One of my worst fears is being caught on the road without a book to read.
Which is why, before I took off for a recent family reunion in Idaho followed by a family wedding in Utah, I made sure to pack two books—a novel and a work of nonfiction both set in the Gilded Age—part pleasure and part research for my WIP. I also included a fully charged Kindle just in case our accommodations didn’t have adequate bedside reading lamps.
I should have saved the luggage space.
We flew up with our children and four grandchildren ages 4 and under. No one read anything but an ABC board book on that flight.
When we arrived, we received an email from the owner of our first rental home just outside Yellowstone Park. He shared security cam footage from that morning showing a large bear meandering around the porch of our home-away-from-home. “Be extra cautious with your grandchildren and puppy,” he wrote. “There’s bear spray on the top of the refrigerator.”
The puppy was our East Coast daughter’s new whippet, Tulip, who she was bringing home to meet the extended family while still small enough to travel in a carry-on bag. Our four-year-old granddaughter reassured us that Tulip would protect us from the bear.
I looked longingly at the swing hung between two aspens that would have been a perfect reading spot and figured I’d read in our next—hopefully bear-free—rental. Meanwhile, I’d catch up and play with family I hadn’t seen in a couple of years at my mom’s place nearby, despite the unseasonably warm weather that drained any energy to read, even in the safe confines of my bed at night.
Our second rental looked over the stunning turquoise waters of Bear Lake in northern Utah and two more hanging chairs beckoned for some quality reading time. However, most of our time would be spent preparing for a nephew’s wedding that was to take place on his other grandparents’ lakeside property.
Their large extended family was gathered there for the wedding as well, including a very pregnant woman who spent most of her time sitting waist-deep in the water with a fat paperback book in hand.
Surely, I could slip away and join her with my own book?
But there were mermaid games to play with the grandchildren; walks to take with Tulip; wedding flowers to arrange and more juicy conversations to be had with all those long-lost family members.
No, it would have to be our third location—a favorite historic hotel in the heart of Salt Lake City where we’d retreat to celebrate our anniversary after our children, grandchildren and Tulip left. Not only would I scout a few locations for my WIP, I’d lounge in the well-appointed bar that might have been visited by some of my characters as I read about their time and place.
Alas, emails from home about water leaking in the basement kept us agitated and occupied most of our time alone. The location visits to track down an old theater that serves prominently in my WIP went well, but I was still distracted by the drama playing out on my phone.
The same novel that had moved from airplane seatback to bear house night table to Bear Lake beach bag remained unopened. The second book never saw the light of day. My Kindle retained a full battery.
Home at last, my summer vacation is over. The flooding proved minimal, and I can read in peace. No bear spray necessary! Though I wish Tulip was here to stand guard.
So, how many books will you pack this summer when you go on vacation? Will you read more or less when you leave town?
Kathryn Pritchett writes about strong women forged in the American West. To interact with her and the other Paper Lantern Writers, join us in our Facebook group SHINE, on Instagram, and Twitter.