This summer’s activities have certainly contrasted with last year’s for us.
Last year at this time we were getting ready to take our fifth trip of the year – to Dallas, for a writer’s conference. We’d already been to Freeport, in the Bahamas, for a week of sun, surf and sand in February. We’d hit Chicago in April and Pennsylvania and Anaheim in July. This year, so far, while I took a week in Florida for a writers’ retreat, we’ve only been to Kansas City, Missouri together. We will be heading down to Pennsylvania next month for a trip that will be a combination of research and a visit with our friends. And that is the second and last “shared” trip David and I have planned for the year.
In November, I’ll be going to Texas for a couple of weeks—another writing retreat and a visit with my publisher—and he’ll be taking the girls—our daughter and our “step-daughter” to Las Vegas.
More shocking than the reality of our reduced travel this year is my beloved’s attitude on the subject. He told me that he’s come to the conclusion that we’ve traveled a lot over the last few years (which we have) and maybe it’s time to do other things, instead. Maybe we don’t have to have four or five excursions a year.
Yes, it was one of those “who are you and what have you done with my husband” moments for me.
We have traveled a lot, and while at least half of those trips have been in support of my career, the rest have been our attempts at feeding my beloved’s sometimes insatiable wanderlust.
Conferences and conventions are important for my career, of course, and I’ve been happy to go, especially when I can meet with my readers. But they can also interfere with the writing, even though I generally take my laptop with me.
I’m not as young as I used to be. And while I would not characterize my health as “failing”, I am at a level of challenge that makes me examine each proposed journey and ask myself how important it is for me to go.
There is no question about going to Texas. My best friend is down there and I need to spend time with her—professionally and spiritually. Of course, the opportunity to visit with my wonderful publisher is something not to be missed either. Both visits will feed my soul, and that is worth the hassle and discomfort traveling inevitably entails.
My beloved still enjoys a road trip better than just about any other kind of excursion. There are all sorts of historical and geological sights to see in Pennsylvania. He’s been underground more than once (I’m claustrophobic and determined to stay on top of the grass), and we’ve been to the Steamtown USA museum a couple of times, too. We’ve visited the sacred ground of Gettysburg, and seen the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg.
Right around coal country where our friends live, there’s a wealth of historical places. This is the area of the country featured in the movie the Molly Maguire’s, and yes, we’ve been to the haunted jail in Jim Thorpe where some of those real-life men were imprisoned and executed.
Less well known is the violence that erupted at the Lattimer Mine site near Hazleton, Pennsylvania in 1897, an action against striking unarmed immigrant mine workers that resulted in the deaths of 19 men.
And no visit to the area, in my mind, is complete without a stop in Centralia. You can see the devastation and sometimes smell the coal still burning deep underground. It’s not a place to travel through willy-nilly, as subsidence is a very real danger here.
Northeastern Pennsylvania makes for interesting country to set a suspense novel in, when you think about it. Especially a novel that uses abandoned air shafts and possible redoubts built into the heart of the Alleghenies as plot points. One’s imagination can fly in the mountains, and it’s so different from where we live as to feel “exotic”.
And close enough to home, that a day’s drive puts us in the heart of research and history-buff heaven.