All Hail The Fortune-Telling Pen (USA Day 123)

If a dog howls in the forest and there’s no-one there to pat it, does it make a noise? It’s the age-old question that philosophers and dyslexic theologians have been asking for centuries, but last night we got a little closer to finding a definitive answer. Ben and Harley (see yesterday’s blog) are a great primate/canine pairing, one of the best, perhaps. They’ve only been together for a month, yet they’re adorably attached. This became rather obvious when Ben left to visit a friend and Harley had a minor melt-down, howling his mournful howl pretty consistently for almost the entire night. We did our best to cheer him up about hourly, trying our best to sleep in-between, but there’s only so many ways to pet a dog before sleep becomes a higher priority.

At one point, the howling stopped to be replaced by an odd scratching noise. Intrigued and slightly concerned, my sleep-deprived brain thinking ‘fire’, oddly, I stumbled outside to see Harley stuck halfway out of the trailer window, his front legs waggling uselessly into thin air, his back haunches lodged between the tiny frame. I yelled for Amy and we eased him back in, then sat with the poor lad as he panted his apology and had a good go at explaining what on earth he was playing at with the door right there, only a headbutt or paw-push away from open.

From left to right: Ben, Harley

From left to right: Ben, Harley

Ben returned, to Harley’s delight and our relief, at dawn, and made coffee. He had no idea this was how Harley behaved when he wasn’t there (how would he?) and felt awful. In retrospect, the whole thing’s quite adorable, but we hope Harley’s abandonment issues pass soon, for all our sakes.


After that sort of a night, we needed a short day, and short it was. We’ve planned for tomorrow to be our first attempt at a more normal mileage, so today was all about giving the ankle a final day to recover, doing an afternoon of bike tinkering at our hosts’ house and catching up on some admin. The road into Eureka passed a stunning wetland marsh, filled with patient old egrets and flittering clouds of tiny murmurating shorebirds that we couldn’t identify, but who pulsed and burst in bulging clouds that shifted in colour with changes of direction.

Strange fruit

Strange fruit

Our lovely hosts had an old house full of trombones, honey and quilts (the big three), each of which prompted some serious interest in one or more of us, and provoked a bunch of fascinating conversations over dinner and breakfast. Watching a batch of fresh honey filter through nylon cloth is as satisfying as you’d imagine, folks. I urge you, if you get the chance, to make this performance happen in your home too.

I tinkered away in the drive, surrounded by old cats, apple trees and a little bowl-fringed boy from next door who began each one of his thousands of sentences, “Guess what?” and then waited for me to guess.


“My pumpkin can float” or “I founded a whole fossil” or “Once I killed a mole with this stick.”

Dick checks my spoke tension

Dick checks my spoke tension

My kind of box

My kind of box

This was entertainment enough for an afternoon, though I sometimes had to adjust his position so I could get to the sprocket or remove a brake pad. He even brought me some cheesy goldfish at one point. I asked if they would return to real goldfish if you put them in water, but he wasn’t impressed.

I finished fixing Amy’s brakes and upon testing the bike up the driveway realised I was part of a rather unfair race. Halfway to the gate, the boy fell on his palms quite hard. He was determined not to cry, though I could see this took rather a lot of effort, so I spared him the embarrassment and went for a rather longer cycle than I’d planned. When I returned, he’d brought me his fortune telling pen and demanded I ask questions until the pen ran out of answers.

“Will Amy’s ankle be better for tomorrow’s ride?”


“Will we make it all the way to Los Angeles?”

“Not in a million years.”

“Are these brakes nice and safe now?”

“You have to wait and see.”

“Can you really tell the future?”

“All signs point to ‘no’.”