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What Happens When We Aren’t Home

This post is not about our Airstream, exactly. 

When we're out traveling in the Airstream for a bit and not at home, our Toyota Camry Hybrid sits parked in our driveway. And by "driveway" I mean "clearing in the forest, surrounded by giant trees and wild plants and vines." It's a beautiful setting, and the forest creatures are plentiful (coyotes, deer, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons…etc.). While we're away, our Toyota Camry Hybrid (and its cozy air ducts) apparently seem like a nice high-tech condo for small forest creatures.

We arrived home from a couple of weeks on the road on Monday evening, worked all day on Tuesday, then headed over to my studio for a shoot early Tuesday evening. I was driving, and I heard an unfamiliar sound. 

Me: Did you just make a weird sqeaking sound?

Kevin: No, I did not just make a weird squeaking sound.

A few minutes later, same sqeaking sound, now sounding like it was coming from the center console air vents. Then again in another minute or so. Quiet, squeak-like. Kevin got a phone call and never heard anything the whole way over to my studio, but I heard it about a dozen times. (Here's us: Every time I heard the squeak while Kevin was on the phone, I pointed at the air vent, and then he shook his head no. Bah!)

Crap. We must have mice in the air ducts. Again. This happened while we were on our four month trip at the end of last year and it was highly annoying (I think they had babies in there!) There's apparently no way to stop them from getting in if they want to, and they just make a mess and can do a lot of damage if they start chewing wires and stuff. In this case, it was just the mess. We had our filter replaced and the ducts cleaned out, and they put some kind of deoderizer thing in there that they say usually helps deter them from coming back. 

I (of course) was picturing crazy little fast-moving mice falling down onto my feet and running up my legs, scaring the crap out of me as I drove, but it didn't happen. Just the quiet squeaking from the air vent.

We got to the studio early and I realized I'd forgotten a few things at home (I know, totally pro, huh?) and so Kevin, being the awesome husband and assistant that he is, offered to go back for them while I set up the equipment. My clients start showing up, we chat and catch up a little, joke about mice in the car air ducts, etc., while organizing wardrobe and lighting.

Kevin comes back and holds his phone out to show me this photo:

Chipmunk

That's the driver's side floor of the Camry. Would you just LOOK at how CUTE that tiny TINY chipmunk is!! (Totally relieved it's not mice, again….though I'm sure chipmunks could chew just as many wires and make just as much mess. It's a conceptual thing.)

Kevin says that on the way back to the studio he started hearing the squeak, only this time it was more like a squeal–louder and louder squeals and shuffling in the air vents. 

While he was just a couple blocks away from the studio, he felt a soft "plop" onto his shin, then a little bit of scurrying down his leg and over his shoe, and as he looked down he saw this little chipmunk jump on the floor next to his shoe. (Oh holy hell I'm glad that happened to him and not me!)

He snapped a photo and then tried to get it to jump out of the car, but instead it went back from where it came…back up into the air ducts. Awesome. But when we got back in the car to drive to dinner and then home, no sign of little guy. No sounds, no scurrying (I sat indian style on the passenger seat, just in case.) Apparently we relocated the poor thing from the forest over to the hood of Northeast Portland. Sorry little dude.