The Genesis of the Tin Can Camper Book Tour

My friend Rube baits me.  He’s one of the most creative people I know, but he enjoys launching my pursuit of his ideas more than acting on them.

About ten years ago, I was accumulating found construction materials for my beach shack.  I was collecting granite countertop scraps when Rube read about a bowling alley that was being deconstructed in Oakland. Rube decided that an old bowling lane would be the perfect material for unique countertops — especially if you could preserve the lane markings in the final finish.  Of course I loved the idea.  “It would be very cool,” I agreed.

I imagine he was grinning as he hung up the phone, knowing I spend hours trying to track down an architectural salvage company with a bowling alley in the inventory. He probably thought I’d get into a bidding war for the material.  I did eventually find it.  But the wood had been piled outdoors, and a late season storm had ruined it.

I’ll never learn.  Or maybe I don’t want to.  I think often of Rube’s idea to build a straw bale Italian villa.  You’ve got to admit, it’s a great idea.  Great ideas aren’t always practical.

In early March, Rube called me to tell me his in-laws Elly and Ernie, in Minden, Nevada, had an old travel trailer that a renter had left behind.  He said they would give it to me.  I’d been toying with the idea of a camping book tour — my characters lived in an Airstream during the war — and here was an offer of a free camper.  The details were vague, but I hadn’t seen Elly and Ernie in more than a year, and a drive over the Sierra seemed like a fine Sunday activity.  Maybe it was meant to be.

Long story short: it wasn’t.  Rube had misjudged the size of the trailer by 50%; there was no way my Ranger would pull it.  And among the many things it needed, it needed tires — which is probably why it was left behind.  But the die was cast and I was now convinced that I needed a vintage camper for my book tour.



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