Sunday, September 2, 2012

Black Hills reminiscing.

While many of you (I hope!) are working your way through the events in Fissured, I'm immersed right now in writing the first draft of Tapped.  The setting for all of Book Three is southwestern South Dakota -- the Black Hills and the Badlands -- as Naomi travels there with Shannon to find Naomi's father.

I thought writing a novel set in Denver was difficult when I hadn't lived there for ten-plus years.  This novel is proving to be even harder.  I haven't visited South Dakota since I was in junior high, and I'm learning that Google Maps can only get you so far.

And too, our Black Hills vacation was memorable for reasons other than the scenery.

We did a lot of car trips when I was a kid, and after awhile, my father decided motels were getting to be too expensive.  So we got a camper -- the kind of RV that sits in the bed of a pickup truck.  Our truck must have been a little lighter-duty than it needed to be to carry our camper, so Dad (who was an auto mechanic by trade) got some extra-long bolts and bolted together two sets of two tires each, and then mounted them on the back axle of the truck.  It seemed to work pretty well -- if memory serves, we had run that rig to Florida and along the Gulf Coast the year before -- so Dad went ahead and planned our first vacation to the Pacific coast.  The plan was to go around Chicago in our usual way, then get on I-90 and take it all the way to Seattle.

Our first intimation of disaster happened the day before we were to leave.  Strong storms blew through our area and we lost power for several hours.  Not to worry, though -- we had a generator, so preparations continued.

We got on the road as scheduled and stopped in Iowa the first night.  There, the pump for the camper's kitchen sink went on the blink.  So my father had to fix that before we could get on the road again the next day.

Miles passed without incident.  I remember seeing the Corn Palace and our visit to Wall Drug (ramped up by all the signs for it along the way).  We got to Rapid City okay and found a nice campground; I remember the entertainment there one night was an authentic Indian dance by authentic Indian children.  I still have pictures somewhere of the dancers in their regalia.

But then things started to go to hell in a hurry.  There was one day when Mom let me have two ice cream cones on the same day -- from which I got a toothache.  Then, driving across Montana, I was napping on my parents' bed over the cab when the road suddenly seemed to get rough, as if we were going over a bridge.  Then Dad pulled over.  I poked my head out of the camper door to see what was going on, and my father proceeded to tell me that the side of the truck had fallen off.

Well, it wasn't quite that dire.  What had happened was the bolts holding the wheel to the axle had broken, and the dual wheel on the passenger side had gone walkabout in the field next to the highway.  A good Samaritan stopped behind us and helped Dad find the wheel, and then drove him into Missoula to get parts.  Thus repaired, we continued on, through the Idaho panhandle and around Seattle.  ("Dad, there's the Space Needle!  Isn't it cool? We're going to the Space Needle, aren't we?  Dad, we're passing Seattle!" "Don't you want to see the Pacific Ocean?" "Well, yeah, but Dad -- Seattle!" This, as the Space Needle receded in the distance behind us.)

We did make it to the Pacific (and went wading -- it was too cold for swimming!) and started south to Oregon, when, on a Sunday morning, we heard a radio news report about a riot in our hometown.  We'd left my brother behind, and my parents got scared.  So instead of doing the intelligent thing and calling home, we turned around and backtracked.

Somewhere in South Dakota, the same pair of wheels fell off again.  And this time, the bolts holding the wheels together snapped, so Dad got to chase the tires down separately.  At this point, he gave up on the idea of dual wheels as a bad job and mounted just one tire back on the axle.  We limped home with three wheels in the back instead of four.  But we had no further travel disasters, and when we got home, my brother was fine.

Not long after this trip, my dad traded in the camper for a trailer, and we never lost a wheel again.  Oh, and I had to have that aching tooth pulled -- but it was a baby tooth, so all's well that ended well.

Speaking of travel, virtual and otherwise, this past week was my turn on the Orangeberry Summer Splash Tour to promote Fissured.  I was also the guest on the Indie Exchange's Blog Talk Radio show -- there's a link to the left, if you'd like to listen to it.  Later this month, Swan Island will be a stop on the two-month virtual cruise at Inside the Secret World of Allison Bruning, and the cruise will stop by Naomi's condo in October.

Starting next month, I'll be doing weekly posts for Indies Unlimited.  And looking ahead to December, I'm hatching a little something for the winter solstice with the Cabin Goddess.

All this, and the Indie Exchange birthday celebration, too.  Happy September!

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