Thursday, April 19, 2007

Six Weeks in 1977, Double That in 1986

Weekend Assignment #161: What's the longest amount of time you've been away from home on a trip? By "trip" I mean things like a journey taken for pleasure (a vacation, cruise) or for business (business training, conventions, workshops, facilities tours) and things of that nature. Things that I would not classify as a "trip" for this assignment would be something like a military assignment or a long-term work posting, or going away for college. All of those will certainly keep you from home for a while, but they're of a different nature than when you're living out of a suitcase (or backpack, or whatever).

Here I am in July, 1977, at the Clarion Writer's Workshop, Michigan State University. My six weeks in East Lansing, Michigan are, I figure, right on the edge of qualifying as a long trip by Scalzi's definition, as opposed to going off to college. This was half a summer between my sophomore and junior years at Syracuse University. I spend part of May and all of June as an enumerator, asking questions door to door for R.L. Polk. (I pretty much hated that job, except for all the weight I lost walking around.) Then I was off by bus and by train to East Lansing, there to study with some of the best science fiction and fantasy writers of the era - Algis J. Budrys, Damon Knight, Kate Wilhelm, Peter S. Beagle - and of course, Harlan Ellison. Before the six weeks were over, I was at least half in love with one of my fellow Clarionites, a fellow named John Blocher. I've told that story, though, so here' are the links, and then we'll move on.

Clarion Auction - and a Hint of My Clarion Courtship
Harlan Ellison, Matchmaker
Surviving the "Failed" Clarion

If that doesn't count as a trip, then we...oh, wait a minute. I forgot THE trip. I must have had workshops and writerly trips on the brain not to think of the 1986 trip before the 1977 one. Heck, six weeks in a dorm is nothing compared to over three months in a van.

Jenny Dog in the van, 1986

John drove us around from the end of January through the beginning of May, 1986 in a 1984 Dodge van, with fake milk crates in the back, a mattress on the crates and Jenny Dog on the mattress. We went as far north and east as Montreal, as far south as Key West, Florida, as far west as Los Angeles and I think San Diego. And in between all those places, we spent a lot of time on Route 66, which didn't officially exist at the time. Part of the purpose of the trip was writing; I was working on a Route 66 book, which never saw the light of day.

Right in the middle of it all, in mid-March, I saw Tucson for the first time. There was a freak hail storm as we walked around the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, but it didn't faze us. A week later, John was negotiating the purchase of our first house over the pay phone at Gilbert Ray campground, near ASDM, on the other side of Gates Pass from Tucson itself.

Yes, of course I've written about the 1986 trip as well:

Had Dog, Did Travel
Route 66 in 1986
Winter Wonderlands, 1966, 1976, 1986
Martin Milner and Other M Words

Extra Credit: What's the furthest you've been away from home?

Which is further: Tucson to Oahu, or Tucson to London? Probably the Hawaii trip. It was only three nights, at a grass-roofed hotel that was in decline and no longer exists: the Waikikian. We spent almost as much time getting there and back as we did on the ground, and while we were there we did everything but stay put. We drove all around the island, to a waterfall and other beauty spots, an art gallery that was all about the whales and the Dole Plantation with its garden of world pineapple species, to Sea Life Park, Hanuama Bay and the Polynesian Cultural Center. We never got to Pearl Harbor or up Diamond Head, and never got to any of the other islands. Shame, that, but the airfare was free and the trip was very much on the cheap. Someday we'll go back to Hawaii - the Big Island and Maui and probably Kauai. But for a three-day whirlwind tour, I think we did pretty well. No pictures of that trip tonight, but if they ever turn up I'll post a few.


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