I’m just back from a solo, 760-mile roundtrip by car to visit one of my sisters. We had a wonderful time together, which of course was the point of the trip. But the drive there was wonderful, too, and one I’ll remember for a long time. Not because of great scenery, but because of what happened along the way.
For instance, I took part in a live-action video game going around Indianapolis during morning rush hour—five lanes of cars and big trucks, all exceeding the posted 65 mph, all managing to dodge the hay bales sailing off the back of a hay truck and careening across the five lanes of traffic. There were no panicked maneuvers and no crashes. Amazing!
|Pretty shade trees|
My picnic lunch in the shade at a lovely rest stop was nice, too. The state (Michigan) had set up a trailer in the parking lot as a COVID test station. I thought that was so cool. No one went in or came out while I ate my lunch, so I thought I might stop before I left to thank the test person inside for being there. Just before I did, though, a guy approached the trailer—coughing. But he didn’t just cough, he also hawked up something from his throat and spit it on the ground right in front of the door and then blew his nose onto the ground, one nostril at a time. Sorry for the gross description—but gross! And then he went in for a test. Ugh! So, I didn’t go in to thank the tester, and I felt kind of bad about that.
|extra map - just in case|
I used GPS on my phone for the trip, which made navigating so easy (although I also had my atlas, printed directions, and small closeup maps of tricky areas just in case). The only thing the GPS couldn’t do for me was find my car in the parking lot at the last rest stop I nipped into. Not a big lot. Just that row of cars facing the building. Shouldn’t have been hard. But the car sure wasn’t there. I went back into the rest stop and realized I’d come out the wrong side. Big relief. Except there wasn’t a parking lot on the other side. So, I walked around the outside to look in the parking lot again, and looked down the length of the lot, and didn’t see the car. But a maintenance guy sitting on a picnic table saw me and called out, “Did you lose your car?”
Me: “I did.”
Him: “You came out the wrong door. You should’ve come out the front door.”
Me: “I already did that and didn’t see it.”
Him, smiling: “It’s there.”
Him, very kindly: “Your keys are in your hand.”
Me, laughing: “You’re right. Thank you!”
And of course my nice little car was there, but a huge pickup truck had parked beside it, nosing closer to the curb, so that I couldn’t see mine until I was practically right in front of it. Sheesh. I waved to the maintenance guy as I drove away. What a nice person, and another good memory. The drive home from my sister’s was fine, too, but won’t be nearly as memorable because not much happened. The GPS quit talking halfway home, but that was no big deal. That’s what my backup maps, directions, and atlas were for. That’s also why road signs were invented.
The thing about a drive, whether it’s 760 miles or just to the grocery store and back, is that unless something happens—something exciting, or dangerous, or beautiful, or funny, or fill-in-the-blank—we don’t have any reason to remember it. That’s true of a morning walk, conversations, meals, a day at work, or fill-in-the-blank.
It’s also true in stories. Something has to happen in our writing. Probably several somethings. A whole variety of somethings. An astonishment of somethings.
May you have safe travels and memorable stories!
Molly MacRae writes the award-winning, national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries and the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. As Margaret Welch, she writes for Annie’s Fiction. Visit Molly on Facebook and Pinterest and connect with her on Twitter or Instagram.