Boys On The Run With Dogs

…damned if I can remember what we were running from



Life On The Magic Bus

I’m sorry. I must have misheard you.” Doc Clay was sitting in his favorite chair on the Bus, facing Grace, his son Sam and his daughter in law Rani.

Rani laughed at his genuinely puzzled expression. “I said, you are going to be a grandfather.”


Doc blinked. He heard the words coming out of her mouth, but they made no sense.

“I can’t be a grandfather. I’m too young.”

Grace gave him an exasperated look. “You’re 57, you old fart. Two years older than your dad was when we had Sam. Like it or not, grandfather is going on your resume next to farmer, game designer and spy.”

This news had the desired effect on Doc. He sat back in his chair, eyes wide. His right hand extended out to the side where Jeeves, his SmartBot gentleman’s gentleman, placed a large double Irish whiskey in it. He gulped down a large mouthful, then looked at his son and Rani.

“Well, I’ll be damned. I’m gonna be a grandpa.”

(Historical Note: those were exactly the same words Doc’s dad, Bill, had said when he was told about Sam being on the way.)

“Are you two sure you’re old enough to be parents?” Doc was only halfway joking.

Same chuckled and laid his hand upon his dad’s left arm. “Yes, Dad, we are. We’re both 30, which I’ll remind you is three years older than you were when I was born.”

So, have you told your sister?,” Grace asked.

“Yep,” Sam replied. “Called her this morning. She pretty much lost her shit and started yelling about being an auntie. I figure everyone in her lab probably heard her.”

It was then that Sasha, Winker and Lucy came running in.

“We’re gonna be aunties too!” They yelled as they jumped up onto the sofa next to Rani and Sam.

“This is gonna be SO cool!,” Sasha said. “I love babies.”

Winker put her paw on Rani’s hand and told her,“You’ll be a great mother.”

Lucy gave Sam a kiss. “And you’ll be a great Dad, Sam.”

After a few moments, Grace looked at them and said, “You are bringing that baby into one damned strange family. I mean, I thought Doc and I had strange families…”

“And we do!,” Doc interjected.

“…but your baby will grow up knowing about talking dogs and SmartBots and buses that are bigger on the inside and who knows what else.”

Rani nodded. “Yes, and we haven’t even gotten to the part of my family still in India. My Uncle Gurdeep believes that ghosts live in his goat barn and my brother Raj collects animal skulls.”

Doc leaned back even further and sipped his whiskey.

“Oh yeah, this kid has no chance of being normal.”


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My Life Among The Cosplaying Dogs

…mostly Trek or Who cosplay

365 DAYS, 365 POSTS #5

Life On The Magic Bus

It was 2:30 in the morning and Doc & Grace Clay had been running almost non-stop for an hour through the godforsaken boondocks of North Korea, dodging NK Army patrols the whole way. To make matters worse, Doc was carrying a North Korean scientist on his back and Grace was carrying his wife. Thankfully, both of them were small, skinny from malnutrition and drugged into dreamland.

They were less than a mile from the DMZ when they finally stopped to rest and meet their contact. Both of the 20 something Yanks were very near to hitting the wall of exhaustion.

“When we get home,” Doc said between deep breaths, “I’m going to climb into the hot tub and stay there for a week, or until I fall asleep and drown.”

Grace wiped her sweaty brow. Korea, North or South, in the summer was a shitty hot place. And these mosquitoes could just fuck off, too. Why the hell did they love her so much and never bite Doc?

“I’m all for that and a massage, too. And a very cold drink or three. So, sweetheart, would now be a bad time to tell you some big news?”

Doc gave her a cautious look.

“Does the news involve us just driving across the DMZ in a big Caddy? Because if not, it better involve cold beer and a cheeseburger or I don’t want to hear it.”

“I’m going off the Pill after this mission.”

Doc was so tired, yet alert for the sounds of approaching enemies, that he took a full ten seconds to register what she had said.

“Off the pill? As in, becoming fertile and, one presumes, eventually pregnant?”

She smiled and nodded.

“Yep, exactly that. You ready for that, big daddy?” She, noticed that he had a look on his face like you might find on a politician who has just been asked to tell the truth about something.

After a moment, he just said, “Yeah, I guess so. Nice timing, by the way.”

She gave a quiet giggle as she pointed to the headlights in the distance.

I think our old buddy Captain Cho is here. Let’s grab our bundles and go meet him.”

Hours later, after the good Captain had been bribed with liquor and food, thus allowing Doc and Grace to use the smuggling tunnel that ran all the way under the DMZ and into South Korea and after they had dropped off their still drugged friends with the proper people, they checked into a swanky hotel and got showered and ready for bed.

“So,” Doc said as he climbed into bed, ”I guess we go to London in a few days for what will be our last mission for the Business, eh?”

“Yes, that’s about it. Central is not going to be happy about our leaving, but they’ll let us go.”

Doc chuckled. “Damned right they will or else everyone will know about Senator Leeman’s real affection for his wife’s clothing, how the Chief Justice of SCOTUS made the undeclared income he has tucked away in that Swiss bank and what is really going on in Area 51. We’ll be out so fast we’ll burn rubber. And now, my Sweet Little Apricot Turnover Of Love, let’s do what we used to do as teenagers.”

And with that, they fell asleep until 3:00 pm in the afternoon.

Crazed Paramecium Tickled My Rotifer

…those of you who didn’t major in biology can look it up

Life On The Magic Bus

Chapter: REDACTED due to being out of temporal order

Winker’s final bow
Things go cattywonkers

Winker Sue Clay was a month past her 18th birthday and knew her time was up. 18 was old for any dog and especially old for a basset hound that had been through the adventures she had been through. Now, her life was near it’s end and that was ok. One of the good things about being a dog, and there were many, was that you knew when your life was coming to an end from old age or illness. You felt the weight of it, your appetite decreased and you found that your energy was seriously diminished. You looked forward to the Long Sleep, as some humans called it. But unlike humans, you did not fear it, even if, like Winker, you were as smart as a human. One of the advantages of never having invented religion.

She had spent that morning saying goodbye to Sasha & Daisy, who, like all dogs, were sad to see her go, but would not grieve overly much. Daddy, by contrast, had cried and said goodbye at length. You’d think that a man who had terminated several humans as part of his spy job would have been more pragmatic about death.

Well, actually, he was pragmatic about humans dying, just not about animals. To this day, he felt bad about the time he had to kill a huge killer guard dog in a Chinese secret chemical plant. Later, he found the man who trained the dog to be so vicious and dropped him into a tank of acid after telling him “this is for the dog”.

Anyway, once she had finished with Daddy, Winker got in the car with Mom for a drive way out into the boonies. She had told everyone that she wanted to die in the old way, alone and out where nature could return her to the earth. So now, she and Mom stood beside a trail that was about half a mile from where the car was parked on an old logging road. It was a pretty area to do this thing in. She sat down and looked up at Grace.

“I can feel the Energital wearing off. Won’t be more than a couple minutes now.”

Grace looked at her, sorrow and something else showing on her face.

“This reminds me of Roscoe, when he left us after 22 years. I can’t help feeling sad.”

Winker nodded.

“I just wish it wasn’t so damned hard on Daddy. He stayed drunk for a week after Roscoe went.”

Grace petted her and said, “Well, I don’t think he’ll do that this time. He’d had Roscoe with him since he was 17. He’s older now.”

“And wiser?”

“Hey, let’s not go all crazy here.”

They both laughed at that.

A few seconds later, Winker laid down on her side. Her breathing became shallow.

“Here we go, Mom. I love you.”

A tear rolled down Grace’s cheek as she said, “I love you too, sweetie.”

Five seconds later, Winker stopped breathing. Grace took a deep breath, then looked at her watch. It was 11:38 and 40 seconds in the morning. She looked back down at her girl and started counting off seconds.

18 seconds later, Winker started to glow. Within a few seconds, she was glowing so brightly that Grace had to look away.

It took a minute longer for the glow to fade so Grace could look back, much longer than it had taken with Roscoe. What she saw caused her to gasp, then giggle. Oh, this was going to be fun to watch.

The creature formerly known as Winker opened it’s eyes and blinked twice.

“That took way too long. Why are you smiling? I feel smaller? Collar is WAY too large. Am I a chihuahua? No…feel fluffier. A Pomeranian? I’ve wondered about breed switching. Sex switching was bad enough, even if bitches are superior. Wait…is that cat I smell? No! Kitten! Did you bring a kitten here?”

Jumping up, there was a quick visual and nasal inspection.

“I’m a fucking CAT! A CAT! No, not even a cat yet…a kitten. Oh shit! It must have been those gene samples Sasha and I spilled. Well, could be worse. Could have been an echidna or an opossum. Don’t think I could stand being an opossum. Uglyass fuckers. Hey, look Mom, I have testicles and a penis again! Welcome back, boys! I knd of missed you. Ooh, look, retractable claws. Handy!”

By this time, Grace was laughing pretty hard. The kitten kept talking.

“Nice colors…not a ginger, but I look like a little tiger. Short hair, too. I’ve never much liked long hair. Sense of smell is moderately crappy. So is hearing. Oh well, maybe the improved night vision will make up for it. Wait, I’m going to have to learn to use a cat box, aren’t I? That sucks.”

Grace picked up the kitten. She had thought to bring several sized collars with her. She chose a small and rather butch looking one and put it on him.

“So, sweetie, cat body aside, how do you feel?”

He looked thoughtful for a minute, then said, “Less sciencey, more adventurey. Rather badass, actually. Probably turn out more narcissistic because I’m a cat. Feeling pretty male again, which is kind of like going home. I suppose the rest will gel over a few days or a week. How old do I look?”

Grace studied him. “I’d say 10 weeks or so. Old enough to be on your own. So how do we play this?”

He thought for a minute. This was the tricky part. Grace had shown up two weeks after Roscoe had “died” with a 9 week old basset puppy that she told Doc she had seen in the local shelter. She had said the pup was due to be euthanized. In reality,Winker had been hiding out in a neighbor’s barn. Despite it being so soon after Roscoe, Doc had taken to the puppy immediately.

“I think I need to test this body out for a bit. How about if I meet up with you all in Milwaukee during GenCon next month? You can find me in the alley next to The King and I. Sneak me out some softshell crab.”

That seemed like a good idea to Grace. This whole regeneration thing always seemed to require a shakedown cruise. She had no doubt that this time it would take the next five weeks.

“Ok, sweetie. We’ll see you at the con. Take care of yourself. Make sure you lose that multiversal translator before then.”

She hugged the kitten, then set him down on the path and started to walk to the car as he went in the other direction. After about 5 steps, she turned and called out, “Hey, pick out a nice new name, okay?”

The kitten turned back to her and said, “I already have. Call me Flash.”

Mrs. Wangdoodle Takes A Selfie

…to put on her Facebook page

Hey, look! It’s a new entry for Life On The Magic Bus! Yay!

Life On The Magic Bus

WARNING! WARNING! Temporally Displaced Post! This Post Is From The FUTURE. Read At Your Own Risk!

Doc Clay was racing along on inline hoverskates at about 25 miles an hour. The giant mutant rat behind him was closing the gap at 28 miles per hour.

“SHIT!, he yelled, “Here we come!”

Doc passed under a low hanging branch and, a few seconds later, so did the rat. The difference was that Doc did not encounter the business end of a Urokan Vibronic Pickaxe and the rat did. It’s head exploded in a spray of blood & gore and the body tumbled about 30 feet before it stopped. A moment later, Sasha swung down gracefully from the branch using her Ottopus tentacles. She was covered in that blood & gore and hoisted the pickaxe above her head before shouting “Who’s the killer bitch around here? This gal!”

Doc chuckled at that. It was true enough. He and Sasha had been using this some ploy to kill these goddamn rats for a week now, ever since the Magic Bus had been forced to stop for repairs on this post apocalyptic version of Earth.

Yeah, yeah”, he said, “You’re a badass, Now let’s get you cleaned up before the Mom Unit sees you.”

Back at the bus, he hosed Sasha off until she was mostly clean, then sent her inside to be properly washed up by a SmartBot while he washed his hands under the faucet. Despite this world being devoid of human life, he had to admit that 3,000 years of letting Mother Nature have her way with it had turned out pretty well, giant carnivorous rats aside. It was a very peaceful place to break down.

Well, “break down” wasn’t quite the term for it, but it was easier to say than “Stopped because the bus caught a nasty cold”. A bit easier on the brain, too.

He dried his hands and did some stretching moves. 68 years old was probably not the optimal age for hoverskating hell bent for leather through a forest with a giant mutant rat hot on your ass. It was fun, though, despite what Grace, Avis and his other two dogs said. And it would be a great story to tell the grandkids once he got home.

He paused before going inside, so he could watch a flock of what he called Golden Day Bats pass overhead. They were the size of fruit bats back home, but completely diurnal and insectivorous. Beautiful.

Then he went inside the bus and took a long shower before dinner.

Only One Way Out Of This Town

…until we got really creative, that is.

Life On The Magic Bus

Chapter 3: The Games Are Afoot!

Geeks gather

Winker goes up a level


Destination Sign: Space…The Final Frontier

(Narrator: Hello, I’m back to tell you the story in this short chapter.)

Upon arriving in Seattle, Doc parked the bus in the parking lot of a strip mall destined for destruction in about a month. He and Grace had called all of their Seattle based friends, plus Spike & Mary, and invited them to an “absolutely first class dinner and night of gaming”. Pets were invited and would be getting their own gourmet meal.

Doc & Grace, both accomplished cooks and aided by the SmartBots known as Alton & Julia, cooked up a wonderful 9 course dinner for the humans and several tasty dishes suitable for a wide range of critters. This included three large rats for their friend Ollie’s reticulated python, Indy and a reserved dining area in the meadow room for all of the bunnies belonging to their friends Chris, Nicole & Kate.

At 6:00, as people arrived, the Clay family would greet them, help them get used to talking dogs and the big on the inside bus, then seat them in the living room where the two SmartBots known as Fry & Laurie served them drinks.

When Spike & Mary arrived (sans their teenaged daughters, Melody and Harmony, who were at home), the first words out of Spike’s mouth were, “So, this bus is basically a TAR…”

“HEY now, Uncle Spike,” Winker interrupted, “Stop right there. That satire disclaimer Dad puts up only gets us so far. Ixnay on the trademarked amesnay.”

Spike nodded agreement. “Right, right. But please tell me it makes the same sound when it disappears.”

“Yep,” the old dog said. “Pretty much exactly.”

Once everyone arrived, Doc & Grace took them on the grand tour. In the greenhouse room, the sight of the two suns caused everyone to need a sit down. Later, grace would remark that it was the first time in nearly 30 years that Doc & Spike were both rendered speechless at the same time. Mary marked it down on her calendar.

Before dinner, all of the critters were lead to the Meadow Room, which had been divided off into areas for dogs, cats, rodents, parrots and, of course, Indy. They were served beef stew, fish, hay, fruits & nuts and rats. After that, there was mostly laying around talking.

The humans sat at a big U shaped table that seated all 30 of them. They were served by Fry, Laurie, Abbott & Costello.

(Narrator: Doc named all of the SmartBots, in case you hadn’t figured that out.)

After a leisurely dinner that everyone agreed was one of the best they ever had, the humans retreated to the Game Room. There, they played board and card games for the next four hours, including a miniature wargame that used tiny robots that actually fought it out on the tiny, yet very realistic, terrain. Several of the wargamers present lusted over that game.

After the gaming, there was sitting around talking about everything from the game business to talking dogs to superheroes to raising teenagers. Everybody pretty much agreed that talking dogs would be preferable to teenagers as housemates.

Meanwhile, in the Meadow Room, things were getting interesting. After about an hour of resting, Winker said something to the door, which then opened into a direct portal to the Shoe Room. After all the other dogs were in there, Winker told the cats that a portal would open to a room they would love, the newly created just for this night Empty Box Room.

Later, the 7 cats in attendance that night would proclaim the Empty Box Room as the BEST ROOM EVER and confer upon Winker the status of Honorary Cat, something she said she would be proud of to her dying day.

In the Shoe Room, a wild shoe based version of what critters call “The Crazy Game” broke out. After three fast paced hours, there was still no winner, so everyone went back to the meadow room to nap and discuss the odd habits of humans.

Once all the guests were gone, the Clay family agreed that this little party had been a total winner. Then they all used their various bathrooms and went to bed.

Let’s review: This is a work of fiction, with no rights claimed on any character, process, thing, critter, foodstuff, game, movie or any other damned thing. Well, except for the stuff we created, mostly by pulling ideas out of our ass. Creativity is a funny thing, ya know? Anyway, any resemblance to people or things living, dead, undead or in some state of quantum flux is done solely for humorous & satirical intent. Thank you for reading this.

Chapter 4, Part 1: On The Trail Of Giant Jesus

Sasha meets a bear

Grace meets Sweet Jesus


Destination Sign: The Hundred Acre Wood

In the world of roadside attractions, giant statues of Jesus are second in number only to houses built out of weird stuff like beer bottles, tin cans and old cars. Doc has heard that there is at least one giant Jesus in every state and, like a birdwatcher, he keeps a notebook detailing his sightings. So far, he has seen 15 giant Sons of God in 11 states. He’s looking to add a couple more on the way to San Diego.

About 2 miles south of the Canadian border, Doc turned the bus around and started back south, but only went a mile before coming to the first of the day’s stops, the Internationally Famous Can-Am Giant Jesus.

(Narrator: Is Internationally Famous better than World Famous? Damned if I know.)

Getting off the bus, Sasha was the first to speak.

“Dang, that’s a big statue. Was this guy Jesus really that tall?”

“No,” Grace told her. “He was probably shorter than me. And darker skinned, too.”

Sasha thought for a minute, then asked, “Do you mean like Uncle Louie’s cousin Jesus? He’s a nice guy who likes to pet my ears.”

“Yeah,” Grace said. “He would have looked kind of like him, only not Mexican. Jesus was from the Middle East.”

Lucy chimed in, “If you ask me, this Jesus dude looked a heck of a lot like Uncle Spike.”

Grace nodded. “Yes, he does, doesn’t he?”

Doc walked up to the plaque on the ground in front of Giant Jesus. He read it aloud to the others and a few more tourists who had just shown up.

“The Church of Jesus Our Savior dedicates this statue to the people of Canada & the United States in the hope that they can live in peace and harmony and dedicate themselves to living as the Son of God taught. June 25th, 1987”

“Well,” he said, “we humans pretty much blew that one. On the other hand, we do have the 7th tallest Giant Jesus in North America right here. 80 feet tall. Too bad you can’t go up inside him and look out his eyes, like some of the others.”

After taking several photographs and buying the requisite tourist items, they got back on the bus and headed toward the coast. A few hours later, after a quick stop to view a herd of world famous black deer, the bus reached Olympic National Park, where the Clay family joined about 30 other humans & dogs on a self guided tour. Later, Doc would write this about it.

“So there we are, way the hell out on a trail and there I am, at the head of the group of maybe 32 people and several mostly small dogs, cos I’m Nature Boy and I just sorta slid into the guide position on this unguided hike. Everything was going fine until the bear stepped outta the bushes about 60 feet in front of us.

At that point, everyone pretty much froze, bear included…except for Sasha. See, she’s a very friendly little gal. Loves people, cats, other dogs, livestock…you name it, she’ll give it a chance to be her friend.

Including a young female black bear, who I’d say weighed about 300-400 pounds.

So, I’m holding Sasha’s leash and she’s straining on it to say “Hi” to the bear and I can hear people behind me backing up the trail and Grace whispering “Doc! Come on!” and the bear is just standing there looking at us like “What’s up?” Oddly, none of the other dogs were barking, not even Lucy, who later told us that squirrels and rabbits are one thing, but a bigass bear is totally another.

Anyway, the bear stared at us, we stared at her and everyone else backed up another 3-4 yards. Then Sasha barked, the bear yelled, I yelled, everyone behind me yelled and they all started running…and then the bear hauled ass down the hill.

I looked at Sasha, who was still barking her “Let’s play wrassle!” bark, then looked at the rapidly receding ass of the bear, then back to Sasha. She stopped barking and said “She must have had a previous appointment.” Then I turned around and lead her back up the trail, which she was ok with because it was nearing lunch time anyway.

When I caught up with the rest of the hikers, the only thing I could think to say was “She’ll be upset with me all day because I didn’t let her kill that bear”. Oddly, nobody but Sasha and I found that funny.”

After lunch back on the bus, during which Doc & Sasha heard the rather unkind opinions of Grace, Winker & Lucy on “The Bear Episode”, they proceeded along to the town of Iwalco, Washington. They had planned on just stopping to get some fresh air and stretch their legs, but then they saw a sign in the local chocolate shop that said “Come in and see our Sweet Jesus”. How could they resist?

Leaving The Girls in the bus to play World of Dogcraft, Doc & Grace strolled over to see what Sweet Jesus was made of.

As it turned out, he was made of a dark chocolate mixed with cherries. He stood about seven feet tall and had his open arms outstretched. Doc posed with him first, then Grace did. Ten minutes later, they were back on the bus, Grace was looking sheepish and Doc was laughing loudly.

Winker looked at her parents, then asked, “She snapped, didn’t she, Dad?”

Doc was laughing too hard to speak, but nodded.

“He delicious smelling…all dark chocolate & cherries…I…I couldn’t help myself.” Grace looked embarrassed as she wiped chocolate off her chin.

“She…she…Hahahaha…bit off two of his fingers! HAHAHAHA! The shop owner looked like she was going to have…hahahaha…have…heeheehee…a heart attack. I…heeheehee…had to pay $300 to get us out of there.” Doc collapsed onto a sofa and laughed hysterically. Lucy & Sasha joined in.

Winker looked at Grace with sympathy in her eyes. “Well, Mom, now you know how it was for 2 year old me back when I ate that plate of hot dogs.”

Grace went off to the bedroom and didn’t come out for an hour. Doc stopped laughing after 15 minutes and got the bus back on the road. The Girls went back to playing World of Dogcraft.

Chapter 4, Part 2: On The Trail Of Giant Jesus

Doc writes!

A tale of two houses


Destination Sign: Barsoom

The World Famous Circular House and the World Famous Long House

Exclusive to Roadside Attractions Quarterly by Doc Clay. Photos by Grace Clay

Located halfway between Iwalco and Chinook along Highway 101, these two interesting houses are only about a mile apart on the eastern side of the road. You can’t miss the two big signs.

We went into the Circular House first. It is the older of the two by five years, having been built in 1968 by Milton Zonga with the admitted dual purpose of being a place to live and an income generating curiosity. It is both of those, although Mr. Zonga and his wife Rose live in Arizona now and the house is home to his grandson, Julius and his family. Our tour was guided by his wife, Kerry, who did a good, if uninspired job.

The circular house is just that, a large 4 bedroom 3 bath house built as a circle with one long hallway running around the inside edge of the circle. It is done in pretty much the exterior style of any suburban stucco house and most of the interior, aside from the entry hall/gift shop/museum looks pretty much like your own home might, only with curved walls and some great ocean views. The small museum itself has many photos and newspaper & magazine articles about the house, from planning right up to today.

The most interesting thing about the Circular House is the lust tropical garden around the pool in the center. This area is roofed over to form a greenhouse. There are tropical birds flying about and even about six squirrel monkeys in the trees. It’s really quite cool looking.

The array of souvenir items is pretty large, but prices are a bit high.

I give this attraction a solid C+

Address: 100 Circle Drive

Hours: 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, Mon., Wed., Sat., Sun. Closed on Christmas, New Years and Easter.

The World Famous Long House is just about the total opposite of the Circular House. For starters, it is long. As in 24 feet wide, 14 feet high (interior) and 200 feet long! The whole place is a very well made log cabin and blends in well with the surrounding forest. There are five bedrooms, three baths, a huge living room and a bunch of other rooms. Two of the bedrooms are for rent, as the place is also a B&B.

This house was built starting in 1973 by Homer and Helen Zonga, Homer being Milton’s younger brother. The house was not finished until 1979. The small separate museum/gift shop tells the whole story with photos, videos and plenty of newspaper & magazine articles.

The tour of the house is given by Homer and Helen themselves, with assistance from their twin grandsons, Bill and Ben. Homer is a real character and if their are no children or easily offended folks in the tour group, his descriptions of the troubles encountered building the house can get quite colorful.

Perhaps the coolest thing about the Long House is that every room is done up in a different style. There is the kitchen done up as an old school diner, the bedroom that looks like a cave and rooms straight out of the Old West, a science fiction movie, a castle and many more.

This place is well worth visiting and the souvenir items are reasonably priced.

Address: 1 Long Drive

Hours: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Tuesday thru Sunday. Closed on Mondays, Christmas, New Years, Easter and the Fourth of July.

Handsome Joe Eats A Whole Pizza

…and was one full little hound

Life On The Magic Bus

Chapter 2, Part 4: The World’s Biggest Toilet Paper Rolls And Other Adventures

At last, toilet paper!
A legend dies!

Destination Sign: Where You Least Expect Us

Captain’s log, 4/17/2009, 1:45 pm

We slept in a bit this morning before driving for two hours to see the World’s Largest Toilet Paper Rolls.

Our first stop once we left Crater Lake was in the tiny town of Dufur, Oregon. It is there that you will find two establishments, across the road from one another, competing for the title of World’s Largest Toilet Paper Roll. I could barely contain my excitement. Grace & The Girls, not so much.

As told to us by Mrs. Emily Umbar and Mrs. Lenola Raspe, way back in 1960, their husbands Frank and Charlie (then both 20) began several good natured competitions, as friends often do. First there was “who can grow the biggest zucchini”, then “who has the fanciest workshop”. Eventually, around 1985 and the “who can build the biggest play area for the grandkids” competition, the testosterone level hit critical mass.

Both men decided that they would build a tourist attraction. Both men decided on building a humongous toilet paper roll. The first year, they got pretty hefty size rolls made, but a huge rainstorm soon destroyed them. That did not stop the two bathroom tissue gladiators, who used the next few months to build very tall, very narrow barns to protect their masterpieces.

Like I said a couple of days ago, the last time I saw these humongous rolls, you paid 50 cents per group to see them and they were 12 feet tall. Things have changed quite a bit over the years.

Nowadays, you pay a buck a head to see these enormous rolls, which stand 80 FEET HIGH and are wound pretty tightly (as are the men who made them, if you ask me) by special slow turning gas engines.

When we arrived today, both men were arguing about whose roll was actually the longest, an argument that has been going on for decades. The wives, who actually conduct the short tour, were sitting together having coffee. We ponied up our money and they showed us around. The whole thing took about 30 minutes, by which time the two 69 year old men were just shy of coming to blows. While Grace bought post cards and fridge magnets and a bumper sticker (no t-shirts available), I wandered over to the men and asked them if there wasn’t some way to measure the roll lengths. I figured they’d just do individual roll length times the number of rolls, but they had other ideas.

Before you could say “crazy motherfuckers”, they had their cars lined up on the highway with the ends of the rolls tied to the bumpers and odometer trip meters zeroed out. Next thing you know, they were off. Well, they were probably off years ago, but now they were heading down the highway.

I figured the wives would be pissed, but they were laughing too hard to do much more than hug me and refund all our money. Gasping for breath, Mrs. Umbar explained that the rolls were at least 3,000 miles long and that she and Mrs. Raspe were now going to take a week long vacation up at the Indian casino near Spokane, Washington.

I’m kind of bummed out that this legendary roadside attraction will be gone, but I’m hoping that some young person somewhere will take up the challenge and start a new giant toilet paper roll.

Tomorrow or the next day, we will stop was in Roosevelt, Washington to see “Uncle Ferdie’s Trained Squirrel Review”. It got high marks from Tourist Trap Monthly, so we are really looking forward too it.

Now, with lunch behind us, we are off to see the Historic House Of Mirrors.

Captain’s log out.

Chapter 2, Part 5: The World’s Biggest Toilet Paper Rolls And Other Adventures

Squirrels & Disaster
Wood & Whimsy

Diary entry for Grace Clay, 4/18/2009, 9:30 pm

Destination Sign: Terrapin Station

Dear Diary,

When I married Doc two years out of high school (and a year out of our training time at The Business), my wonderful mother in law, Gerry, gave me only a couple of pieces of advice. The first was “never go to bed mad at each other, even if it means staying up all night”. The other was “You’ve married my son, a Clay. Shit will happen and it will happen spectacularly. Just remember that years later, you’ll laugh at most of it”.

I’m thinking it will be 5-10 years before I laugh about, as Doc puts it, “The Great Squirrel Riot Of 2009”.

Like many of the spectacular disasters in our lives together (Ankara, 1974…the decision to try raising bison, 1984…buying Toad House Games, 1990), it started off as a seemingly good idea: Go see a bunch of trained squirrels do a show. How it played out was very different.

We pulled into the parking lot of “Uncle Ferdie’s Trained Squirrel Review”, which is housed in an old K Mart building. A sign outside said that over a million people had seen the show, which was in it’s third smash year. There was also a sign saying “free complimentary indoor dog park”, which seemed like a good idea at the time. We paid out $5.00 each and went in.

We checked The Girls into the park, which was very nice and full of dogs of all sizes. I had a momentary spot of concern over Lucy, who is smart, but possibly not 100% sane. I could see that she smelled the squirrels. The teenage park attendants promised me that they’d keep her busy playing.

Unfortunately, the teenage attendants did not secure one of the rear doors well enough. Lead by a certain 65 pound basset/coonhound mix, 28 dogs were soon heading down the connecting hallway toward a room full of assorted squirrels & chipmunks & kids & parents & grandparents. And let’s not forget Uncle Ferdie & Aunt Hazel, both of whom seemed like really nice folks.

You know the term “all hell broke loose”? Well, not including family gatherings, I now know what it looks like. Some red squirrels and chipmunks had just started performing a dance routing to “Kung Fu Fighting” when I heard the dogs barking a split second before the doors burst open.

Dogs were everywhere, as were terrified rodents, panicked parents and googly eyed kids. Chairs were knocked over, scenery went flying and I think Uncle Ferdie (who, despite an old sounding name only looked about 35) may have wet himself as a bull mastiff and three welsh corgis ran over him in pursuit of a fox squirrel. I saw Winker barking at an Asian squirrel that was on some lady’s head, Sasha chasing a ground squirrel and Lucy all over the place. A flying squirrel flew right past Doc, who was just a bit too calm considering the riot around him. But then, my sweetie is always calmest when the shit is hitting the fan, childbirthing with me excepted.

We made a hasty retreat back to the bus, where Doc used the loudspeaker to yell “Fooooooddddd Fooooorrrr Doooooggggssss!!!!”. Within moments, The Girls were on the bus. Then, as I put everyone in Doggie Lockdown, Doc got us back on the road and out of town. Fortunately, this bus has a “Cop Detection Unit” that let us know where the police cars were, so we could avoid them.

It’s too bad about the riot, which we heard on the radio took an hour to calm down, because the show was really cute and lots of fun. I’m glad I bought the bumper stickers, fridge magnets, DVD, t-shirts and hats before things went south.

A couple of hours later, after I had a good nap, we went to Woodenland. This is a big place housed in an old shoe store and it’s pretty much a little world of thousands of hand carved people and animals. The little towns and outdoor places are served by a model railroad and the whole place is very cute & whimsical. I told Doc that we should bring our grandchildren here someday, but he just said that we were many years away from being grandparents, despite our 28 year old son being married and trying to have kids. Talk about being in denial.

Ok, Diary, time for bed. Tomorrow we head west for more sightseeing, but hopefully no riots.


Chapter 2, Part 6: The World’s Biggest Toilet Paper Rolls And Other Adventures

Canine apologies begin

Things go wibbly wobbly

Destination Sign: Gotham City

Diary entry for Winker Sue Clay, 4/19/2009, 4:30 pm

Dear Diary,

I swear to Dog, I did not mean to take part in that squirrel chasing riot yesterday. I was trying to stop little Sasha and some other pups from joining in and then everybody was running and the smell of rodents was so strong and there was screaming and barking and…well, something snapped and I was answering the call of the wild. It was like being on some powerful rodent based drug.

Once we were back on the bus and fed and calmed down, I felt terrible. I apologized profusely to Mom & Dad, then went off to lay in my bed and be miserable. About a half hour later, Mom came in to talk with me. It went like this:

Mom: “Hi, sweetie. I want you to know that Daddy & I forgive you. We know you were just running on instinct, like Lucy & Sasha were.”

Me: “But Mom, Sasha is just a pup and Lucy is, well, Lucy. I’m 14 years old and have human smarts. I should have been able to control myself and not do such a stupid thing.”

Mom: “Oh, honey, being older and smarter doesn’t stop people from doing dumb stuff. Just look at Daddy or Uncle Kelly or Uncle Mike or Sam or…”

Me: “Mom, those are all MALES. I’m female and should be held to a higher standard.”

Mom: “Hmmm…yes, that’s true. But hey, what about me when I’m in a book store?”

I had no answer for that, since Mom has a singular lack of self control in bookstores. And ice cream parlors. And when she sees Dad in a well tailored suit. Talk about leg humping!

Anyway, she hugged me and said everything was ok. I spent the rest of the day reading “The Quantum Mechanic’s Handbook” and the latest General Dynamics parts catalog. After dinner, we all watched “Abbott & Costello Meet The Shadow” and “Abbott & Costello Meet Godzilla”, then went to bed.

Today we visited “The World Famous Haunted Motel” in Portland. It pretty much looked just like any other old run down motel that the new interstate passed by. I mean, yeah, it was the site of a grisly quadruple homicide back in 1961 and three people committed suicide there, but it wasn’t that special to look at or tour. Naturally, we saw no ghosts because ghosts do not exist. That didn’t stop a couple of folks on the tour from saying shit like “I can feel a presence!” or “Does this room feel cold to you?” Yeah, dummy, it’s cold because the air conditioner was just on!

The high point of the tour was right at the end when Daddy, who learned ventriloquism back when he was a kid, made it sound like a ghostly voice said “Ahhh! Fresh meat for me!” in the main murder room. He even said it in a Boris Karloff type voice, which was a nice touch. Even the fattest of the humans got out of the room really fast! Later, when she stopped giggling, Mom called Dad a goofball, which is true.

Our next stop in Portland was the “Museum of the Weird”. Why it was not world famous, I have no idea. It was a big Victorian house crammed full of exhibits of strange shit like UFO pics (I recognized a W’Kinzek scoutship and a Tultarin atmosphere sampler), bigfoot stuff, occult items and pretty much every other kind of strange thing that humans think is supernatural. It’s all a bunch of bullshit, but kind of fun to look at. Most of the humans there were just shy of full on batshit crazy, especially the guy who was just a little too interested in alien anal probes.

Mom bought the usual tourist stuff, then we had ice cream.

We left Portland after that and are on our way to Seattle now. We will be having dinner with a bunch of Dad’s gaming industry friends, including Uncle Spike & Auntie Mary who are out here on business. I just love those two.

Hold on, Diary. Shit is happening!

Ok, it has been an hour since my last bit up above and things are just calming down.

It seems that as we were driving along I-5, our interdimensional drive kicked in and we were shifted over to a rainy day on an Earth where this interstate freeway was new, around 1973.

This surprised everyone, including the Mom Unit who is very against any “time and space hopping bullshit”, as she puts it. The Dad Unit pulled off the road into a truck stop and called for Joe as he tried to calm Mom down with little success.

Joe showed up, apologizing profusely and saying that he had accidentally dropped a probability spanner onto a sub-unit control panel. He said it would reset in just a couple of minutes and we’d be home. Mom made many detailed threats on Joe’s health if it didn’t. Not sure if Joe even has a spleen that Mom could remove with a spoon, but DAMN!

Joe went off to check on things and Mom had become relatively calm when Lucy looked out a window and said “Hey, all of those truckers are apes!”. We all ran to the window and sure enough, it was some Planet of the Apes situation on that world. Needless to say, this did not sit well with Mom, although Dad said it was pretty cool. Mom gave him a Level 45 “look” and then he got very quiet, as did we all.

About a minute later, the bus made the odd sound it makes when shifting realities and we were at the same truck stop, but back here on our world. We left a few minutes later, after Mom laid down the law to Joe, Daddy and everyone within earshot. No more spacey wacey timey wimey shit OR ELSE. She did not elaborate on what the OR ELSE would entail, but then, she really didn’t need to. I imagine spleenectomies would be involved.

Ok, Diary, I’m off to go chat with Joe down in the shop. Will write more later.


The Day I Saw A Duck Riding A Horse

…at a trot, even!

Life On The Magic Bus

Chapter 2, Part 1: The World’s Biggest Toilet Paper Rolls And Other Adventures

Enter Joe
Lucy chooses poorly

Diary entry for Winker Sue Clay, 4/15/2009, 3:15 pm

Dear Diary,

Man, am I ever glad we are finally leaving on this trip. The past 3 weeks since Dad brought home the bus have been a whirlwind of chaos, planning, selling stuff, buying stuff, re-planning and general getting ready to move onto the bus. We’ve all been crazy busy.

As you know, Diary, in the taking trips department, Mom is the getting what we need boss and Dad is the planning out the route boss. This usually works out well, the inevitable forgetting stuff and route changing notwithstanding.

Problem is, this trip also involves moving out of the house my parents have lived in for 30 years. There was much anguish about what to take and what to keep. Mom was in near meltdown mode about what books to take until Dad reminded her that the Library Room has every book ever written on Earth from the first book to December 31, 2035. That calmed Mom down really fast.

Anyway, Diary, things got sorted out and the house will be looked after by Uncle Louie and Auntie Karen until we come home in early November. I think Sam and Rani might be staying there for a couple of weeks, too. No word on if Poppy is going to come home for the summer.

Did I mention that Lucy & Sasha are smart now? Lucy is about as smart as your average 18 year old human, which fits in with her decision making skills. Sasha is very smart and may well be thinking of Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein as “a bit dim” someday.

As for their voices, Lucy chose one that sounds kind of like a cross between Whoopi Goldberg and Bette Davis. Sasha’s voice sounds just like Emma Watson, but Americanized.

The only other thing worth reporting is that we all got to meet Joe, our quantum mechanic who lives “below deck” in the engine room of the bus. He’s a pretty much human looking (but NOT human smelling) guy and not much of a talker. He assured the Mom Unit that we will not be going off willy nilly into space & time, which was something she had absolutely forbidden. Dad and I were a bit bummed by that, but as Dad said later, “Her will be done…or else”. I’ve spent a bit of time wandering around the unrestricted areas of the “repair shop” as Joe calls it. It’s pretty interesting down there, all high tech and stuff. Joe even let me borrow a couple of old parts catalogs and a repair manual to read.

Ooh! Late breaking news, Diary! It seems that Lucy decided to go poking around in the Warehouse and turned loose a robotic turkey that proceeded to chase her all over the bus. From what Sasha told me (when she wasn’t laughing hysterically) that roboturkey managed to stay just close enough behind Lucy to peck her on the tail every so often. Dad and Mom were trying to stop both of them and finally succeeded when Dad clocked the robot with a cast iron frying pan and Mom threw a blanket over Lucy. Sasha says that Dad gave Lucy a tranquilizer and she’s sacked out now. That will teach her not to go nosing around in rooms that are on the “No Dogs!” list.

Never a dull moment around here, eh, Diary?


Chapter 2, Part 2: The World’s Biggest Toilet Paper Rolls And Other Adventures

The Captain logs!
Grace scores points

Destination Sign: The Cobalt Club

Captain’s log, 4/15/2009, 9:30 pm

Hot damn, I’ve always wanted to say that! This vocal diary recorder is the bomb! And this driver’s chair is damned comfy.

Anyway, we have just pulled onto Interstate 5, heading north. Left the house about 8:30 pm after more goodbyes with neighbors and eating some great pie made by several of them. As I speak, The Girls are all off playing and Grace is puttering around in the kitchen. Our cruising speed will be 70 miles an hour and I’ve got AC/DC cranked up on the stereo. It’s only two hours until our first roadside attraction stop, but we’ll be waiting there until they open up at 9:00 am. Have I mentioned how comfortable our bed is? Well, it is. Best night’s sleep I’ve had since about 1985 in the old UltraCon hotel.

It’s kind of interesting how quickly Grace & I got used to…HOLY FUCK! That asshole must be doing 100 miles an hour! Oh yeah, here go the cops, hot on his ass. Two CHP and a couple of county sheriff’s cars. High speed chase, baby!

Anyway, like I was saying, it’s kind of interesting how quickly Grace & I got used to having smart dogs that can talk. I guess they aren’t that different from kids, except that Sam & Poppy yelled at each other a lot more and we don’t have to pay for the dogs to attend college. It also helps that Lucy & Winker are mature girls and even Sasha is about at the 8 year old level. We got to skip the terrible twos and the whole “Why?” period.

So, getting back to this trip, our plan is to go up both I-5 and, in places, old highway 99 to the Canadian border, then down the Pacific Coast to San Diego. After that, we’ll see where we go next, although the fact that it will be the start of convention season pretty much means driving back and forth across the country. I’m scheduled to be at 5 cons for sure and I’d like to hit at least 3 more, including this new “DogCon” that they’re holding down in Texas.

Of course, the big thrill for me is getting to visit all of the roadside attractions! We have around 50 on our list and we’ll be checking out at least a dozen more that may or may not be closed. I saw maybe two thirds of these places when I was a kid, and some on family trips when the kids were small, but I haven’t seen any of them in the last 20 years. I’m particularly psyched for the World’s Largest Toilet Paper Roll. Actually, that’s Rolls, because there are two of them across the road from each other. I saw them last in 1978, when Grace and I got out of the intelligence biz and were traveling around in my old ’65 Impala. Back then, the rolls were about 12 feet tall. I’ve heard they are twice that now.

Think of that. TWO bigass rolls of toilet paper just sitting there in the eastern Oregon prairie. I mean, I’ve seen the Pyramids, the Eiffel Tower (and pushed a KGB agent off of it), the Great Wall of China and a hundred other places, but TWO huge rolls of toilet paper? That right there is way cool!

Oh, hello sweetie! Ooh, cupcakes and cocoa for the driver? You get 1,000 Wife points for this. Redeemable for…well, I know you’ll think of something. What? Set the auto-pilot and come on into the bus? Let me slam down these tasty treats first!

Captain’s log out.

Chapter 2, Part 3: The World’s Biggest Toilet Paper Rolls And Other Adventures

Sasha gets excited
The Mom Unit renews a tradition

Destination Sign: Azkaban Prison

Diary entry for Sasha Jane Clay, 4/16/2009, 8:30 pm

Dear Diary,

Winker said I should start writing stuff in you, so I’m gonna start now. I’ll try not to write boring stuff.

Last night, we watched “The Princess Bride” with Mommy while Daddy was getting everything ready for us to leave on our trip. It’s a good movie! I liked the sword fighting. Mommy said that she once had a sword duel with a woman in Argentina, which is in South America. I think the lady’s name was “Neo Nazi Bitch”.

Anyway, after the movie, me and Winker and Lucy went to play in the Shoe room and Daddy got the bus on the road. I love the Shoe Room and we played in there for about an hour. Lucy got her head stuck in a cowboy boot twice. Winker said that was not unusual for Lucy, ‘cos Lucy makes poor choices when she gets excited.

After the Shoe Room, we went to the Meadow Room for our late night peeing and pooping, then we all went to bed. I had a dream about a room full of hamburgers. It was nice, but when I woke up this morning I was very hungry!

Did I mention how much I like taking trips? We have only gone on a couple of short ones since I was adopted, but they were fun. At DunDraCon, everybody petted me and stuff!

Anyway, after breakfast, we went to see a place called the “World Famous Tin Can House”, right near Corning, California. It’s a big house all made of tin cans. The guy who lives there is old and smells like beer and stinky feet. He showed us around and said that the house was started in 1929 by his grandpa who was broke ‘cos of the Depression. I thought you could take pills for depression?

Anyway, his grandpa got cans from all over and filled them with dirt, then stuck them together like bricks until he had a big old house in 1933. After that, people came to see it for a nickel each and the grandpa made lots of money.

It was an interesting place with lots of smells and mice that Lucy tried to chase. Before we left, Mommy bought a couple of t-shirts and a bumper sticker. Daddy says that is a tradition with Mommy on trips and explains why they have 15 storage totes full of t-shirts and why the fridge in the farm house is covered with magnets from all over the place. Daddy said that his old car had so many bumper stickers and decals, he can’t remember what color it was.

Mommy called Daddy a very funny man, NOT.

After the can house, which Daddy said smelled like somebody went to the can in it, we drove to see a bigfoot museum. We all made jokes about Daddy’s feet ‘cos they are so big. Hahaha.

The bigfoot place had pictures and footprint casts and stuff, but Winker says there are no bigfoots and the guy running the place is probably crazy as a drunken raccoon, which Lucy says is pretty damned crazy. I have only met one raccoon and she was not drunk or crazy. She was kind of grouchy, though.

We stopped for lunch in a town called Weed, which made Mommy & Daddy chuckle, but I don’t know why. We ate hot dogs and french fries and milkshakes. After that, us dogs and Mommy took naps while Daddy drove us to the “World Famous Oregon Dinosaur Land”. Daddy says that there are a whole lot of World Famous roadside places.

The dinosaur place has been shut down for about 20 years and is all overgrown and stuff. There is a big chain link fence around it, but Daddy has a pair of bolt cutters and we got through the rear gate easy peasy. There are 36 dinosaurs there, all made of concrete and stuff. We saw them all by walking on the old trail. Daddy was very excited to be there. Mommy says that is because all human men are really 6 year old boys most of the time, ‘cept when they are horny teenagers.

Winker says the dinosaurs aren’t accurately portrayed, but I think they were fun to look at. Lucy was mostly wanting to chase the wild animals living there and Diary, there were LOTS of them! There must have been about a zillion squirrels and chipmunks!

After we left the dinosaur park, we headed to Crater Lake to spend the night. I smelled bears! Lucy wanted to go chase a bear, but Daddy said she was crazy and he kept her on the bus.

We ate fish tacos for dinner and now we are gonna watch “Harry Potter and the Wandering Wand”, ‘cos we have movies that other people don’t have. After that, I’m gonna pee and poop and go to sleep.

Good night, Diary.


Satire. Humor. Not trying to make a claim on anybody’s intellectual properties. It’s what we are all about here at Life On The Magic Bus. So put away your lawyers and shit because our asses are covered by the laws regarding satire. No human, alien, critter, robot, primordial ooze or Lovecraftian horror is being mentioned here with anything except good old satirical intent. Really.