12 Jun On the Road with Cleo

I’m on the road in my camper van to tour my novel, Missile Paradise. Cleo, my aged basset hound is with me. Deaf and mostly blind, she may be too old for a big road trip but I didn’t want to leave her behind. She’s crazy about me. And I do my best to spoil her.


I gave up on the traditional book tour a few years ago, when it came time to promote my last book, From Animal House to Our House. I couldn’t see spending all that money on airfare and hotels just to visit six or eight cities, where–if I was lucky–I’d read to a handful of people at each book store. There had to be a better way.


Hence, the DIY book tour, as I call it. I can go wherever I want, make detours, and, most important, cover a lot of ground. And I can do this economically: about $40 a day on gas gets me 400 miles; I make my own food; and I camp in Walmart parking lots or rest stops. My super custom van has all the comforts of home: a toilet, a full kitchen, lots of storage, wi-fi, etc. The only comfort missing is Jill, my loving wife.


I call this a DIY tour because it’s low-budget and self-directed. If you’re not familiar with the DIY tour and how it works, you can read about it here:

The D.I.Y. Book Tour


Yesterday Cleo and I made our way through Wyoming. I was surprised to find snow in the mountains, where the campgrounds remain buried under a couple feet of snow. It’s melting, of course, the rivers raging and overflowing their banks. Give it a couple more weeks.


I love the big-sky country, these wind-whipped prairies, miles of tall grass bullied by the breeze, looking like crushed ochre velvet, a lone tree silhouetted in the distance. When I put on an old tune, like “Wichita Lineman,” as I glide into a grassy valley, the sun-cloudy sky yawning as wide as the world, I feel like anything is possible. Nowhere else do I feel more keenly the world at work–trucks hauling freight, families on vacation, trains speeding past on the rails that parallel every highway.


Cultural note: no longer do I see children staring out their minivan windows with curiosity and impatience, throwing a wave to strangers in passing cars. Now children’s eyes are fixed on their smart phones. And their parents are probably relieved to have such a consuming distraction to silence their squirmy kids.


Cleo greeting the morning.

Cleo and I are at about 7,000 feet in elevation and it’s Mountain Time on the clock. Such an elevation makes my inflatable camp pillows expand to near popping due to the rise in air pressure. These details, like the 80 MPH speed limit, are a novelty to an east coaster like me.


Speaking of speed, I got caught in a small-town speed trap yesterday as I came down a mountain and entered a 40 MPH zone. I was doing 51 at the time. Ticket cost is $112. “Shame on you and your town,” I said to the cop. I’m contemplating not paying it.

First stop for a reading is Powell’s Books (at Hawthorne) in Portland, this Thursday at 7:30. If you know anybody in the Portland area, please let them know.