In this memoir, a retired veterinarian and cardiovascular researcher takes to the highways and back roads of the West Coast with his dog, seeking solace and purpose.
After almost 53 years of marriage, Gross (Man Hunt, 2012, etc.) faced the death of the only woman he ever loved. How would he find a path through his now-solitary remaining years? Enter Charlize, a German shepherd, who suffered her own traumas before Gross adopted her from a rescue center. Through steady companionship, they forged a bond that would lead them both to recovery. Gross bought a 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 (“Old Blue”) and a camping trailer (the “Frog”) and with Charlize riding shotgun, he hit the road. Inspired by his literary hero, John Steinbeck (the author of the 1962 bestseller Travels with Charley), Gross wrote a steady stream of blog posts detailing his journeys up and down the coast, through the Southwest, and up to the fly-fishing rivers of Montana. This book represents the collected bloggings of a good year’s worth of extended road trips. It’s part travelogue, part personal musing, with an occasional sprinkling of history and a dash of self-deprecating humor, all of which makes it most enjoyable for readers to tag along. Gross effectively depicts his restlessness—how he logged an extraordinary number of hours behind the wheel each day, never staying more than a night at each stop, except when visiting with old friends or family. He was up at 5 or 6 each morning, when he felt a cold dog nose pressed against his face, and he and Charlize were on the road before 8, usually pulling into a campground around 4 in the afternoon. In between were frequent stops to admire whatever delightful displays nature laid out before them. Charlize appeared to find her own mission through these adventures: to protect and comfort her best friend and to introduce him to a variety of fellow travelers. When memories and sadness swept in, Gross writes, Charlize was there, snuggling under the author’s arm, letting him know he was not alone; in his usual taciturn style, the author says merely, “It worked.” Overall, Gross is an experienced, capable writer, and by the final page, readers will feel they know both man and dog.
A poignant, ultimately uplifting travel narrative that ends too quickly.