where the writers are
A Bad, Bad Trip

I am blogging this week about my worst travel experience to date.  In between book signings and interviews, I've been reflecting on the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Cruise on over to my blog:  Just Go!


It was a bad trip, but it makes for a great story!  


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I think you could identify with Lisa :)

An excerpt from my novel, Steel Stonehenge....  enjoy. :)

 CHAPTER TWOAnother Day in Paradise       Lisa Tang aimed the hastily rented metallic-green Geo Metro toward the east and prayed for the best.  She had been in Alaska precisely forty-five minutes, and she already had a number of reasons to dislike the place.  It had been bad enough that Dr. Wu had “forgotten” to make arrangements to pick her up at Fairbanks International Airport that afternoon.  The flight from Los Angeles had been abominable; an uncanny sequence of mechanical problems had delayed each of three connecting flights.  She couldn't help but wonder what she had done to so grievously offend the transportation gods.     She was relieved to be finally on terra firma, as bizarre as the terrain was to her Southern California sensibilities.  A featureless, barren expanse of taiga stretched endlessly before her, the only indication of human habitation being the strip of asphalt known as Chena Hot Springs Road, which she was now tentatively navigating through the wilderness.  The only encouraging sign was the word “Hot” in Chena Hot Springs Road.  Everything in her surroundings seemed so desolate and cold.  To the best of her knowledge, late August officially qualified as summer, at least at UCLA, but there was no indication that such was the case here, wherever “here” was.  The few birch trees interspersed with the incredibly scraggly evergreens were totally bare, and a perverse and slippery slime of prematurely dead yellow leaves covered the roadway.     Although she had suspected that intense scientific study of an arctic phenomenon such as the Aurora Borealis might eventually require her to actually go where auroras occurred, there had previously been a comfortable chasm between the theory and the reality.  Now she realized her reality check had bounced.  For the next several years, the arctic would be her domain.     “What was I thinking?!” Lisa lamented toward a most unsympathetic dashboard.  “The things people will do for a Ph.D.!”     The vast, daunting Chena Valley lay before her.  Dr. Wu had assured her that the Ionoprobe Arctic Research Facility was only thirty-five miles from downtown Fairbanks.  As she navigated along Chena Hot Springs Road, she suspected that “mile” might have been a rather poetic interpretation of distance. She had been driving for twenty minutes, and the scenery hadn't changed one iota.  Despite her misgivings about a choice of career, she had to admit that there was a peculiar, stark beauty to the wilderness; a universe so different from anything she had ever encountered, that she wondered if the laws of gravity still applied.     While cruising along one particularly straight stretch of road, she noticed a subtle change in the handling of the Metro, a barely perceptible pull to the right, which she guessed was caused by a slight slant to the road.  She grasped the steering wheel a bit more tightly, and continued on her white-knuckled way.  When, after a few miles the sensation failed to subside, but rather increased, she had to draw the revolting conclusion that a tire was going flat.     “Just my luck!” she whined again at her dashboard. She slowed and eased the car onto the gravel shoulder, alongside a natural hedge of what appeared to be some kind of man-eating shrub, the only actual green flora she had seen since her arrival in the state.     She scanned the terrain for evidence of lurking grizzly bears, decided that she was in no imminent danger of loss of limb, popped open the trunk, and unloaded its contents into her back seat, loathe to mar her new navy blue luggage on the gravel.  She removed the carpet and false floor of the trunk, only to discover that there was no spare tire, no jack, and no lug wrench.  The initial disbelief that a car rental company could be so incompetent as to rent out a car without such vital items quickly mutated into the genuine panic that such a situation called for.  Although she had undergone an extensive arctic survival training course months before her arrival, she had no idea she'd need those skills so soon.  After taking stock of her situation, she suppressed her inclination to fling a few non-Baptist and unladylike epithets across the taiga.  A still small voice told her to conserve her energies for survival rather than retribution toward the car rental idiots.     After a while, it occurred to her that this was not the San Diego Freeway; she hadn't seen another vehicle in twenty miles.  She weighed two choices, neither of which was appealing.  Although, in theory, she was much closer to Ionoprobe than to Fairbanks, she had no real assurance that the mysterious research facility actually existed.  Although Fairbanks was twenty miles back, she at least knew there was some semblance of civilization there.  After some internal deliberation, she opted for Fairbanks. Thank goodness she’d had the foresight to purchase a parka before her adventure. At the very least, the odd bear she might encounter along the way would be assured of a warm meal.  She hoisted her larger suitcase onto the trunk of the Metro, unzipped it, retrieved her new fluorescent magenta Arctic Parka, and a packet of dried fruit and nuts.     As she fastened her suitcase and braced herself for her long trek, she thought she heard a mechanical sound in the distance.  It sounded like neither lion, nor tiger, nor bear.  Hope tingled through her, like carbonated blood in her veins.  She froze in silence, training her ears for the sound, which definitely seemed to be getting louder.  It was coming from the general direction of the mythical Ionoprobe.  Lisa squinted down the road, and spotted on the horizon a brownish object bobbing toward her like a buoy on a gently swelling sea.  Soon enough, she would learn if the legendary arctic hospitality about which Jack London had written had any basis in reality.     The vague form of an ancient, hulking station wagon with really bad shocks began to come into focus, perhaps a half-mile away.  It sounded like it was running on about five cylinders, but from Lisa's perspective, a choir of angels couldn't have sounded lovelier.     Lisa quivered with anticipation as the station wagon barreled toward her; suddenly she realized the old bucket of bolts was really moving.  When she realized the motorist was probably going to blast past her like a cat out of a Jacuzzi, her heart sank to her knobby knees.  “So much for Alaskan hospitality,” she muttered to herself.     No sooner had the station wagon sailed by her, at a good seventy miles an hour, than there ensued a horrific screech of rubber on asphalt that lasted a full ten seconds.  To her amazement, the station wagon, a full five hundred feet past her, suddenly reversed, and wove precariously back toward her at nearly the same speed.  Lisa stared with timid curiosity as the driver, a woman of some Asian or Indian origin, parked her growling station wagon in the middle of the road, a cloud of burnt-rubber smoke still belching out of the wheel wells.     The woman leaned out the window.  “I saw your bags on ground, and decided you were not just pickin' blueberries.”     Lisa found herself intrigued by the woman.  She had an accent that seemed decidedly Scandinavian, although her features were quite clearly Asian.  Lisa guessed she was some kind of Eskimo or something, but her speech was not at all like she would have expected.  The woman emerged from the station wagon and stood up, taking a casual, almost reverential gaze across the taiga.  She was a monster of a woman, at least six-foot-two.  Her upper arms were as big around as Lisa's thighs; intricate geometrical designs, like some kind of maze, were tattooed on her arms from her wrists to her armpits.  She had long, narrow, slanted black eyes, shoulder-length, perfectly straight, blue-black hair.  A not-too-faint mustache, sort of a Fu Manchu, draped over the corners of her mouth.  She was strikingly beautiful in a scary sort of way.     Lisa approached her cautiously.  “Um.  You wouldn't have a spare tire on you by any chance?”     The woman gazed critically at Lisa's Metro.  “I do; but I do not think it would fit such tiny car.”  She circled the stranded vehicle slowly, then knelt by the flat tire, placing her immense hands on either side of the wheel.  There was little doubt in Lisa's mind that the woman could have changed the tire without benefit of a jack or a lug wrench, but even brute strength would be of little value in this situation.     Unexpectedly, the woman bowed her head, and began to speak in some sort of strange language, which Lisa guessed was Eskimo, Indian, or Martian.  Then, just as suddenly, she began speaking in that odd Scandinavian-English accent.     “Tire, in the name of Jesus, I command you to be healed!”  She then removed her hands from the tire, rose to her feet, and calmly returned to her station wagon.     Lisa was too shocked to speak, as the woman revved her engine a few times, and blasted off toward Fairbanks.  She stared at the rapidly retreating station wagon in disbelief and disgust.  She finally was able to vocalize her thoughts, now that nobody was around to hear them.     “What sort of smart-assed people live in this stupid place, anyway?!”  She didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  She decided to resume her original course of action, and hike back to Fairbanks.  She gathered her parka and her dried fruit packs, opened her trunk, and flung her suitcases into it with disgust.  She slammed the trunk lid and decided to give the Metro one swift kick in the right rear tire just for the grief it had caused her.  She approached the offending tire, drew her foot back, and then froze in shocked disbelief.       The tire was fully inflated.

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Kindred Spirit!

Thanks for sharing!  Indeed, Lisa and I have some deeply shared experiences.  I certainly needed a miracle.