The lights of Van Horn looked awfully good after the night we’d had coming from El Paso. We pulled off I-10, passed a couple of decent hotels, and entered a gas station that didn’t look half bad. I got out and filled the dehydrated Bookmobile. A white passenger van pulled in.
Oh no. Not the prisoners, I thought, remembering the orange jumpsuited men in the van that I’d passed earlier that night.
An older Hispanic man got out, and through the door I could see the van filled with weary passengers who had worked at something physical, and for too long, from the looks of it. Not a threat.
Still, I couldn’t imagine sleeping a wink at an interstate-side RV Park tonight, in the Bookmobile. I texted Eric. “Going back to the Hampton.”
“EXCELLENT CHOICE,” he typed in reply.
When we got back to the hotel, Susanne didn’t want to stay in the Bookmobile alone. I couldn’t blame her. We went in together and waited in line to check in, at midnight.
“How can I help you?” the pleasant young man said. He was olive-skinned, and tall, with rounded teeth behind thin lips.
“A room for two.”
“That will be $149,” he said.
I smiled my sweet-but-not-really smile and said, “You gave the guy in front of us $99.”
“He’s in the military.”
That made sense. But it didn’t hurt to try. “My brother’s a Marine.”
He grinned, his lips pulled into white lines. “Good enough.”
“How about with a dog?”
He nodded. “Same price.”
“Sold,” I said.
Meanwhile, Eric texted. “Gather up just the minimum you need and get inside. Don’t hang around in the Bookmobile.”
We took his advice, although unfortunately, I took it too literally. When we got to our room, I didn’t have my phone.
“Stay here,” I told Susanne. I clipped Petey’s leash back on. “We’ve got to get it.”
Petey and I sprinted together through the parking lot and retrieved my phone in record time. We took the stairs back to the room. I couldn’t catch my breath. Either I was seriously out of shape, or hyperventilating. Probably both.
Susanne was already in bed. I got ready as quickly as I could, then realized I didn’t have my allergy meds. I can’t sleep without them. I weighed my choices. I was truly whipped. I would possibly sleep, just this one time, out of sheer exhaustion. And I didn’t want to go back outside. I crawled in bed at 12:30.
I woke up after 4 hours, and it was soon clear that my allergies were probably going to kill me and that sleep was totally pointless. I got up. Petey snored on and Susanne didn’t even turn over. I showered. I went out to the Bookmobile in the dark and cleaned it stem to stern. I was waiting for breakfast at 5:59 a.m. I did my hair and packed up. When I was all out of time-killers, I woke Susanne and the very reluctant Petey at 7:00.
Out of sequence: here’s a wind blown picture of me looking a hot mess when we stopped for gas on the last day. Did I mention how bad the winds were? And I grew up in Amarillo, y’all. I KNOW me some wind.
Good morning FAR WEST TEXAS!!!!
Petey and Susanne did NOT want to get up on the last day, at all.
We were out the door by 8. All that was frightening the night before was starkly beautiful now and, to me at least, glorious. It takes a special person to appreciate Far West Texas scenery, and a girl from Amarillo is just the type.
Predictably, dog and girl went back to sleep. I set my cruise on 82 mph and the Bookmobile and I gobbled up the road, with me buoyed by the two forbidden cups of coffee I’d inhaled that morning. Coffee, when one is off caffeine, is amazingly potent.
I had no cell signal, so I couldn’t talk to my husband. I popped in the George Strait “Love is Everything” CD I had listened to for six hours yesterday and just soaked it all in. My heart soared down I-10, toward event #60, and home.
After 3.5 hours, though, the winds hit. These Texas crosswinds made the Nevada, California, and New Mexico winds seem like a bunch of little sissies. I had planned to have Susanne drive the second half of our seven-hour journey, but there was no way I was doing that now. She could probably handle it, but my nerves couldn’t. We gassed up and I drove on.
“I never knew you were so religious, Mom,” Susanne said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You keep saying, JESUS, and OH GOD, and . . ..”
I interrupted her, steering hard into a gust. “Yeah, well, you try to keep this thing on the road. It’s scary.” She laughed.
She and Petey went to the back bed for one last #SixtyCitiesinSixtyDays #BookTour snuggle. I sang at top volume along with George. Then it hit me. “Love is Everything.” The lyrics. He was singing a song tailor-made for Eric. I voice-texted my husband instructions to Google the lyrics and play the video before he and Marie left to meet us. “See you there at 4:30.” I added.
When we arrived in New Braunfels, a wall of tired rose up and I crashed right into it. So much for caffeine and adrenaline. We went for gas, where I had a cranky mood swing at an unfortunate man who was being friendly and trying to help me with one of the gas pumps that didn’t like the Bookmobile and would cut off about every $1.00.
Eric, Marie, Liz, Clark, Mom, Susanne, and I had tried everything we could to get around this phenomena this summer, but failed. Since it only happened at BPs and Valeros, we just tried to avoid them. Today I had wandered into a Valero in my daze. So when the nice man explained why it was happening and told me exactly how he thought I should position the nozzle, and the type of cone funnel I should buy to solve it permanently in Wal-Mart, he really had no idea what he was stumbling into.
My sharp tongue embarrassed my daughter. If I hadn’t been so close to delirium, it would have embarrassed me, too, because I was irrational and awful, and, by the way, obviously not fit to drive a 24-foot RV or any other motor vehicle. I wish I had the man’s name so I could find him and tell him I am sorry. Maybe he will read this. DUDE, I AM SORRY I WAS SUCH A CRAZY BITCH. YOU ARE SUPER NICE AND DIDN’T DESERVE TO RUN INTO ME AT THAT MOMENT IN MY LIFE. I’LL MAKE IT UP TO YOU SOMEDAY, IN SOME COSMIC WAY. <3 Pamela p.s. Why would I want to have a stinky gassy funnel to deal with after every fill-up when I could just avoid BPs and Valeros? <3 again, Pamela
I couldn’t fathom how I was going to find the energy to do this last event. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to drive home from it. I wanted to crawl into a dark hole and sleep for a year. Instead, I sat down at my laptop and started working. I looked at the clock. Five-hour energy at 4:30 pm should just about do it. I changed clothes, then did my hair and make-up at 4:15. I downed my five-hour energy. A knock sounded at 4:35.
Eric and Marie.
I felt nauseous, my words still slurry from reaching rock bottom exhaustion, but spoken from the mouth of a woman who was upright and starting to get punchy. Eric hugged me. He whispered in my hair, “I loved my song,” and I squeezed him back, tight.
“Fly, be free,” we told the girls. Lucky them. They got to go home early. Petey, the traitor, followed them out.
“Wait here,” Eric told me. “I’ll scout the store and come back for you.”
Five minutes later, he returned, beaming. “They bought you roses. They don’t have a coffee shop, so the store manager brought her own coffee pot from home. They’ve got a fantastic display and have already been selling books. They’re very nervous about having this just right for you, and it’s incredibly sweet.” He pulled me upright by the shoulders. “Suck it up and come on in, you can do this. It will be over in three hours, and you can sleep the whole way to Houston.”
“I can do this. I’ll take them up on the coffee, and I’ll quit again tomorrow,” I mumbled, and Eric laughed. It occurred to me that I hadn’t really eaten, but I didn’t care. Eating sounded like a lot of work.
We walked through the blazing hot parking lot together. Last one last one last one last one, rang through my head. I can do this.
As we went through the front door, I saw posters EVERYWHERE with my mug on them. This store had put up handbills on every vertical book case divider in the store. If you so much as glanced at the book section, you could not keep from seeing me. They had truly gone all out, and the stark contrast between the night before–which I kindly did not write about on this website even though the El Paso B&N deserved it–and this night and this store just floored me. How could I have two such very different receptions in 24 hours? And how awesome was it to end on this note? What if I had stopped after El Paso, with a bitter taste in my mouth? I was lucky to get one more night.
Like magic, as always, I transformed into my Energizer Bunny persona the second I was in the store. If you knew me well, you would hear the hollow note in my voice, or notice the hesitation before speaking. You might smile at my sometimes-odd word choices, and wonder about the dark circles under layers of cover-up. But only if you knew me well. I’m a very good faker ;-).
The staff was awesome. The book manager, Garland, took me back to his computer when I asked whether he wanted to sell our brand new Loser on consignment, since Eric had brought copies. Garland pulled Loser up in Ingram (the major book industry distributor), and showed me the screen. “Yep, here it is, sure we can do it, and I’ll send our book buyer a note that I got a request for it, so they’ll put it in the Hastings system, too.” He clicked to pull up my other books, screen by screen.
Seeing those screens, each of them stating the number of copies in warehouses around the country, showing clearly how easy it was for Hastings to embrace my books, showing how easy it was for any store that wanted to do so to obtain them, almost took me to my unhappy place of B&N memories and frustrations from the long summer, but I couldn’t let it. Garland rocked. Hastings rocked. Liz, the store manager, rocked, and so did the whole New Braunfels staff. The other 59 events were just a memory now.
And so, on this last night, for this 60th and final event, we sold books. We sold a lot of books, in fact. 60-70 when I lost count. And I signed books. And I chatted with happy people. And I recommended other authors’ books to them. And it was beautiful and perfect and I stayed awake and then it was over.
Color me DONE.
How awesome is New Braunfels’ Hastings??? See all the flowers? See the set up? See the handbills on book shelves in the background? It was over-the-top great. In this pic: Liz, store manager and Garland, book manager. I crazy <3 them. And I can’t believe I don’t look punch-drunk stupid in this pic. Or maybe I do.
Cute kid. New friends.
Really, I hadn’t been sure up until the last moment of this last event whether it truly would ever end, or whether I’d just get stuck in some time warp and continue to Ground Hog Day my way through life. 61 days, 62 days, 137 days, 4223 days, 1 million days. But it didn’t happen.
I was too tired to cry. I bid everyone goodbye and promised on my mother’s life to come back in the spring for Katie #3’s launch. I climbed back into the Bookmobile with a gush of weary affection for it and put my head on the shoulder of the world’s best husband. I held up my phone in one tired hand and aimed in the general direction of the United States map we had fought over all summer. Placing the state stickers on it was a high honor, and we did it as soon as our wheels crossed each state line. Snap, my phone said, faking the sound of a “real” camera. I caught it, that moment in time, and held it in my hand for as long as it took to imprint forever digitally. And only that long.
It was over. The moment had passed. I was neither happy nor sad, I was just done.
And it was time for me to go home.