We left Charlotte knowing our life would be completely different when we returned. This could be true for many road trips, but this one was certain to change both my relationship and daily life for the next decade—or longer.
As I get older, I realize more and more that timing is, in fact, everything and this trip was no exception. After filling out countless questionnaires and paperwork for both purebred dogs and rescues, my boyfriend and I were finally bringing home our very own puppy. Once we put down a deposit for our Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, everything unfolded quickly.
A few weeks prior, we received an almost immediate response from a breeder we emailed asking if we were available to talk on the phone in the coming week. He had two available puppies from a last-minute planned litter. Otherwise, his waiting list was full until 2024. Overexcited by a response and knowing we didn’t want to wait for another 2 to 3 years for a dog, we spoke on the phone later that afternoon.
After learning more, we were able to visit the breeder and meet the pups in New Hampshire when we were visiting family in New England (hence the name we chose, Fenway). We arranged to pick up the puppy at the breeder’s family’s farm in Virginia, where he would be traveling later that month. With relatively short notice, we ordered the necessary puppy gear and planned our road trip.
In order to make the pickup work with our schedules, we needed to stop overnight somewhere past the halfway mark, finish the drive, and continue home the following day. A few towns stood out when searching for options in the Roadtrippers app and we settled on Staunton. There was a cute town center with shops and restaurants, and reasonable hotel options just a few miles off of the route.
I learned that Stauton is the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson and also home to his presidential library. We didn’t have enough time for tourist activities, but both my boyfriend and I made a mental note to return on a longer trip to nearby Shenandoah National Park.
Traffic and trespassing
On a Thursday, we left Charlotte after work to make the 4-hour drive to Staunton. I’m originally from the Northeast and one of my favorite parts about living farther south is the extra daylight time—however, we were traveling on one of the shortest days of the year, just ahead of the winter solstice, and had to drive mostly in the dark. With construction-related traffic, it took us more than 5 hours to get to our hotel.
The roadtripper in me fought every urge to pull off and take the Blue Ridge Parkway, which ran parallel to our route at certain points, but we were on a set schedule and it was dark. Luckily, when we arrived at our hotel, we still had time for a late dinner at a quaint restaurant in town. We stopped in a pub to watch the end of the Thursday night football game and got the last full night’s sleep that we’ll have in a while.
We had about a 1.5-hour drive ahead of us to meet the breeder in the late morning. We leisurely stopped for coffee and a delicious breakfast sandwich before taking a quick walk around the area and then headed north. It was a smooth drive until we got off the exit.
We knew we were headed to a farm, but weren’t prepared for the off-road detour our GPS took us on. About 2 miles from our destination, the map directions had us on a private gravel road. Before we reached the house, the road stopped. Realizing we were now trespassing, we made a quick three-point turn and called the breeder. He explained that it was a looped road and that his location was on the other side of the property where the road stopped. Somewhat still confused, but relieved, we went back down the road and followed his directions.
About 20 minutes later, we arrived to meet Fenway. She was prancing around the grass with her littermate and had no idea her life was about to change. After a quick conversation about her last vet visit and an overview of some paperwork, we put on a harness and settled her in the backseat.
“Potty” breaks are the new rest stops
I started the drive and my boyfriend sat in the backseat with Fenway. As we pulled out of the driveway she knew something was different and we all started crying as we embarked on this adventure together. At the end of the gravel road, another couple, who we presumed was picking up her littermate, pulled over to ask how to find the farm. Comforted that it wasn’t just us that couldn’t arrive on time, we politely directed them and continued home.
Much to our relief, Fenway quickly settled and napped for most of the 6-hour drive back to Charlotte. Accustomed to powering through longer drives, we stopped every 2 to 3 hours to let the dog out at a rest area. Still dumbfounded that she was our puppy, we tried to pretend to know what we were doing. After hitting some commuter traffic, we all started to get antsy as we approached the city.
We were ecstatic to show Fenway her new home, even though it failed to compare to the farm life she was used to living. Her first real road trip was to Hilton Head, South Carolina, over the holidays and she loved the ride. It’s been about 1 month since we brought her home and while we’re all still trying to figure each other out, she’s discovered that she loves digging in the sand at the beach, ice cubes, carrots, and retrieving toys—and doesn’t love the vacuum, shower curtain, and crate time.