“The eyes experience less stress when they can look upon a wider horizon.” –R.D. Chin (Feng Shui master)
After publishing my second book, I set out on a solo road trip from California to Minnesota without a plan other than that I wanted to spend time with family and friends and “do some freestyle promoting” in Northern Minnesota, the setting for Close Up on Murder.
I crossed California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota, arriving at my first destination in Minneapolis after driving for about ten hours a day for three days. During the evenings, after miles and miles of open spaces, I sat in my hotel room and made a few journal entries.
Rawlins, Casper, Buffalo, Gillette. Ever-changing landscape and Big Sky as far as my eyes could see. I felt myself expanding to be part of that open space and magical beauty. Lots of holy shits and wows and big grins.
Racing a long train snug against the mountain. Feeling alive, joyous, every cell awake, like a runner’s high, a pheromone bath. Blessed.
Crossing and re-crossing Crazy Woman Creek as she wound through the landscape, experiencing a sense of connection with her. My life has not been linear either. More trains, semis, hardly any traffic, Elk Crossing signs and antelope everywhere. My eyes drunk with the beauty all around me.
I pulled into a two-star hotel in Rapid City. Tourists visiting the monuments, Badlands, Black Hills. I waited to check in behind a small round man in his fifties, belly bursting from the waist of his jeans, polo with a popped collar, sun glasses pushed up on his bald head, leaning forward on the toes of his gym shoes as he negotiated with the desk clerk for extra days. When the clerk finally made the arrangements to his satisfaction, she pushed a basket of goodies toward him. He pulled a plastic bottle of water from the basket, looked at it and turned to show me the bottle. “It has my name on it! Did you get one?” I smiled and shook my head. The clerk hurried to explain that the baskets were only for their “Gold Star” guests. Basket in hand and beaming, he headed for his room.
Sailing along a section of I-90 at 85 mph. Twirling lights behind me, the only car on the road. I pulled over and waited for the Highway Patrolman to come to the side window. I said, “I thought the speed limit was 80!” He nodded. “You were going over that a bit.” I said, “I never speed.” Obviously not true. I’d just been caught. But what about the unwritten code that if you didn’t go more than five miles over the posted speed limit you wouldn’t get pulled over? The officer said they are strict about enforcing the 80. He asked where I was headed and I said I was going to visit family in Minnesota. “I’m doing the drive in three days.” His eyes widened and I mentally slapped myself in the head. I’d just admitted to more speeding. I mentioned the name of the lake my family lived on. He said he’d fished that lake and a wide grin spread across his face. He must have caught a good-sized bass. My California plates probably got me pulled over, but my Minnesota roots saved me from a speeding ticket.
Fish flies, cattails along the back roads, loons calling across the lakes and at night the Northern Lights filling the sky. Not the vibrant colors this time, but a pulsing lightshow, the sky full of wiggling fingers and the stars winking through. Wow.
I drove through the small towns and donated my books at a couple of libraries. Most bookstores were gone, the spaces now filled with tourist trinkets or fishing gear. The best part of the trip was spending time with family and reconnecting with old friends. The wonderful days of driving, disconnected from my laptop and cell as the world slipped behind me, was a welcome contrast to my daily routine where I’m always trying to catch up and missing some of the landscape in the process.