August 30, 2011

We’re not in Kansas anymore, oh wait, yes, we are

Filed under: Kids and Life,The Writing Life — jenny @ 12:03 pm

What with my husband’s computer being flaky (read: meeting a slow, ungainly end) and the hours we lose going this way instead of that, east rather than west, my time on the web has been way too limited.

But I did want to say hello from the road, and sum up a few adventures we’ve been having.

But first, no blog post written during this pre-pre-book tour we’re doing would be complete without a quick update from the American bookstore scene circa 2011. I’m not sure whom to quote first–or how to capture the ebullient nature of the booksellers we’re meeting. On the way out, I stopped in at Calico Books in Broomfield, CO to meet Becky F2F. Becky is a longtime Facebook friend, and original supporter of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.

On this trip back, I got to see Becky’s mom’s bookstore in Fort Collins, CO. Becky’s mom wasn’t there, but another bookseller named Pam was, and she said the store had had its best season yet. “The economy is helping us,” she said. “What’s cheaper entertainment than a book?” Since Book Lovers accepts books in trade, you can rid your house of some clutter-to-you that will become entertainment-fodder for someone else and garner brand new reads–all in one fell swoop.

But back to our travels.

Things are different on the road. *We’re* different on the road. The behaviors we must contend with in our kids are different–lesser than things we face when they’re running free, crossing streets, and other elements of ever encroaching freedom are at play–but perhaps more intense given that we’re all contained in a capsule moving at 70 mph together for six or more hours a day.

Even things like the sky are different on the road. It’s really true that it’s big out here. You have to turn your head 90 degrees in each direction to take the whole thing in.

You meet friends you’d never otherwise have on the road. We crossed from Colorado into Kansas late yesterday–into a town both cleverly and obviously named Kanorado–and did something we had yet to have done by this, our fourth trip across the whole vast country. We almost ran out of gas.

The dash said we had 25 miles left (which I didn’t entirely trust anyway; I mean, how does the car *know*) and we had gotten off at an exit that clearly stated ‘gas’ as in ‘gas here, not to worry,’ but when we arrived at what looked to be a station, there were no pumps, no sign, and no people. Whatever gas had once been there had gone the way of climate change and apocalyptic crash.

At least so it felt to me, toward the end of a long day, in a state we’d never been in before, with unending miles of dusty road stretching in either direction, not a soul on it.

Then a pickup truck pulled out from across another, even smaller, road, and I flagged the driver down. This might be something I’d be wary of doing back in NJ, but as I say, things are different on the road.

The man pulled into the gritty, gas-lacking lot our car sat in. He had a kind face, folds worn in deeply by wind and sun. I told him the problem, feeling dumb and discomfited and like I never fit in anywhere.

“How much you got?” the man asked. “There’s a station 17 miles down the road.”

I told him I should have 25 miles’ worth.

“I’ll follow you,” the man said. “Make sure you’re okay.”

I watched the miles tick down on the dash–we had 20 left, then 15, then 10–and on that blank stretch of road. The gauge claimed we had just the slightest bit more gas than we had miles to go.

We made it to a gas station and the man in the pickup pulled in behind us, to make sure we were okay.

And even though the gas station was strange–not one of the global corporations that may soon go the way of the dinosaur–and we didn’t know where we were sleeping that night and my car was so thirsty it cost us fifty bucks to fill up–there was a sense of being exactly where we were meant to be.

On the road.


  1. WOW – that picture of the sky is just simply amazing! Lovely post, Jenny. Thanks for sharing your cool journey with us.

    Comment by Alison DeLuca — August 30, 2011 @ 12:13 pm

  2. Great post. You’re having a better time of it there than here. NJ got walloped by Irene. We just got power back after 51 hours without. Spoiled food, restless child and a flooded basement. What more could you ask for for the end of the summer?

    Comment by Karyne — August 30, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

  3. What a nice guy!!

    And how cool. What a great post. I can see the clouds and smell the air. I very much miss our own cross-country travels. How great that some booksellers feel ebullient and are doing well!!

    Comment by Savvy — August 30, 2011 @ 12:54 pm

  4. I love the way the road just goes on forever in that one photo. I think that might make an interesting book cover. ;)

    Comment by Gary Hoover — August 30, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

  5. Glad to hear about your adventures and wishing you well. What a nice guy to take the time to tell you where the nearest station was and then follow you there. You don’t see that kind of kindness normally when there are more people packed together (ie cities). Nice to know it still exists.

    Comment by Juanita Wilson — August 30, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

  6. What accomplishment, Jenny. I love the coll pictures.

    Comment by Lisa Zhang Wharton — August 30, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

  7. Great pics! Thanks for sharing them. And how wonderful to meet with a truly kind and generous person when you were in need of help. Those kinds of memories stay with you forever.

    Comment by Lauren S — August 30, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

  8. We so often publicize the negative things that people do, that we often don’t see the myriad kindnesses that one stranger often does for another. The truth is that the good far outweighs the bad!

    As usual, a truly wonderful post. Thank you for bringing us along on your road-trip!

    Comment by Connie J Jasperson — August 30, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

  9. Love that big sky!

    Comment by Sara — August 30, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

  10. What a wonderful post, Jenny. It sure brought back memories for me.

    I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have been in similar situations. Stay safe out there.

    Comment by Sandy — August 30, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

  11. So glad to see this post. I was worried you were heading into NJ at the same time as Irene.

    Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — August 31, 2011 @ 10:46 am

  12. Nice to hear from you. Beautiful pictures, and hope Irene was kind to your home and town.

    Comment by Lil Gluckstern — August 31, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

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