A Journey

A Journey

Route PlanToo often we define a trip as going from point A to point B. The goal being to get from one place to the other as quickly as possible. But, a journey is all about what is along the way.

This is one reason I dislike traveling on freeways. You go too fast. You spend most of your time focused on the road and going around trucks. The vast world around you is no more than a blurred landscape sliding by your car window.

I like US Highways, state routes and little country roads–farm to market roads. They are slower, more interesting, quieter. I also prefer to travel by motorcycle. The car takes you out of the environment and detaches you from what you might see. On a motorcycle, you are IN the environment. You see, smell, hear, feel, everything around you. That’s important in a journey.

Automatic Friends

When you stop for fuel or a stretch, other motorcyclists are automatically friends. The usual greetings involve your destination, your routes, what you might have seen. Language, ethnic, and nationality barriers disappear as you compare maps or statistics of your rides.

But, when you are riding, you are alone. Alone to absorb the views, the smells, the heat, the cold, rain and hail. To experience. You aren’t detached. You aren’t separated from the experience, you’re part of it.

I like passing through small towns, sometimes making a stop at a local cafe filled with local people. I enjoy eavesdropping on the conversations about family, work, crops, weather. Sometimes, I just invite myself into a group and listen to their stories. They are people. Part of the landscape. It’s amazing how often folks welcome your participation.

No matter how desolate and uninteresting some places may seem, someone lives there. Someone makes a home, works, raises a family, finds value in that place.

Flat

Some places are surprisingly beautiful. Bonneville Salt Flats qualifies. The first view arriving from the west enthralls. Intense white of the vast flats, the azure blue of the little lakes, the brown of the distant mountains. Stunning. And, yes, they are flat. The Flats are so large, you can stand out in the middle and I swear you can see the curvature of the earth.

Yes, it’s salt. A result of a natural process of the seasons that saturate the ground, exact the salt, and dry out to the huge flat basin. And, yes, it is fun to go fast on it.

I live most of my days at about 2,600 feet elevation. I just spent a few days riding roads that didn’t drop below 5,000 feet elevation. How amazing is that? The terrain changed constantly from desolate desert, dry lakes, and long, straight, stretches of road, to twisty routes up a couple of thousand feet to a pass, and then back down again to huge basins that were once the bottoms of shallow inland seas. The Great Basin.

There was a storm. Thunder, lightning, rain, and hail. I had no shelter, so I just experienced it. I was in the moment and rode through it. What else can you do? I was dry again in a few minutes.

Sheep

You find these things in the journey. The small delays, the inconveniences. They happen. Like the time I saw thousands of little white wooly clouds spread across a plain of sage and cheat grass. I slowed. Out on the plain were two old style sheepherder’s wagons. No longer pulled by horses, but by pickup trucks. The sheep men still used dogs and cared for their bands. I paused while a small part of the flock got ushered away from the road. I traveled on.

It does no good to get frustrated, the sheep are in no hurry. It’s all part of the journey.

Home Again

But, it’s always good to come home. Home, where you can recharge and review the experience. Where you can share it with family and friends. Most do not understand the depth of the experience, or the impact it had on you. But that’s okay. You experienced it. The journey.

It’s yours to keep.

Keep writing.

 

 

 

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Small

Small is Beautiful

Small | Guy L. PaceThese days, I’m amazed at how small things can get. What used to need more carrying capacity, now fits into a small bag.

I’m packing for a trip. My sleeping bag compresses into a very small bag. My sleeping mat and pillow go into a smaller bag. Cooking and other necessities take much less space in the saddle bags these days. What required a lot of bungee cords and cargo nets in the past, now fit neatly into the saddle bags and I have more room for basic luggage and me.

In the past, touting on my Harley-Davidson softail was more complicated. Now, with all the newer, more compressed, smaller equipment, it is getting simpler. I now expect a more enjoyable journey. I’m looking forward to it.

Like the Chihuahua in the picture (that looks so very much like my little Paco from years ago), small is beautiful. Simple, little, small things make a huge difference in our lives and in our writing. Chihuahuas bring to their humans huge loyalty and great courage. What a wonderful and unexpected benefit from such a small package.

After the first draft

When we write–after the first draft of course–we should make every effort to trim the writing down to the essentials. Just those words necessary to the story. Like Hemingway, use economy, precise word choice, nuance, to move the story and the reader. In The Old Man and the Sea, Papa kept the narrative to a minimum and used his skills to tell a powerful, complete, Nobel-prize winning novella in under 30,000 words. He claims the story did not have symbolism, but was the bare story of courage, pain, and triumph.

Like Papa, I don’t need to lead the reader around the story by the nose. I let them fill in the details with their own imagination. My own Sudden Mission could have run to 100,000 words, but would have been more of a doorstop at that length. Write just what needs writing.

Keep writing (with a Chihuahua in your lap).

 

The Unknown

The Unknown

Unknown Road | Guy L. PaceYou probably heard of or read the poem by Robert Frost of “The Road Not Taken.” It is sweet poetry and one most of us heard in school. My take is a little different. Any road traveled leads to the unknown. You can never predict what you’ll find around the next curve, or down that little lane through the trees.

It’s the unpredictable, the unknown, that helps drive the story and develop the character. As the author, you should have some idea of what is going to happen in the story. There is a purpose and reason behind the writing, after all. Right? But, sometimes you must let things surprise even you.

In Sudden Mission and Nasty Leftovers, I allowed the story and the characters to surprise me as I wrote. As the characters moved through the United States in the first book, and Washington, D.C. in the second, I had an idea about what they would find or do in the end. But I didn’t have a complete, detailed plan for how the characters would get to that end, or what they would meet on the way.

One mantra I use as I write is “what could go wrong now?” That usually brings surprises.

Adventure

Turn down an unknown road, take a new route–that’s where the adventure begins. The unpredictable, the unknown awaits beyond that next curve. You’ll find it down that tree-lined lane, or over that next hill. The drive to seek adventure is part of what makes us human. Characters we create for our stories are no less prone to taking that unpredictable turn, or finding that tree-lined lane irresistible. They will roll on the throttle and charge into the twisting curves of a new road with the same enthusiasm we have in the same situation. They seek adventure with wild abandon.

When your character finds the adventure–that’s when the story gets interesting. That’s when you drag the reader kicking and screaming into a fight against a horde of zombies. Or, encounter aliens for the first time, and your character isn’t sure if they are friendly or not.

Not everyone is open to adventure. Some are afraid of the unknown. Sometimes, that is all thrust upon them anyway. That tree-lined lane holds terror and horror for them. But, they must go down that lane and they must face that horror. This is a trope you find in horror movies and novels. The young babysitter hears a noise at the door. She approaches and the audience or reader shouts, “Don’t open the door!” But it is in our nature to open that door. Take that new road. Charge ahead. We can’t help it.

Sweet dreams, and …

Keep writing.

 

Travel

Travel

I will be in Twin Falls, Idaho, Saturday. This was originally set up to be a reading/signing at a Barnes & Noble. My extended family has a lot of history in Southern Idaho and I came to Twin Falls after active duty in the navy in the mid-1970’s. I worked across the river at The North Side News* in Jerome, Idaho, attended college at College of Southern Idaho, and at the time the family had a ranch on Rock Creek in the South Hills.

Shoshone Falls, one of the falls in the Snake River Canyon near Twin Falls, Idaho.
Shoshone Falls, one of the falls in the Snake River Canyon near Twin Falls, Idaho. Shoshone Falls and park is my favorite of the two.

As a journalist, I covered the events leading up to and including the Snake River Jump of Evel Kneivel–that didn’t really happen. I also served in the Idaho Army National Guard there. And, it turns out, a future son-in-law played basketball for the College of Southern Idaho Golden Eagles** in the early 1990’s before transferring to Washington State University.

Saturday will turn into a family reunion, complete with cousins, siblings and friends from Boise, Pocatello, and all across Southern Idaho. After the book event (noon to 4 pm) at Barnes & Noble, there will be a reception at the Best Western Plus just down the road. I haven’t seen some of the cousins in many years, though we’ve maintained contact via Facebook and other media.

I’m looking forward to this. In some ways, it is a little scary. I know there will be people there I know or knew, but it has been many years and the miles have changed us all. Names like Hunt, Craney, Littlefield, Crockett, Church, and others may come up and will bring memories both good and sad.

If you are in the area this weekend, please come to the bookstore or the reception. I would love to meet you.

Keep writing.

*The North Side News ceased publication and merged with the Twin Falls Times-News in Twin Falls in 2008, after 100 years. The Jerome County Historical Society maintains the archives.

**The records online only go back to 1998, so I can’t highlight anything here.

 

 

Plans

Plans

We all make plans. Fortunately, most of them come out just fine.

I planned a trip to Twin Falls, ID (see Events) for mid-April. Easter Sunday, my wife broke a bone in her foot in a fall. Today, we visited a specialist and he determined that she will be fine if she keeps the foot protected and uses a special shoe.

Whew!

So, it turns out we can make the trip together and I won’t have to make this run alone. Barring any other accidents, we will be in Twin Falls on April 16. It turns out Dad has the family and friends across Southern Idaho coming and is planning a reception after the book event at the Barnes & Noble there.

In other news, I am still attending and participating in MisCon 30 (see Events). I got information the other day that a vendor will be consigning my books at his booth. So there will be a limited number of copies of Sudden Mission and Nasty Leftovers available for signing. According to my contact, there will be four hour-long signing sessions. I don’t know when mine will be, yet.

If you already bought, or plan to buy, print copies of either book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble–and are attending MisCon in Missoula–feel free to bring it/them and I’ll sign it/them.

The weather is warming up and I’ve been out on frequent rides in the local area. It looks like it will be a beautiful spring and summer around here. Enjoy!

Keep writing.