Back in the saddle

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

“There are whales everywhere,” said Carlina Bettencourt Ferreira, the charming bartender at the Catwalk Bar & Grille on Union Street in New Bedford, Mass. It struck me as profound. Carlina, 26, was describing some of the sights in the ancient whaling village on Buzzards Bay. At that moment, she was talking about the weather vane on the top of the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The whale, on a metaphorical level, was an appropriate symbol for my little adventure. You know: the unknown, the dangerous, the potential for financial reward.

Let me back up for a second. This year for my vacation, I fulfilled two lifelong dreams: I drove across the country, and I wrote a novel. The first was easy. I chose Route 6, an old highway running from Bishop, Calif., all the way to Provincetown, Mass, and I drove it. The whole trip, there and back, was 6,700 miles.

The second part was harder. My plan was to dictate the novel as I drove, using a voice-to-text software called Dragon Naturally Speaking. I’d outlined a novel of 14 chapters of 20 pages each, which I’d further charted down to about three-page increments. My plan was to tape 3-by-5 cards to the steering wheel and simply talk the book out—a chapter a day. My theory was that while I can only type 50 words a minute, I can talk 180. Well, it turns out that’s not wholly true, and I could only maintain my concentration for 10-15 pages per day. But I stuck to the plan, and I have a story that’s going to require rather more revision that I’d hoped in my optimistic dreams, but it’ll be a better story because of it.

The trip was an eye-opener. I had a completely misinformed view of “Back East.” It’s not all cities and snobs. It’s picturesque towns like New Bedford and amiable people like Carlina. Anyway, it may be a while before the revelations sort themselves out in my mind. One thing about trips like this, though, they sure make you appreciate what you have at home.