Writing a travel book is a heck of a lot of work, but it definitely has its rewards. I had to drive all 25 of my Scenic Side Trips in order to properly describe them, and that aspect of my research incorporated some of the most glorious driving I’ve ever done. That stands to reason. The whole point to the project was to identify the most scenic highways and the most interesting attractions in this extraordinary two-state region, and the proof of that was in the drives themselves. I loved every minute of it, and I wanted to share that joy, by encouraging travelers to follow my lead into the back country, to see wonderful things that they most certainly would have missed otherwise.
Once the field research was done, I had to settle down and create the book, a complex undertaking that completely dominated my life for the next 18 months. During that intensely busy period, I did no traveling at all; thanks to the seemingly endless revisions, rewrites, and assorted ancillary tasks, I never managed to get caught up, so there simply wasn’t any time for getting out on the road and doing my road trip thing. When the book was officially released, during the first week of April of this year, I was excited for a lot of different reasons, not the least of which was the lifting of my self-imposed exile in the Phoenix suburbs. I was finally getting back on the road! I was heading out on my Book Tour!
The tour was something I agreed to do early on, before the book was even written. At that time, the promotion of the finished product was a hazy, nebulous concept that ranked dead last among my many more pressing concerns. Book signings? Television interviews? I’d never done anything like that before, not even close, so I couldn’t really relate to the idea. Rather than worry about it, I just parked it on my mental back burner, and focused on the more immediate aspects of the project. Once the final version of the manuscript was complete and there were no more looming deadlines? That’s when that little stew pot on my back burner started bubbling. Slowly at first, then, seemingly all of a sudden, it cranked up to a full boil! There were book signings scheduled in nine different cities, in five different states. The whole thing was suddenly very real, and I needed to start making hotel reservations!
The official “launch” of the book and the first few stops on the tour—Tucson, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe— were covered in an earlier post to this blog titled “We Have Liftoff!” The rest of it was a bit of a whirlwind, and a heck of a cool road trip in its own right! On May 4th, a Friday, we drove up to Flagstaff and did a lovely event at Starrlight Books, a great little bookstore right in the heart of the old downtown.
I love Flagstaff and could easily have stayed up there a week (if not the whole rest of the summer), but there was definitely no time for that! On Saturday we drove back to Phoenix; on Sunday, we packed for a much longer trip; and bright and early on Monday morning, we drove to Pasadena.
Pasadena? That might seem an odd choice of locations for an event promoting a book about southwestern road trips, but the venue itself was perfect. “Distant Lands” is a unique bookstore dedicated exclusively to books about travel, quite likely the most extensive assortment of guidebooks, atlases, and travel memoirs of any brick and mortar bookstore in North America! I gave my presentation to a small but enthusiastic crowd, and I truly enjoyed the experience. Seeing my book on prominent display in that wonderfully iconic setting was an experience destined to become a treasured memory!
After Distant Lands, we took in some nearby beaches, and then headed off to another wonderfully quirky place called Shoshone, a small community of desert dwellers, right on the edge of Death Valley. I gave my presentation at the Shoshone Museum, followed by food and drink at the adjacent Crowbar Bar and Saloon, where they served up a concoction called the “Scenic Side Trip,” a cocktail created especially for the occasion. The next day, we got to take a REAL road trip, into the heart of Death Valley National Park! Believe it or not, I’d never been there before, so a single day was little more than a tease, a brush past the highlights. It’s a place I’ll simply have to go back to, when I can take my time to explore it properly! My sense of wonder, as well as my enthusiasm, was reawakened in a major way: a curvy open road into gorgeous, unknown territory? That’s the sort of thing that really stirs my soul (and inspires my creative side)!
From Death Valley we drove to sin city, Las Vegas, for a presentation at a fantastic, utterly unique bookstore called The Writer’s Block. This one was a little different; I shared the stage with Scott Dickensheets, a well-known figure in the Nevada book scene who is both an editor and a talented writer in his own right. Scott asked questions, and I spun answers, a conversation that was both entertaining and a lot of fun. You can see the whole thing on YouTube by clicking on the link:
The final stop on the tour was a fabulous bookstore called the Tattered Cover, in Denver. Sprawling, yet truly comfortable, located in an old brick building on the 16th Street Mall in the heart of the old downtown, the Tattered Cover was the original. It’s where Border’s Books got the idea for “bookstores as places to hang out.” The biggest difference? The Tattered Cover is still in business! Due to time constraints, we had to fly to Denver for the event, but while we were there, we rented a car, and the day after my presentation at the book store, we took a WONDERFUL road trip through Rocky Mountain National Park.
At more than 12,000 feet (on Trail Ridge Road), that was most definitely the high point of my Scenic Side Trips book tour!