American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Winter 1998 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Travels with Sunny: AFRMA Road Trip 1997

By Nancy Ferris

Road Trip

Once again Nichole Royer said those fateful words that seem to get me in trouble; “It’ll be fun!” The initial plans to attend the Rat, Mouse & Hamster Fanciers show to be held on October 4th at the fairgrounds in San Jose, began in August. Karen Robbins, Nichole Royer, and myself had attended the November 1996 RMHF show, and we had spent the last year telling everyone how much we enjoyed it. In August we discussed who might be going and what vehicles we would be driving. Initially there were eight of us taking the trip. Things happened, plans changed, and by the last week in September, it looked like it was going to be just Nichole and me driving in my car—a Mazda 323 hatchback.

Packed Car

I asked Nichole how good she was at packing critter cages in a small space. “No problem.” she said. She had lots of experience carting animals back and forth to college in the cab of her truck. Being a recovered driving phobic, the thought of driving six hours had me a little apprehensive. On Thursday night Nichole called to inform me that Lorry Bowker would also be coming. I wondered where we were going to put her as my back seat was going to be filled with cages.

The Journey Begins

Hoarded vacation time comes in handy, and I took off Friday and Monday. Friday morning found me packing and deciding what carriers to take which critters in. I was only showing one rat, RN & TR Joint Venture (my Black Hooded), and one Champagne Self Mouse. It was the dwarf hamsters that created the problem. I wanted to take as few carriers as possible. I entered Muff, the hamster I got on last year’s trip, and several of her offspring. I settled on the divided carrier. The larger part for Muff and her current litter, and the smaller for her older son and his baby daughter.

I also needed extra carriers to bring home any “souvenirs that I couldn’t live without.” Actually, I had two Syrian hamsters on order from Tina Shahroody that I was bringing home. I began the first leg of the trip, the journey to Nichole’s house, mid-afternoon. Nichole got home from work, and Lorry arrived shortly after. We creatively packed the car, leaving exactly enough room in the back seat for Lorry to sit. I was truly amazed at Nichole’s packing ability.

In Search Of UFO’s...

As the sun was setting, we set out on our journey to find our way to San Jose. We amused ourselves with alien abduction stories. Every light in the sky became a UFO—low flying aircraft, radio towers, you name it. If it flashed, it was a UFO.

We also discussed rat inquiries we had gotten on the phone or e-mail. The story that set the tone for the whole trip came from a call that Nichole had gotten. A woman who was having a problem with her three rats, two females and a neutered male (one of the female’s littermates). Nichole was pretty tired from working all day. Her story started out, “This very nice lady called. She has a female rat and she lives with her neutered brother...” I stared straight ahead at the road. I knew if I made eye contact with Lorry (who was now in the front seat) it would be all over. Too late. The giggling started and I was sure I was going to run into one of the semi’s driving beside us. “Small white subcompact squashed on Interstate 5—rodents running everywhere. Film at 11.” We will never let Nichole live that one down.

The Bates Motel

We arrived in San Jose around midnight and checked into a motel that was near the fairgrounds. As we approached the motel we noticed that it was just around the corner from the biggest Chuckie Cheese’s any of us had ever seen. It was complete with a two story glass enclosed statue of Chuckie in front of the building.

Nichole had made reservations at the motel two weeks before, so we checked in and went to find our room. We were a ways from the front office, which made us quite happy since the motel’s policy on animals was “one small pet” and somehow we didn’t really think they would appreciate us moving in our 15 furry critters.

The room was, shall we say, interesting. The air conditioner vent leaked, so there was a big wet spot on the floor. The room was just about the smallest it could possibly be (two double beds with enough space to walk between them and a space at the foot to allow access to the bathroom.) Thank goodness it was relatively clean. We got the critters settled in the bathroom, decided who was going to sleep where, traded motel horror stories, and went to bed.

Buying Bonanza

The show was scheduled to start at 9 A.M.; we arrived at 8:15. It was held in conjunction with a rabbit and cavy show in one of the fairground’s livestock buildings. We unloaded our stuff and set up in one of the gated livestock stalls. While the RMHF people got set up, the three of us went on a mission to find some Dumbo rats which Gina Hendricks asked us to get. She was one of the people who ended up not being able to come on the trip, and she was very interested in improving the quality of Dumbos available in Southern California. We found her requested Hairless Dumbo, and a very nicely marked Fawn Hooded Rex Dumbo. From another person Nichole found a Silver Self Dumbo and her Lilac son, both of whom are really beautiful animals.

About this time my order of Syrian hamsters arrived, a tortoiseshell female and a black male. Lorry reached in to look at the tortoiseshell, and when she picked it up, it let out a horrendous screeching noise. We aptly named her “Screech.” Later, another breeder showed up and I bought another baby tortoiseshell female. Lorry also bought a male Rex Dumbo. I told her that he looked like Topo Gigio, the mouse puppet on the Ed Sullivan show, thus his name.

Just before the judging got underway, Carrisa Cosley showed up. Apparently she had gotten a ride from a friend of hers who was coming our way. We were thrilled that she could join us.

Dwarf Hamster
Muff, the Best in Show Hamster.

Let The Show Begin

The show got underway and I became totally engrossed in the dwarf hamster judging. Muff, who has become my foundation dwarf hamster, won Best in Show. Her Argente Platinum son, Dale, won Judge’s Choice and his brother Chip won Best Pet.

I also tried keeping an eye on the rat and mouse judging. Venture won her class over several other Hoodeds. She finally didn’t have to compete against Max, who stayed at home. Nichole showed her two 9-week-old Siamese boys “Something Special” the Blue Point and “Simply Snazzy” the Seal Point. Special placed second in his class and Reserve Best of Section. Lorry’s Hairless “Play Doh” won her class, and her Odd-Eye “Cappuccino” won his class.

Brindle Mouse
Nichole Royer’s Brindle mouse.

Between the hamsters and the rats I didn’t get much chance to watch the mouse judging. Carrisa won Best in Show with her Extreme Black. Nichole also did well in the Unstandardized class. Her Brindle female placed first, won Judge’s Choice, and the judge commented that she had the “highest score of the show, best quality mouse, and will win BIS when this color is standardized.” Nichole was very pleased.

Souvenir Shopping

During the course of the day we wandered through the rabbit and cavy areas. There were several vendors selling supplies, just like at the dog shows. It’s a good thing I don’t collect bunny paraphernalia, because there was one booth that I could have spent a fortune at.

There was also a raffle held by the rabbit club. It included an assortment of supplies, rabbit “stuff,” and live animals. Unbeknownst to me, Nichole had become quite taken with the largest rabbit on the table, an 18-month-old (11 pound) English Lop. She then informed me that she had put in several tickets for him. I was mentally trying to picture driving home with this rabbit. I had a vision of the rabbit riding strapped to the roof of the car. Oh well, I’d cross that bridge if we came to it.

That didn’t take very long. The raffle got underway, and Nichole became the proud owner of Velveteen’s Sunny. The investment cost her $1.50 in pocket change. She said he would ride home in her lap or on the floorboard. Naturally she bought him a leash and harness (they were on sale) and he spent the rest of the day hopping around and checking out all the people. Our plans for going out to dinner that night or to the mall the next day just flew out the window. We do bring home the strangest souvenirs on our trips.

Evening Adventures

After the show was over, we gathered critters, dumped empty cages that had carried mice that were sold, and loaded the car. We took a last look around to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind. At this point we were all starving, so we stopped at Kentucky Fried Chicken. While we ran in to get take-out, Sunny happily explored the floorboard of the car.

We returned to the motel room to get the critters settled and to eat our dinner. We decided that Sunny could have the bathroom for the night since there was nothing he could hurt in there. The rest of the critters got to spend the night in various parts of the room. We let the rabbit out in the room to play, and quickly discovered that he ranked high on the bunny IQ scale. He provided great dinner entertainment.

As a precaution, we Ivermected and inspected all of our new purchases. When we were finished I said, “What about the black hamster?” Nichole said, “What black hamster?” She and Lorry hadn’t realized I had bought him. Nichole and I jumped back into my car and headed for the fairgrounds. By this time it was starting to get dark, but there were still a few rabbit/cavy people there. We checked all around the spot where we had set up (though we couldn’t imagine how the hamster could get out of a lab cage on his own. Then, just as a precaution, we checked the trash can where we had dumped out our empty cages. No hamster. What happened to him is still a mystery. We figured that maybe the solution to this mystery involved all of the “UFOs” we’d seen on the trip up, a possible alien abduction?

The Day After

Our plan for the day after the show was to pack up everything and everybody and go to the local mall or do some pet shop hopping. The surprise addition of Sunny altered our plans a bit. After Nichole cleaned the bathroom floor with toilet paper and Parvosol (Sunny spent the night in there; we definitely left the room cleaner than it had been when we arrived), we got Sunny, the critters we brought plus the new ones, and ourselves in the car—it was literally packed. We got out the phone book, looked up the pet shops, marked them on the map, and set out to find them.

The first two were closed. We tried finding the others, but were unsuccessful. We wound up at a Petco that didn’t sell rodents and picked up some rabbit food for Sunny.

In the same shopping center was a Toys R Us. Before we knew what hit us, we found ourselves in the aisle that had the Breyer model horses. Nichole and Lorry picked up the Cutting Edge horse and cow set to add to their collections. I was taken with Silverton, a grey Welsh Cob. After surviving the Model Horse Jamboree without starting a new hobby of collecting model horses (well, ok, just a few little ones) here I was in San Jose buying my first model. As we stood in line, I realized we had yet another problem. Where were we going to put the three boxes? Somehow, Nichole, wizard of packing cars, managed to find room.

At this point we decided to hit the freeway and head for home. After a few stops at the rest areas to walk the bunny, we arrived back at Nichole’s house. AFRMA Road Trip 1997 was another memory.

Next year—bigger car. *

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Updated March 1, 2022