When she invited me to guest blog, Liviania offered a few suggestions for what I might write about. One of these was, "Something you did when you were twenty."
Well, when I was twenty, I took a year off from college and drove around the United States with my best friend Sara, a dog named Napa, and a Ford Econoline van that we called the Big Brown.
Sara and I had met on the first day of high school, and we'd started planning this trip soon after. We'd read On the Road and all of Tom Robbins' novels - Still Life with Woodpecker and Jitterbug Perfume being especially influential. We were sure that, driving around the country, we'd discover the world, ourselves, and the life of truth, beauty, and freedom that the characters in our favorite books seemed to live.
So, after our freshman year, we worked summer jobs to pay for our journey, bought the Big Brown, and hit the road.
We took the northern route west, eating cheese curds in Wisconsin, passing through the Black Hills of South Dakota, and dancing to bluegrass music in Missoula, Montana. Once we hit the West Coast, we slowed our pace, spending lots of time in Washington, Oregon, and California, driving up and down, hanging out in forests, hot springs, and other people's houses. Then, we headed back East, through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, the South, until finally, we were home in Massachusetts.
The whole trip took about eight months. As it turned out, the life of pure truth, beauty, and freedom we'd imagined was always slightly out of reach, but we saw and did some wonderful things.
When we got home, I sat down with an antique typewriter and all the photographs that Sara had taken, and typed up a 100-page single-spaced account of what we'd done. Which means, I guess, that I also wrote my first book when I was twenty.
Isn't Napa a beautiful dog? (ETA: Photo of 20-year-old Sasha and Napa by Sara Press.) Sasha makes me want to road trip. (A few friends and I half-planned one, but so far nothing's come to fruition . . . )
Sasha is offering a copy of VIDALIA IN PARIS. Wanna win? Read the rules to find out how.