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My best road trip: Driving a Mustang through Dixie with Merlin the Car Pug

This weeks road trip sees a pampered pooch sit back, relax and take in the sights as his owners do all the driving.

Source: Google Maps

  • Each week, TheJournal.ie/DoneDeal motoring mag will feature a reader’s best road trip. If you’d love to see your top trip featured, email us on melanie@thejournal.ie

MY BEST ROAD trip was with our four-legged best friend as we travelled through historical Dixie in a V8 Mustang.

Who: Nick Kurczewski, Matt Rosenstein and Merlin the Car Pug

Route: Newark, New Jersey to New Bern, North Carolina.

Distance: 840km

Time: 10 hours

When: August 2016

Vehicle: 2016 Ford Mustang GT California Special

Source: Nick Kurczewski

My best friend can be pretty useless when it comes to road trips.

He sleeps during almost every drive, and snores like a freight train. He never offers to pay for petrol, though he’s always first to suggest it’s time we stop for a snack. And standing as he does a mere 13 inches tall, he’s obviously not too adept at working pedals or a steering wheel.

His lack of thumbs also leads to limitations, especially when it’s time to shift gears, or adjust climate settings – the latter of which, it must be said, he prefers set to the median winter-time temperature of the North Pole.

Source: Nick Kurczewski

Despite it all, my pug, Merlin, remains my best friend and near-constant companion whenever it’s time to start the engine and aim for the horizon in one of the many cars I test-drive for a living.

See, I’m an automotive journalist, which means each week brings with it a different vehicle to drive and review. They range from posh Jaguar sports cars, to family-friendly Honda sedans – or, in this particular instance, a tyre-burning muscle car like the 2016 Ford Mustang GT California Special, with a grumbling 435-horsepower, 5.0-litre V-8 engine under the bonnet.

Source: Nick Kurczewski

Luckily for me, ‘Merlin the Car Pug’ is like his dad – he absolutely loves cars, trucks, vans, or anything with wheels. I focus on the dynamics of the drive, the marketing message, or whether there are enough cubbyholes and cup-holders. Merlin, on the other hand, takes a somewhat more holistic approach to each drive.

Convertibles are fine, so long as the sun isn’t shining brightly and heating his coat of thick black fur (minus the distinguished greys that now cover his 8-year-old muzzle).

Source: Nick Kurczewski

Air conditioned seats should suit him, except Merlin isn’t always keen to have a car’s cooling breezes beneath his curly-tailed backside. Trust me, the glare he gives me during these moments is all that’s needed to know… this pug is not amused.

Source: Nick Kurczewski

When it came to this bright-red Mustang muscle car, Merlin immediately enjoyed how snugly his travel crate fit in the otherwise not-too-human-friendly confines of the rear seat.

The firm ride, on the other hand, elicited occasional pug grumbles, along with the click-clacking sound of shifting paws against the plastic sides of the crate.

Source: Nick Kurczewski

The longer the drive, the happier Merlin is. Hours spent on smooth and arrow-straight highways help lull him to sleep for six or seven hours at a time, sometimes longer. Most petrol tanks run bone dry before Merlin can be bothered to awaken for his next walk.

His happier moments on this trip include enjoying a stolen clam strip at The Great Machipongo Clam Shack, one of our favorite roadside stops during the 10-hour drive south, through five US states, to visit family over 500 miles away in North Carolina.

Sleep, stretch, walk, snack, drink water and, eventually, repeat the entire process.

Source: Nick Kurczewski

He’s not one for conversation, though you’d never call Merlin a bad back-seat driver. That might be why his social media celebrity easily eclipses my own. On Instagram, @merlinthecarpug has fans around the world, of both the two and four-legged variety.

He gets sent notes of admiration, heart-filled emojis, or recommendations that he be allowed to ‘drive’ the hottest supercars – the latter is a sentiment which I heartily endorse, as you can imagine.

Source: Nick Kurczewski

It’s hard to believe our automotive adventures began almost seven years ago, quite literally on the streets of New York City, when Merlin came to live with me and my husband in lower Manhattan. Working from home allowed me the freedom to avoid pricey parking lots, by having the time and patience required to guard the few free – and coveted like diamonds – public parking spots on the street.

Avoiding dreaded meter maids, some of whom could issue a ticket faster than Billy the Kid could draw his pair of six-shooter pistols, was another peculiar challenge of writing about cars in a metropolis that isn’t kind to them.

Source: Nick Kurczewski

Merlin was right there with me, happy to pose for photos as he’d go from passenger seat, to my lap, and back to his leather or cloth-lined perch. In our neighborhood, he was nicknamed “The Mayor.”

And from many fun-filled years spent driving with him, I can attest that he lives up to the lofty title.

Merlin on another trip Source: Nick Kurczewski

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About the author:

Nick Kurczewski

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