September 12th, 2009

Day 16, mile 4248, Nashville.

An amazing trip.  America is so beautiful, and it’s easy to forget that when you just fly across it, as I’ve done for most of my life.  LA-Phoenix-Tucson-Denver-Lawrence, KS, Mission, KS, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Nashville — and hardly an ugly mile.

And people outside the big cities are enough to restore one’s (sorely tried) faith in human nature.  Meeting the gracious people of Kansas, Texas, and Louisiana, it’s hard to believe that rabid gasbags in Washington have been foaming at the mouth about the president telling kids to stay in school.  We all know that a kid who stays in school will grow up to be a socialist.

In fact, with an iPod serving as my radio, one of the great gifts of this trip has been the absence of news.  News (generalization ahead) sucks.

Denver was a mile high, as advertised, and I was even higher.  Had a memorable dinner with Lisa Kenney and Scott Mattlin that lasted four hours.  During it, we solved all the world’s problems, but nobody was taking notes.  Then there were 103 zillion people at Murder By the Book (almost) and Lauri, the shop’s owner, immortalized BREATHING WATER in frosting:


Beneath the frosting was a red velvet cake, and after I finished the Bangkok show, we all sat around and got sugar-loaded and discussed things with great vigor and energy.

I should also mention that Lauri made BREATHING WATER the book of the month for her hard-boiled reading group, for which I’m grateful.  I’m assuming that “hard-boiled” refers to the genre they read rather than the members of the group, but if I’m wrong and some of you are reading this, hey, you sound like a great bunch to me.

Following Denver, we had the long downhill trip to Kansas (“downhill” is meant in a literal, not a metaphorical, sense) and my, my, Kansas is beautiful.  I took a bunch of pictures, but I am the world’s least talented photographer.  This is especially embarrassing because my friend Eric Stone, the excellent writer from whom I stole the idea of doing a PowerPoint presentation, is one of the best.  Since Eric went through Kansas shortly before I did, promoting his new one, Shanghaiid (a great read), I’ll show you one of  his pictures of Kansas.


Mine are just like this one, but ugly.

Lawrence, Kansas is one of the country’s perfect small towns.  Several people there mentioned that they were fighting overdevelopment, and I can only hope they win.  It’s got that severe 1930s beauty, although it’s also the hardest town I’ve ever been in (including Manhattan) to find a parking space.  Lawrence is the home of a great mystery bookstore, THE RAVEN.


The raven had aggressively promoted my appearance:


Kansas neon.

When I went into the shop, I was told, with typical Kansas honesty, that, “Lots of times, nobody shows up.”  And at seven, the widely advertised starting time, that’s exactly how many people had showed up.  But at 7:10, there were three, and they took out their cell phones and called people, and they showed up, and the evening turned out to be terrific.  For the benefit of my editor, Peggy Hageman, who checks this site from time to time, I should note that we sold books, often two and three to a customer, at every one of these stops.

The next day I made what should have been a short trip to the town of Mission, just outside of Kansas City,  Apparently, you can usually make this drive in less time than it takes to swallow by getting on one of those big wide roads without any stoplights they have everywhere now.  But Doris’s Evil Twin suddenly appeared and sent me through an amazingly complicated tangle of roads that were narrower than my car and that led through towns so small their ZIP codes contain a fraction.  This gave me time to develop insight into the different ways cows and goats think (ask me about it some time) as well as to ask myself repeatedly why dogs chase cars.  I mean, what’s in it for them, anyway?  What are they going to do if they catch it?  Pee on a tire?  Isn’t there anything they can pee on that’s not going 35 miles an hour?

So eventually, I got to Mission and the I LOVE A MYSTERY store.   Here’s a picture of the store.


This was one of the best stops anywhere — 50 to 60 people, a meeting with a longtime virtual friend, Larissa Uredi, and other stuff.  But I’ll have to talk about it next time because this is already long enough to need act breaks.  Back in a few days with I LOVE  MYSTERY, Kansas Cops, Doris’s crime spree, the road to (and through) Texas, and other topics of enormous interest to a very small group of people.


  1. Larissa Says:

    Teehee. Kansas is beautiful but for some reason GPS’s love to screw up our roads…I swear it’s not as complicated as they make it seem.

  2. Suzanna Says:

    Delightful reading this. Thank you for keeping us up on all the news that doesn’t, um, suck.

    I think it’s safe to say you are having a terrific trip.

    Who writes the captcha phrases? Could it be Doris or her evil twin? Here’s what mine says:

    Parmalee Close-Check

    Try using that in a sentence.

  3. RJ McGill Says:

    Thanks for sharing your trip, if it is going 1/2 as interestingly as you make it sound, then it’s pretty darned cool! I’m keeping my fingers (& a couple of toes) crossed that we can make it to Nashville….
    Here’s hoping we see you there!

  4. Phil Hanson Says:

    If Cheech and Chong were right, dogs chase cars because they like to “get off” on the exhaust. And do you realize that even as you travel away from Portland, you’re getting closer to it? Yeah, I know, it’s a paradox, but stranger things have happened.

  5. Lisa Kenney Says:

    I love following Tim’s Excellent Adventure! And damn, you weren’t taking notes either? It’s a shame because we really did solve all the world’s problems.

  6. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Riss — Teehee indeed. But it’s not just Kansas — Doris put me through a little Nashville adventure yesterday, putting me into a loop — right, then right, then right, then right, and then I was right back where I started. I turned her off and turned her on again, and she came to her senses. I’d like to program her so the next time I have to do that, she’ll say, “Thanks, I needed that.”

    Suzanna — It’s been more fun than I ever could have imagined. And now I’ve got four days in Nashville, staying in a real hotel with a roof and everything rather than a Motel 6 (or 5 1/2 in some instances). Seeing friends, writing again (2700 words today!), getting my whole wardrobe dry cleaned, and writing some more. I’m working on Parmalee Close-Check. It would help if I knew what Parmalee was. Or, for that matter, Close-Check.

    RJ — I’m REALLY hoping you can make it, but I know (better now than three weeks ago) how long a long drive can seem. I’ve got fingers crossed for you, though.

    Phil, remember the only good joke in JURASSIC PARK? As they’re driving the jeep with the tyrannosaurus in pursuit they cut to a close-up of the rear-view mirror, and it says OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR. That’s how I feel about Portland as I turn south and then east. Portland looms in that mirror. See you there, I hope.

    Lisa, the terrible thing is that you were so brilliant on the issue of world currency and how utilization of a sort of financial Esperanto could wipe out simultaneously the national debts of countries all over the globe. Damn. I knew I should have been writing.

    Captcha is yelping current.

  7. Phil Hanson Says:

    I’m pretty sure that Jurassic Park (the movie) got the idea for that joke from a Gahan Wilson cartoon that appeared in Playboy magazine back in the ’70s. And yes, I’ll see you there; only death or total incapacitation could keep me away.

    Safe journey, my friend.

  8. Larissa Says:

    I wish I could turn off all the stupid people I hear talking sometimes and then turn them back on and have them come to their senses. It would make life a little more entertaining…and everyone around me would be much easier to get along with! (c:

    wow…it’s like my captcha read my mind…Oct bloat

    I’m going to name a dessert after that. Think there would be any takers?

  9. Walt Pascoe Says:

    Having a great time following your Excellent Adventure, Tim. It will be fascinating to see if any of these experiences find their way into your work someday.
    Happy trails !

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