie daycare during the trip.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 5:27 PM on June 12, 2016

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