How Solo Roadtrips Are Good For Writing
Christina E. Pilz
I’m one of those people who likes to travel, and I know I’m not alone. I’m one of those people who likes to Plan, with a capital “P,” and no, it doesn’t take all the fun out of it. I also like to go by myself, especially on road trips (trips through someplace rather than to someplace) which strikes some people as rather odd, but that I find useful for my writing. But let’s talk about the first one.
When you go to the grocery store, you write a list, right? Right? You have to write a list, otherwise you come home with everything BUT the gallon of milk you meant to buy
On a road trip, it’s the same thing. You decide where you want to go, you decide what you want to do and where you want to eat, and you make reservations. In Advance, with a capital “A.” I’ve travelled with a few folks who seem to think that making plans and making reservations will disable the Fun Button, and you will be doing a Bataan Death March through your holiday.
What’s worse than perhaps doing a little bit of marching is not having any idea what the local fun things are that you might want to do. But Christina, I hear you say, we can always look it up when we get there. Yes, you could, but a) Do you want to spend your holiday time doing research and b) What if you’re nowhere near any wi-fi? You’re stuck, that’s what, so better at least get a list ahead of time of what’s out there, so your decision making time is cut down to almost nothing.
And what about when you are on vacation and haven’t the slightest idea where to eat, and nobody wants to be the one to decide and you end up eating a horrible meal at whatever the local version of Applebees is? Yeah, you, I see you raise your hand there, this has happened to you, and has happened to people that you love and care about, and there is nothing more awful than being in a splendid, exotic and new place and knowing, just knowing, that you are Missing Out on a Fantastic Meal. And all because you didn’t open up and at least find out what your options were.
I did an experiment once, where, instead of doing the research and making reservations ahead of time (I had been getting Some Complaints), I did nothing. When it came time to decide where the group of us was going to eat (there were suddenly eight of us who just had to eat together), I shrugged my shoulders and held out my empty palms, and, wouldn’t you know it, we ended up eating at the Worst Restaurant Imaginable. And then again the next night, because nobody wanted to do the research and by the time dinnertime came, we were out of time and had to eat somewhere.
If I sound a little smug, I am, because I got several requests to Make Sure That This Didn’t Happen Next Year. Which I will do, because I’m nice like that.
As for travelling alone (especially on a road trip), this simple idea creates some of the worst uproar you have ever heard. People who you are mere acquaintances (at work, say) will come up to you, astounded to hear the news, and barrage you with advice, and warn you of the dangers like Snakes and Bad Men, and panic and actually try to Arrange Someone To Go With You. Seriously, this has happened to me: “We could get Sally from Accounting, Sally will go with you,” when in fact I don’t
know Sally very well, and surely she has better things to do than drive with me to South Dakota or wherever.
Along with the fairly useless advice and concern, I did have one woman tell me to always use a Shell station when stopping for gas, and to always get gas first thing in the morning (the muggers are asleep then, she told me), and to never, ever let your gas tank get below the halfway mark.
The last two bits of advice would be obvious to anybody, but I asked her why Shell? She said that Shell stations always have clean bathrooms, and can usually be seen from the highway. Clean bathrooms, sure, but the idea that they could be seen from the highway intrigued me. She explained that it’s best to stop at a gas station that has a highly visible, open feel to it. You might get into some trouble at a gas station tucked into the woods, especially if you are travelling through a dicey area where violent, banjo playing folk are wont to inhabit, but you will always be safe at the brightly lit, highly visible gas stations, such as Shell. So there’s a tip for all you kids out there.
As for travelling alone, while I’ve never been afraid (all that planning ahead, you see), I have often felt guilty and thusly determined to Invite Other People to go with me to Assuage My Guilt. This is a horribly bad idea for so many reasons, I’ll just spell out a few and you can invent the rest. There’s the aforementioned planning, which my co-travelers have derided as being Anal Retentive and balked at because I was taking the Fun out of it and making them March. There’s a lot of bitching that goes along with the balking, which gets old after the first five minutes.
Then there’s the problem with Road Trip Music, and it’s not as easy as saying (as Dean Winchester would) that “The driver picks the music, and shot gun shuts his cakehole,” no. Whoever is Shotgun ends up Hating My Music and derides my choices and argues over the volume level and insists that we must drive with the Windows Closed. So they can Talk to me, at which point the road trip becomes a Highway to Hell.
So now I go alone. I listen to my music at the volume I want, I sing along or not, as I please, the windows are open, and the wind is in my hair. I have a 32 oz Fountain Drink, and a bag of Cheesy Puffs, and the world is mine. The bliss comes when you realize you are not within Transporter Range of any real-world responsibility, and that, by golly, there are no cell towers, so nobody can call you on your cell. You are Out In The World, and because everything is new, you become hyperaware.
That’s where the Taking of Notes start. And I don’t mean in any real way, like stopping to write things down because that would be too obtrusive to the process and too obvious, and some person will take it upon themselves to ask what you are writing down. No, just take notes in your head, fill up your mental and emotional pitcher as to what it feels like to order food in a place far from home, or to negotiate streets that do not already have their own map in your mind. When you travel to some place new, and especially when you travel alone, you become alert to every nuance, and when you return home, gratefully to your own bed, you have a body full of new sensations and sense memories, and a mind full of ideas.
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Publisher: Blue Rain Press
Publication Date: June 14, 2015
Genre: Historical romance, gay romance, Victorian, m/m romance
An ex-apprentice and his street thief companion flee the dangers of Victorian London and the threat of the hangman’s noose in search of family and the promise of a better life.
After Oliver Twist commits murder to protect Jack Dawkins (The Artful Dodger), both must flee London’s familiar but dangerous environs for safety elsewhere. Together they travel to Lyme Regis in the hopes of finding Oliver’s family. Along the way, Jack becomes gravely ill and Oliver is forced to perform manual labor to pay for the doctor’s bills.
While Oliver struggles to balance his need for respectability with his growing love for Jack, Jack becomes disenchanted with the staid nature of village life and his inability to practice his trade. But in spite of their personal struggles, and in the face of dire circumstances, they discover the depth of their love for each other.
The room before them was laid out with long tables beneath a high, grey ceiling. Men, dressed in brown and grey, much as Jack was, stood in a line with metal bowls in their hands and metal spoons, single-mindedly watching while they waited to be served, or were served. Jack couldn’t see what it was exactly, but it was pale and white and thin as it sloped from the bowlshaped serving ladle into each bowl. The measurement was standard, each man received the same portion. No bread was handed out, so there was nothing else but what was in those bowls.
Jack’s stomach shifted at the thought of it. He couldn’t imagine what Nolly’s stomach was doing, though this, Nolly’s silence, his angry attitude, now made more sense. If a single ladle of white flavored broth were what grown men were served? They would soon starve, all of them. And they looked thin, their faces slack, their eyes deep within their faces, as if being sucked inward by their own hunger.
Jack looked at Nolly, and shook his head, just slightly. He didn’t know that Nolly would understand him; he wasn’t disagreeing with Nolly’s attitude at all. He was simply disbelieving the sight that beheld them both. The line of men, no more than forty in all, shuffling, being served what might not supply a delicate lady’s tea time meal, and accepting it. As if no more was their due, and they wouldn’t ask for it, because—because why? Why didn’t they leave? Just leave?
He wanted to ask Nolly this, to ask him all kinds of questions about his time in the workhouse, when he’d been the wee thing that had run away and struck out on his own, marching all the way to London to meet Jack. That Nolly had survived this was some consolation, though Jack imagined that the Nolly standing next to him now might have some objections to make, if allowed.
“Nolly,” he asked, barely above a whisper, for he noticed that no one in the dining hall was talking, not even a little bit. “Was it like this? For you? When you were small?”
They shuffled forward together in the line while Jack waited for Nolly to speak. He wanted to grab Nolly and shake him to get him to speak, anything but this sharp-eyed silence that still threatened to break into violence.
When he was about to mention that they had no bowls, and what were they to eat in, Nolly opened his mouth at last, and looked at Jack. His eyes tilted downward at the outside corner, and he looked as though he were quite sorry for Jack.
“It was,” Nolly said, slowly. “It was exactly like this.”
Barnes & Noble:
All Romance – Mobi
All Romance – Epub
Christina was born in Waco, Texas in 1962. After living on a variety of air force bases, in 1972 her Dad retired and the family moved to Boulder, Colorado. There amidst the clear, dry air of the high plains, as the moss started to grow beneath her feet, her love for historical fiction began with a classroom reading of Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
She attended a variety of community colleges (Tacoma Community College) and state universities (UNC-Greeley, CU-Boulder, CU-Denver), and finally found her career in technical writing, which, between layoffs, she has been doing for 18 years. During that time, her love for historical fiction and old fashioned objects, ideas, and eras has never waned.
In addition to writing, her interests include road trips around the U.S. and frequent flights to England, where she eats fish and chips, drinks hard cider, and listens to the voices in the pub around her. She also loves coffee shops, mountain sunsets, prairie storms, and the smell of lavender. She is a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma.
She lives in Colorado. She’s tried to live elsewhere, but it never works.
She loves wooden floors, and prefers them to carpet.
She doesn’t have pets but does have lots of plants
She has a green armchair that she call The Vortex, because once she sits down in it, it’s impossible to get up out of it.
She loves the structured orderliness of school and so ended up going to college for a long, long time.
She loves beer.
She loves hot summer nights, lightning storms, and fireflies.
She loves going to England, and have gone so often that she pretty much knows her way around without a map.
She will never get tired of London.
She dreams in color with surround sound.
Naps on stormy afternoons are one of her favorite things.
She has camped on the hillside where the Sound of Music scene for “Do-Re-Mi” was filmed.
She once spent five weeks on a three-masted barque off the Atlantic coast of North America, where she scrubbed decks, polished brass, washed dishes in cold seawater, and nigh on froze to death in the icy rain while on watch.
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You need to be 18 or older to participate in this contest. Void where prohibited. Etc.
This contest will end on September 2nd at 11:59 PM CDT. Good Luck!
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I would like to give a big Thank You to Christina E. Pilz for stopping by today and talking about how roadtrips are good for writing.