Research Can Be Fun

Winter runs long in the Pacific Northwest, and spring takes a while to really get going.

It's almost April, and although my garden is blooming with daffodil, red currant and flowering plum, the cold, wet-and-windy gray days continue. Time, as they say, to get the hell out of Dodge. 

And what better excuse than research for my current novel, Blue Bird.

The story begins in two cities, Seattle, a place I know pretty well, and Las Vegas, a place I've never been and had little reason to visit until now.

Truth is, Sin City is a bit over-the-top for a writer who has spent most of his adult life living at the proverbial end of the road. Even Seattle is a challenge for this country boy. 

Google comes to the rescue for checking out places you can't or don't want to go, but there's nothing quite like being there.

My plan is to drive past on the highway, or maybe take an exit and cruise "Beverly Hillbilly" style down The Strip with our Casita travel trailer that still bears its Obama 2008 bumper sticker.

Under no circumstances am I stopping to smell the lost lucre and spilled booze of the casinos. Once again, thanks Google for making it unnecessary.

Now, I said Las Vegas is one of the beginnings, but it's neither the end nor the means. 

No, the road itself is the means and the end is not yet in sight. That will take a while.

My novels are character driven, so I never know exactly where they'll end up until we all get there together. That's not to say I have no idea where we're going, just that it's a democracy of sorts; I can be outvoted. 

Think of it like a family vacation.

Dad is driving and only wants some peace and quiet and a beer.

Mom has been stuck at home all year and is looking for a bit of adventure.

Meanwhile, the kids in the back seat are dividing their time between beating on each other surreptitiously, whining about when we'll get there, and repeatedly demanding there be a pool.

You get the picture. Enter the writer. Call him the family dog, perfectly capable of expressing both delight and disappointment, but unable to steer either the vehicle or its human passengers.

He can, however, wag his tail or lift his leg to pee. That's this author's intent. I love nothing better than a long ramble through the desert and beyond with nothing better to do than water the cactus.

My partner and I plan to visit a long list of state and national parks within a day's drive from Las Vegas: Red Rock Canyon, Joshua Tree and Mojave in California, Lake Mead in Nevada, and Zion, Grand Staircase Escalante, and Capitol Reef in Utah.

Where we'll go from there is up for grabs. Want to come along for the ride? There's always room for one more.