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March 24, 2006

Thrilling Ride

Posted by admin

Yesterday I drove from my home in New Jersey to Charlottesville, Virginia for the Virginia Festival of the Book. I love road trips. Always have. If a trip is less than 6.5 hours, I drive. I loathe waiting in airports, packing a suitcase to fly and living life on an airline or train schedule. All are real stress inducers.

InsteadI hopped in my car, connected my iPod to the handy dandy car adapter, pulled on my cellphone headset and propped my Blackberry on the center console. I returned all the phone calls that have been hanging over me that I never seem to have time for in the office. Nice feeling.

I cranked up the music and sang along even though I sing really off-key. My iPod loaded with MY favorite music is like having a music score running under my life. As I listened to the tracks I was having memories of other places where I have listened to these same songs. Endless fun.

After making this same trip for the past five or so years, it's very comfortable. I know that in Pennsylvania there will be at least ONE road under construction. The state of Pennsylvania makes an adventure of driving. There's always a place being dug up and they do the most interesting workarounds. Yesterday's thrill was pushing us all westbound travelers into one very narrow lane making one feel like you were driving down the chute of an amusement park ride. You keep your wits about you when there are barriers tucked in close on both sides. I notice the same adventure will be waiting for me eastbound. Lucky me!

There are enough truckers doing enough ridiculous things on Route 81 to keep me awake. At one point there was a truck with "monster jaws" painted on it crawling up my bumper. I found myself writing the prose for a kids' book called Monster Truck's Driving Adventures in my head as he got closer and closer. Being this close to books all day, I can see just about any scenario as a book. In this one, Monster Truck, who dominates the roads with boorish road habits would learn a lesson. I have not figured out what the lesson is yet, but I am sure it would mean he never crawled up behind my Yukon, or any other car, again.

Just north of Charles Town, West Virginia, traffic slowed noticeably (the first time I had slowed since PA). I saw two police cars flying down the road adjacent to the highway. Soon I saw tons of lights and realized there were at least 20 police cars all stopped in the same spot next to the highway. Curiousity got the best of me as I was drawn to the lights. Then there were police officers in varying uniforms racing down a ravine next to the highway and then racing across the highway. Doing a quick look back on the side of the road I saw a woman obviously being detained by the police next to a car. Driving further I saw another parade of police cars racing northbound.

No one who reads thrillers as much as me can watch something like this and then not create a scenario for a book out of it. In my mind, a posse (always like that word) with two men and a woman held up a bank (or maybe something like the local Wal-Mart so there's some political angle to this). They raced away in a stolen burgundy Taurus. The police pursued. Realizing there was nowhere to go as they closed in, the driver set the car in park and the two men ran off across the ravine and the highway leaving the woman behind to take the rap.

The sheriffs, state troopers and other "law" (Wild West tones here) took off after the suspects regretting the extra donuts they had had that morning. Risking their lives they dodged the traffic southbound, jumped the median and then again leapt between the northbound cars with their goal on the woods on the other side where their two suspects had fled. From here I will leave it to an author to take over. (I checked the newspapers online this morning and saw nothing about this so I guess my scenario is probable.)

This reminds me of a talk I heard David Baldacci give at this Festival a few years ago where he told us readers are always giving him ideas for a book. They will tell him they have a plot for a book and give him something like what I wrote out above. He then will tell them to write about 65,000-75,000 more words and it's a book.

The rest of the drive was much less eventful. Once again I got lost from the time I took the exit until I got to my hotel. And this time I actually followed the Mapquest directions, which means that maybe next year I should try Google maps. My friend Jimmy raves about these. I just want something that will allow me to get to my hotel without making a U-turn!

Once in town I had a fun dinner with Mayapriya Long, who has been on the Committee for this Festival for years and is the person who first invited me down here. We had our annual catchup making me again grateful for this and the many other friendships that this business has brought me. We ate Mexican food and watched Duke get defeated (trounced?) by LSU.

More about the Festival as the weekend rolls on. I am off to check out the pool. May I run into no one I know along the way. I remember one bookish event where there were a number of authors who I knew in the pool. Let's just say that seeing each other in bathing suits is not the same as attending a reading. There were many mumbled hi's and lots of heads down swimming.