It felt like Christmas morning getting up on Monday.
I had the same anticipatory tingles that I used to feel in those innocent days before my hair fell out and I discovered that adulthood came with creaky knees and mortgage payments.
There was good reason for my excitement.
In a few hours I planned to meet my furry namesake and pay off my Clarkation winner with a whirlwind ride through North Idaho in my 1967 Vista Guzzler.
Flash back to earlier this summer: I offered to buy one lucky stiff a box of phosphate-enhanced dish soap in State Line and a burger at Hudson’s Hamburgers in Coeur d’Alene.
In between, we would stop at the Post Falls liquor store for a “Buy Your Own Bottle(s)” moment.
I know. The offer was almost too grand to be real.
All it took to win was a letter or email convincing me of your co-pilot worthiness.
In the end, Steve Saad’s contest entry stood out from scores of entries due to one sentence.
“My wife (Sally) wants to get a dog after we move,” he wrote. “I’ve agreed as long as I get naming privileges for the pooch. If I win the North Idaho trip with you, the dog’s name will be … Doug.”
I haven’t felt this honored since Mayor Vicki McNeill declared Halloween 1989 as “Doug Clark Muckraker Journalism Day.”
So on Monday at 10:30 a.m., I motored my cherry red land barge up the Saads’ South Hill driveway and dropped anchor.
Steve and Sally were there to meet me along with a nice neighbor lady.
And Doug the dog?
Here, boy! C’mon, boy.
That’s a nice boy …
It’s a good thing I didn’t bring any Milk-Bones.
Though settled in from their move back to Spokane from seven years on the West Side, the two Saads are disturbingly muttless.
“Is this some kind of a scam?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” Steve and Sally assured me. They have every intention of getting a dog in the coming months.
“And it will be named?” I asked.
“Doug,” said an emphatic Steve.
“I might have to call him Dougie,” added a less-emphatic Sally.
Close enough. I guess.
Let it be said, however, that when it comes to a deal, ol’ two-legged Doug delivers like the Octomom.
So after some congenial chatting, Steve slid into the shotgun seat. He secured his safety belt and off we went.
I quickly learned how many points of interest the two of us share. Though the 60-year-old recently retired from his management position at a J.C. Penney’s store on the other side of the state, his Spokane-area roots are deep.
Steve, in fact, was managing a department at J.C. Penney in Coeur d’Alene at the same time I was committing random acts of journalism at the Coeur d’Alene Press.
“I read your stuff,” he told me without a hint of nastiness.
I’m pleased to report that my Vista Guzzler, despite being mothballed in the garage since winter, performed like a champ during our Clarkation celebration.
No gaseous smells. No tailpipe smoke signals.
No sudden clunks or brake squealing.
It’s almost as if the beast used its layoff to heal.
As promised, our first destination was State Line – home to strippers, watering holes aplenty, cheap cigarettes and that banned-in-Spokane, etc., detergent.
A Stop & Go clerk told me the 85-ounce boxes of Cascade ($11.79 each) are a huge seller, drawing consumers from far and wide.
Some, she added, buy cases of the stuff.
Scrub-a-dub dub. I bought two boxes.
We headed east, eventually finding Idaho Liquor Store No. 304 on Seltice Way.
Monday morning and the booze biz was booming. It’s been that way ever since Washington privatized liquor sales and bottle prices shot up with various taxes and fees.
Steve bought a hefty bottle of Jack.
I bought two thirds of the makings for the perfect margarita: Patron silver tequila and a Cointreau. Add a shot of each to two shots of sweetened lime juice and you’re on your way to a Jimmy Buffett weekend.
Our odyssey continued to Coeur d’Alene and one of the planet’s best burgers. The Hudson family’s hamburger empire began just after the Lewis and Clark Expedition. And if you’ve never eaten one, your life is incomplete.
After waiting in line and putting up with this sneaky old woman who cut in front of us, Steve and I finally took seats and quickly cut to the chase:
Two double-cheese, pickles, no onions. Two sodas.
Between chews we shared pleasant memories of the late Roger Hudson, the owner and raconteur who manned the grill back in our day.
There’s a blissful period after consuming a Huddyburger. You feel like you may never have to eat again, and that feeling lasted all the way back to the Saad residence.
It was a good day.
Poochless, true. But good nonetheless.
And no, I never checked my gas mileage. I’m a glutton, true, but not for punishment.