When we took off from home on February 5 on the first leg of our book tour/sightseeing excursion, going south, we had planned so well, and it seemed the gods and stars were working all in our favor. No major traffic jams or traffic accidents occurred that first day or through our entire trip. We had a little trouble navigating through New York near the George Washington Bridge, but no worries. We ended up traveling 8,000 miles and did not suffer through any inclement weather while Boston was hit with three monsta’ nor’easters with incredible amounts of snow in a 13 day period. We got out of Dodge on time just as we planned.
No personal accidents, no sprained ankles, no wallets, earrings, check books or cell phones lost. Or stolen. No scams. No vehicle breakdowns. No tows. I had upgraded to AAA Premium coverage so if we broke down in the middle of nowhere in the deserts of Texas or the Southwest we would be towed up to 100 miles for free instead of the normal three mile tow coverage. The chances of a breakdown was small too; we were driving a brand new 2017 Honda CRV with a little over 1,000 miles on it.
It wasn’t like forty two years ago when I travelled cross country with my older brother Skip in my mother’s beat old Toyota. We broke down on the afternoon of July 3, 1976, in Norman, Oklahoma, the day before our country’s 200th anniversary. We didn’t expect to find anyone open that day or weekend. An AAA certified garage mechanic living on the second floor above his garage, answered our desperate call for help, left his fiancé whom he was marrying the next day, and took his tow truck and came out of town to repair our car. He was a great guy and he even let us drive the car around for a while before paying. We ended up camping outside with coyotes howling in the distance.
So far so good.
While Arlyn and I were on vacation, our workday schedules behind us, we had a travel schedule. We had to be in Tucson, Arizona no later than March 10, the first day of the celebrated two-day Tucson Festival of Books. Arlyn had a slot under one of the tents to sell her book to supposedly 100,000 attendees, and we had to be prepared for them all. So we didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked in Savannah, known as the first city in North America designed to be “classless”. James Oglethorpe set up the city in 1733 to be a classless society by following four rules:
– No lawyers allowed in the city
– No Roman Catholics allowed in the city
– No liquor laws
– No slaves
We could only stay in New Orleans for three days because we had to drive 950 miles through Texas in two days, and could not stop in outdoorsy Austin or San Antonio because they would take us off schedule. On February 27, we had the most beautiful room at Pensacola Beach, Florida, overlooking the ocean, able to walk the beach. We ate snapper with black eyed peas and coleslaw but had to move on from this part of Florida that is known as the “lower Alabama”, to make it on time, rested.
Tucson had so much promise, so much purpose. So much to see and learn and do and then sell so many books! Tucson, here we come!
It was the 10th annual Tucson Festival of Books event at the University of Arizona campus. Over 300 published authors, 400 tents, C-SPAN, food trucks, author panels, book signings, and the chance to interact with world-class writers like Mitch Albom, R.L. Stine, Amy Tan, Jenna Fischer. The festival is considered one of the top three largest book festivals in the country, and we had to stay on schedule.
The one thing we were unable to control occurred.
It had not rained in over three months in Tucson; the morning was okay but Arlyn only had time from 2-4. After we set up our display, it started to drizzle. By 2:30pm it was a good soaking with no end in sight. It rained. Hard. Steady. Constant. And the foot traffic that came past our side of the tent was light to begin with. Nobody came by as people ran for cover, or a chili dog or nachos, or decided to leave for the day and beat the traffic. Or like many others, took off for the concert listening to the Book Remains, the rock band started by Stephen King that was playing elsewhere on the University campus. Stephen King wasn’t there, but Mitch Albom and Amy Tan were in the band. I would have run off to see them too if I could have. Big disappointment.