On the road with the bookstore. Setting up in new places that have been delightful. Pocatello, ID (population 56,000) reminded me to appreciate coming into a town, meeting new people, hearing stories from those who lived there all their lives, and those who just moved in. Then on to Salt Lake City (population 200,100) – a treat setting up at The King’s English Bookshop and meeting a fascinating group of individuals at dinners after I closed my bookstore for the day. Reminded by a young environmentalist there is hope but we all must try harder. And I appreciated friendships between people I met who had been neighbors with each other for decades.
A day off yesterday in Denver (716,000) to meet friends, do laundry, catch up on emails. Friday and Saturday setting up at Fiction Beer which is the ideal place for a bookstore gig. And then on to Nebraska with stops in Kearney and Lincoln! So thoroughly enjoy the traveling bookstore business. Still mystified that more people don’t get a van and start their own bookstore, stopping at towns and cities, meeting people and hearing their stories, having time while driving across mountains, plains to reflect on it all.
And there are so many stories even on a trip that lasts less than a month. A man at dinner explained ham radio and told us about postcards (QSL cards) some operators send to each other they meet on the airwaves. A person described his antique business and all the beautiful glass he still has after retiring. But what will happen to it since his adult children don’t care for it? People tell me about their lives and why they don’t volunteer (my personal default is everyone should volunteer at least a few hours each month if not more). I get to think about differences – I’m content to be on the road for a month, while a woman told me between her pets and job, she doesn’t like to be gone from home for even a week.
I try hard to pay attention to the individuals who come to experience the traveling bookstore. The couple with a small girl, the man a potter who said the bookstore was magic and then his daughter found a book she wanted to give her grandmother. A young woman quietly tells me about an abusive relationship she left and how her faith helped her find the strength to leave it.
There are times when it feels overwhelming. With the driving and the stories, keeping the bookstore neat and well-stocked, trying to keep it all together. But then the bartender at Fiction Beer brings out samples of Wordless Wilderness which feels like an elixir at the end of the day. Crafted to taste and look like the ocean wetlands marsh from the novel, “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. Blue spirulina powder gives the beer its blue hue. Mildly tart with a splash of marsh salt on the finish, we crafted this Gose with equal parts German pilsner and wheat malts, finishing it with glasswort infused sea salt. A small addition of magnolia blossom infused simple syrup offers a true southern twist of floral and ginger character.
Just finished ten days of the traveling bookstore’s 2019 Western States Tour. Two weeks to go but so much happened already, it made sense to write. In fact, so much happened, I need to write although I doubt I can capture it all.
Weather Last year on the Grand North Carolina and Back Tour, the traveling bookstore hit the road in early April. Having barely survived single digit temperatures, blowing snow, and fingers too cold to type, I decided to wait until mid May this year to start a major tour with the bookstore. Thus a surprise to get hit by freezing rain in Wyoming and blowing snow in Colorado. Thankfully managed to dodge a major storm and made it safely through Glenwood Canyon the day after a serious rock slide closed the interstate highway.
Mechanics Having a traveling bookstore by definition requires a vehicle. Those mobile bookstores that stay in one city have the luxury of going to the same trusted mechanic whenever there’s an issue. A travel-all-over-the-country kind of bookstore obviously requires a different approach. And then add the intricacies of a Sprinter van with a Mercedes diesel engine to further complicate life. There were indeed some intense moments. I couldn’t bear to watch Aaron, a very patient tow truck driver, load the bookstore the morning it wouldn’t start (Sarah took the photo). It was Farley’s in Casper that got us back on the road that day. And when some issues persisted in Buena Vista, CO, All Valley Auto came through. That mechanic didn’t have the necessary parts but managed to troubleshoot to get us to Grand Junction. There Scotty’s took over to get the bookstore squared away before the long Memorial Day weekend and the next leg of the tour. I never had the opportunity to talk books with any of these mechanics but they all did their best to get the bookstore back on the road in a timely manner. Only missed one day of gigs (Stella’s in Denver and Elevation Beer in Poncha Springs) and otherwise managed to get where we needed to be.
People How to describe so many good people met along the way besides the mechanics and tow truck drivers? It warmed my heart to open at Sheridan’s Black Tooth Brewery, and readers I met there last year showed up to buy books. Virginia graciously housed us in Casper even when it required an extra day and she had never met us before. The waitress at Johnny J’s Diner let us sit for hours over coffee and pie while waiting for the bookstore to get fixed. Connie and Duff held dinner til we finally pulled into Buena Vista, and served great White Chicken Chili to thaw us out. Plus their neighbor donated a box of books to help my inventory! Cafe Dawn and Eddy Out @whitewaterwraps made room for the bookstore to set up in Salida. A customer there stopped by to bring chocolate chip cookies and buy books. At Glenwood Springs during a non-bookstore stop, had the good fortune to meet Darwin Raymond who has a wonderful typewriter repair shop and an amazing Moluccan cockatoo named JJ. In Grand Junction, a very kind soul traded two dozen fresh eggs for a book and told us stories about her chickens. Besides the people who purchased books, there are those who provide space for the bookstore to open, put me up, offered meals, let friends know where I’d be setting up next, and in many fine ways support the quirky existence of a traveling bookstore.