LA-day dawned early if not bright, and we learned a rule peculiar so far to the RV Parks we’d seen in Cali: Petey could not have his morning time out on his long leashline. NO DOGS TIED TO PICNIC TABLES OR ANYTHING ELSE AT CAMPSITES, the rules screamed. Well, la-di-da, and thank you very much for ruining Petey’s day. He pouted, but soldiered on.

Again, the drive, while arduous, was spectacular. At least Eric and I thought so. Susanne rarely emerged from her sleeping cave until we got to Santa Barbara which was “crowded,” then LA which was “dirty,” and finally on to Irvine which was “just right.” Well, I couldn’t say I disagreed with her, so I didn’t.

I’ve been saying LA, but I’ve used the term loosely. LA-area, more like. Irvine to be exact. One of our biggest supporters (Rebecca, a Cali-USVI-back-to-Cali friend)  is in Orange, and you take the party to the people, after all, so Irvine it would be. Bonus: Liz had just moved to Orange to attend Chapman, so we’d get to see her, her new apartment, the school, and her boyfriend. They met us for a clean gut cleanse friendly lunch at Boston Market, then she gave us the grand tour, bubbling over with happiness. And brown. Very very brown. Liz has her father’s insta-tan olive skin, and lifeguarding and surfing had bronzed her up nicely.

The family dropped me at three to speak on the “Five Super Simple Steps to Having It All” with a women’s networking group, Women Empowering Women, founded by Anne Sawyer and Amber Marquez, arranged by Rebecca, and hosted by her friend Gail. It was a fantastic two hours of women bonding –women who got my jokes–and they treated me so graciously. Or at least I think they did. Any house without wheels feels luxurious to me right now.

We rushed over to Barnes and Noble where Eric, Susanne, and Liz had done all the pre-work without me. Sweet! And it was more work than usual, as this B&N didn’t have any of our books. Interestingly, the CRM told Liz the reason they didn’t was that “the publisher had screwed them.” A) We are the publisher B) Ingram is the book printer and distributor, not us C) Not nice to talk bad about us to customers!! However, we, the publisher, brought in our own stock and wowed them with an amazing event. Rebecca and her WEW friends came, as did my former colleagues Brett and Terrence, my editor Meghan, the Katie & Annalise voice over artist who is narrating all the audiobooks, Ken, a writer of really great romantic mystery/thrillers, Ashley, “Reading Renee” Giraldy, and various of all of their assorted friends, significant others, and offspring. There was barely time to sell to new customers, but we squeezed a few in. Meghan even brought me a sussie, a new nightgown to write in 😉 She knows me so well. We had a truly fantastic time.

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Candids from the store, and from WEW mixer/speech.

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With Meghan and Ashley.

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Candids from store.

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New customer.

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Eric, having fun. It was that kind of day.

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Ba-re-et.

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Ken, a fabulous writer.

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Reading Renee!

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Terrence and his friend Marcelle.

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Liz and her boyfriend playing on the Nooks.

All too soon, it was time for Susanne and I to bid Liz and Eric goodbye. This would be the last goodbye for Eric and me of the trip. Next time I saw him, neither of us would leave again. Interestingly, starting in Salt Lake City and continuing from there, I had woken up each day with a teary spell. As the end got closer, my guard came further down. The exhaustion and homesickness I had held at bay somewhat successfully for two months was breaking through.

“Four more events,” he said.

“Five more days,” I said.

We held each other tight for a long time.

“Be careful,” he whispered.

And I would be. Earlier that day, I had received a series of texts from the Colonel, my brother. “Many a Marine aviator has lost his life from get-home-itis. A few hours won’t matter. Stay focused. Take it slow. Now is the most dangerous time.”

Susanne and I grabbed clean gut cleanse-friendly Jamba Juices for the road, and headed out for Oceanside. This RV park was worth its exorbitant price. It had a game room and beach access. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for the beach, although Susanne checked it out. It’s really hard to explain how short time has been as I’ve tried to cram writing and publishing a book, keeping up a blog, promoting the tour, a little day job work, and promoting two new releases into my non-sleeping, non-event, non-logistical, non-driving hours. I have seen very little of the cities we have visited, and even on the drives I’m nose-to-laptop unless I’m driving. I do have a short list of areas I want to return to, but this summer, while a fantastic adventure, was mission-driven: it was about work, and making the most of a significant monetary and time investment. So, I grab my views and fun where I can, otherwise, I get my satisfaction out of achievement, and survival!

Susanne and I hustled into La Jolla for errands: the obligatory Whole Foods (thank God for Whole Foods and its ilk), WalGreens, and Bank of America stops. This time was a little trickier. While all three were in the same shopping center, its parking lot did not accommodate RVs. We had a long hike with our groceries when we were done. From there, it was a short drive over to La Mesa, on the west side of San Diego. We had time to walk Petey and freshen up before a really nice event. Rebecca drove down and brought a friend, Debbie, the voice over artist for two of my nonfiction books, brought her husband, a writer-connection sent her mother and a friend, and Eric’s cousin came and brought his granddaughter. Add that to the locals, and the result is a great time. Also, I really, really liked the CRM at this store. Big up to Jonny. Sadly, we didn’t get a shot of Rebecca in San Diego.

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Debbie!

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New reader, Nancy.

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Cousin Dann and his granddaughter.

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This is how our  Oceanside neighbors rolled.

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This RV Park bathroom in Riverside reminded me of my Amarillo release party for Leaving Annalise.

We slurped down a quick Jamba Juice with cousin Dann and his granddaughter before we hit the road for El Centro, shivering as we did. San Diego in the evening can be quite chilly for us Texas girls, especially when drinking cold beverages.

“You’re driving to El Centro tonight?” Cousin Dann asked.

“Yes, we travel two to three hours after every event, each day,” I said.

“Be careful. It’s steep, curvy, and remote, and the wind gusts can be dangerous.”

My heart sunk. “Ugh. OK, well we definitely will be extra careful.”

Susanne managed to stay awake for ten minutes before she assumed fly-catching position. Petey snored softly from her lap. “Thanks for the support, guys,” I told them, but they didn’t flinch.

The roads were as-billed. We went quickly from sea-level to 4,000-feet, then would descend and reascend in rapid 1000-foot changes. There were no lights. After an hour, I had to go to the bathroom so badly I was seeing yellow. I decided it was too dangerous to pull to the side of the road, so I took a sign for a rest area. I parked and went and when I returned, Siri informed me that I had to backtrack 3.5 miles, exit, and turn around back toward our original destination.

“Siri, you can be a real bitch,” I whispered, so she wouldn’t actually hear me.

“What are we doing?” Susanne asked, belatedly waking.

“Wasting time,” I answered.

The Bookmobile trudged back up the 1000-feet we had just come down. At the top was a stopped line of traffic. Border Patrol. We waited our turn.

“Did you write all those books?” was the first thing the agent said to me, in the most cheerful voice I had ever heard from a Border Patrol Agent. He had a face to match.

“I sure did,” I said. “I’m on a book tour.“

“Cool. Where are you going?”

“Believe it or not, El Centro.”

He laughed. “You’re headed the wrong way.”

“Yeah, I made the mistake of getting off at the rest stop and couldn’t get back on. My GPS sent me back this way to turn around.”

He pointed toward the distant next exit. “That exit will get you going in the right direction again.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Good luck on your book tour.”

He waved, and I waved back. I was on an absolute lovefest roll with law enforcement in the last few weeks, and I liked it. We turned around and pointed the Bookmobile back toward El Centro. As I pressed the gas pedal, I saw that my fairweather friends Susanne and Peter were already back asleep. I shook my head.

The roads and wind got even worse before they got better. Since I was on PDT and Eric on CST, he had fallen asleep as I’d left San Diego, utterly fried from his redeye back to Dallas for a business trip from LA. I felt as alone as I’d ever felt, and scared. This was not the place to make mistakes or have trouble. Still, a part of me recognized that this was landscape I wish I could have seen in daylight. While stark, it must have been beautiful in a wild-kind of way.

Finally, the roads flattened out. We pulled into El Centro, then the quiet RV Park with a golf course onsite. I got out to hook up the RV and was met with a wall of 90+ heat, at midnight.

Welcome to the desert, it said.

Well, I’d have three more days of it, at least, before I got back to my home turf.

I went back inside. Tomorrow, Phoenix, #58, and straight east toward home. Tonight, sleep and gratitude for safe travels.

Pamelot

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2 Responses to And a left turn toward home.

  1. So close to home! You guys (you and Petey) will never be the same. The bonding, the people you’ve met (both good and crazy), the towns you haven’t seen, and the books you’ve sold, everything you’ve written about has been amazing, fascinating, wonderful, horrific in some ways, life-altering in others – thank you for taking us along on your book tour! (Oh and for stopping by my house, even if it was for only a few hours.)

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