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Location, location, location

It’s always AFTER I’ve visited some place that I decide it would make a great location for a story.  The idea usually comes months after the visit, when all I have are photos to inspire me.  While I was in Surfside, Texas for vacation, it occurred to me that it would be smart to take notes every time I go on vacation, just in case I someday want to use it for a setting.  So, I sat on the deck on Friday night and wrote down everything I heard, smelled, saw, felt, and tasted into a notebook.  That info, along with photos, should help me when I decide to use it for setting.  I’m pretty pleased with myself for thinking of it while I was on the trip instead of a week later.  Hopefully I will remember to do that on all my trips.

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Research Field Trip

The Museum Job is set in two main locations.  The first is Miami and the second is Washington D.C.  When I started writing the story, I had never been to either place.  So I decided that I would go to Washington D.C. in 2010 and Miami in 2011.  Here are a couple pictures from my research trip to D.C.  I can’t wait for the research trip to Miami!

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a blast from the past

I wrote this in 1997 or 1998.  I was a junior in high school.  Anyway, obviously the writing is lacking, but I still think the story is fun.

SPRING BREAK DOWN
“Spring break started out like any other. We took a trip to a small country town in the great, big, old state of Texas and stayed at my grandparent’s farm for the simple fact that there were no adults for miles. Being able to stay there in itself was a miracle. Convincing my parents and Julia’s was no easy task, but in the end they agreed. The hardest part was convincing my eighty-year-old grandparents that we were “responsible, trust worthy young adults”. Some how we did manage to convince them and we were granted the permission we requested. Lucas, my best friend, and Zeth, Julia’s significant other, were not allowed to go with us.

[…]

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The Passenger

This is a fun little story I wrote right before I moved from Texas to Michigan, starring Ash, Dennis and Sarah.

Once upon a time, there were two sisters who had grown up in Michigan. When they were adults, they moved to Texas in search of new adventures. As time wore on, they realized that as much fun as adventures were, they did not compare to the company of their friends and family. And so, the two sisters decided it was time to move back to Michigan. They made their plans and contacted a couple friends to help them move. When the day came, the Uhaul was loaded and their vehicles were packed. This is where our story begins.

* * * * *

Jen put the Uhaul in gear and started out down the street. Sarah sat beside her holding a cup of coffee trying to wake up. Between them was a Beta named Salvador. In the Escape behind them, Ashley followed with Dennis chatting her ear off. Toby paced restlessly in the backseat. He had known for weeks that something was up…what with all the boxes and everything. Now, he was just glad that he was in the same place as his mama.

“This is going to be a great adventure,” Jen said smiling out at the morning sun. She was an adventure junky—always looking for one better than the last. “I just feel like something big is going to happen.”

Sarah merely stared at her. It was 7:00 in the morning after all—what was she so cheery about?

Jen wasn’t generally a morning person, but there was just something about this morning that was different than any other morning she had ever had. She steered the 24-foot truck out of the neighborhood and onto Highway 6. When they got on US 290, they’d be driving into the sun for a while and she was glad she had her sunglasses within reach.

“How about some road trip music,” Jen said reaching into her bag for a cassette. Since the Uhaul was not equipped with a CD player, she had made several mixed tapes for the trip. It was fun and reminded her of when she was in high school. She popped in a tape labeled “Road Trip” and adjusted the volume. Immediately Steppenwolf started with “Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure, and whatever comes our way…”

The song (and mostly the coffee) energized Sarah and she started singing along. Jen joined her as they headed into the sun.

“I wish she’d drive faster,” Ashley said as she followed behind the Uhaul. “She’s just barely going the speed limit.”

“Well, she is driving a 24-foot truck,” Dennis said. “And dragging a trailer with a SUV on it.”

Ashley scowled at him, but it wasn’t in malice. He was right after all, and she understood, she just wanted to drive faster. The faster they drove, the sooner they’d be home. She flipped through her preset radio stations and when she didn’t find anything she liked, switched over to the satelite radio. Finally, she found a country song she liked.

Dennis picked up the walkie-talkie and spoke into it. “Are we there yet?”

“Ha ha,” Jen replied. “Get ready, we’re almost there.”

Traffic wasn’t too bad since it was a Saturday morning. Had they left the day before, it would’ve been a nightmare. Driving on the weekend was the best thing to do with a Uhaul. Jen did not want to get stuck in rush hour traffic with a vehicle that took forever to speed up and slow down.

Ashley and Jen were sad as they left behind the city they’d called home for the past few years, but they knew they’d made the right decision.

* * * * *

Highway 59 was the by far the worst highway of their whole trip. All sorts of little towns dotted 59 and everytime they appeared the speed limit would go from 70 to 35 or 40. It was such a pain, especially in a Uhaul.

At about 10:00 A.M., they stopped at a gas station in Timpson, Texas, to switch drivers and refill the gas tanks. When Sarah visited the ladies room, she found a pregnant woman cowering in the corner of the room.

“Are you okay?” Sarah asked. “What’s wrong?” Her voice was soothing and her face kind.

The woman looked up at her with fear and hope in her eyes. “Please help me.”

“What can I do?” Sarah asked.

“I need to get out of here,” she said. “My husband hits me. I can’t let him hurt my baby.”

“Where is your husband?” Sarah asked.

“He’s pumping gas. He owns the blue Dodge.”

Sarah poked her head out of the bathroom. The gas station had pumps on both sides of the building. The only blue Dodge she saw was on the opposite side as the Uhaul.

“Okay, let me pee and we’ll go from there.” After all, she’d drank that giant coffee…

Jen had finished pumping gas into the Escape and was closing the cap when Sarah came out of the gas station with some woman with shoulder length black hair. As she got closer, she realized that they seemed to be in a hurry and the woman appeared to be pregnant.

“Where’s Ash and Den?” Sarah asked.

“They got a head start in the Uhaul,” Jen answered taking the receipt from the pump. “We’ll catch up. What’s going on?”

“We have to help her,” Sarah said guiding the woman towards the Escape. “Her husband beats her and she’s pregnant.”

“We can call 911 and wait for the cops to show,” Jen offered.

“No, that won’t work. I’ve gone to the police before. They do nothing. I just end up getting punished more,” she said. “Just please take me with you.”

“We’re driving to Michigan,” Jen said.

“That’s fine, I don’t care,” she insisted looking around anxiously. “I just need to get away from here.”

To Jen this was strange. Why would some woman be so willing to go with strangers?

“Ronnie!!!!” A man screamed coming out of the store. “What the hell are you doing?”

“That’s him,” she said trembling. “Please, help me.”

“All right,” Jen said opening the back door. She was glad that Ashley and Dennis had taken Toby with them. Together that practically shoved her in. They were peeling out of the parking lot by the time he reached their pump.

“I don’t know how to thank you,” Ronnie said as stared out the back window at the distance growing between her and her husband.

“Your name is Ronnie?” Sarah asked.

“Veronica,” she replied. “He called me Ronnie. I hate that name.”

“Well, Veronica, I’m Sarah and this is Jen.”

“Wicked Firefly calling Cracked Sheep, come in Cracked Sheep,” Ashley spoke into the walkie talkie.

“Wicked Firefly, this is Dr. Helicopter, go ahead,” Sarah spoke into her walkie talkie.

“Where are you?”

“We ran into a little trouble, but we’re back on 59, coming pretty fast. We should catch up to you in no time,” she said glancing at Jen.

* * * * *

“Wicked Firefly calling Dr. Helicopter.”

“Go ahead, Wicked Firefly.”

“Who is that?” Ashley asked. She could see a third person in the Escape.

“Her name is Veronica,” Sarah replied and proceeded to tell her of the events leading to the extra passenger.

“How far does she want to go?” Ashley asked.

“I don’t think she knows yet,” Sarah replied. “She might go all the way to Michigan with us. Out.” She put down the walkie-talkie and turned around to look at Veronica. “How are you holding up? Are you thirsty? Hungry?”

“Water would be great,” she said shifting in her seat.

“How far along are you?” Jen asked.

“Seven months,” she said taking the bottle of water from Sarah’s outstretched hand.

Jen was relieved to hear that. She didn’t have to worry about her suddenly going into labor. That was not something she wanted to deal with.

They stopped in Texarkana to change drivers. Jen was exhausted from driving and needed to change it up. Sarah introduced Veronica to Dennis, Ashley and Toby. They rearranged the people in the vehicles and started off again.

They spent the night in Buffalo, TN, and got up early the next morning to set out again. After only an hour or so of driving, they stopped to fill the tanks. Sarah and Ashley pumped gas while Jen bought a Dr. Pepper and Dennis used the restroom; Veronica stayed in the truck. When everyone was ready to go again, they gathered around the hood of the Escape to take a look at the map make sure everyone was on the same page. They were so busy talking that they didn’t hear the Uhaul start up until it was driving away.

“What the hell?” Jen said in disbelief.

“She’s stealing the truck!” Ashley yelled. “Toby is in there!”

“Everyone get in!” Sarah yelled as she climbed in the driver seat. She sped out of the parking lot after the Uhaul, squealing her tires.

“So, um, what exactly is the plan?” Dennis asked.

“If you can pull up alongside the Uhaul, I can climb on,” Jen told Sarah.

“Are you insane?” Ashley asked.

“You have a better idea?” Jen asked.

“Um, we could call the police,” Dennis suggested.

“I’m not waiting that long,” Jen said. “Toby is in there. Who knows what that woman is up to.”

“Okay,” Dennis said. “So, that’s the plan… What are you going to do once you’re on the Uhaul?”

“Can I borrow your Glock?” she asked.

“Okay, you are insane,” he said.

“Well, I can’t very well punch her, she’s pregnant,” she said.

“You know Jen,” Sarah said, “always the lady.”

“I’m not going to shoot her,” Jen said. “I’m just going to threaten her with it to make her pull the truck over.”

“Promise?”

“I promise,” Jen said, rolling her eyes. He handed her the gun and she shoved it in the back of her blue jeans.

They were speeding down the highway with the Uhaul in sight. Sarah was burying the speedometer like a race car driver. “Are you ready?” she asked.

“Yea,” Jen said. “You’ll have to pull right up to the cab, there is no where else for me to jump on. And hold it as steady as possible.”

Sarah eased next to the Uhaul as Jen unbuckled and started to climb out the window. “Closer!” Jen yelled. When the side mirror was in reach, Jen grabbed onto it and swung herself on the sidestep of the Uhaul.

Veronica looked at her in surprise and almost crashed into the semi in front of her. Then she started swerving the Uhaul as much as she could without risking losing the trailer.

Jen clung to the side of the truck with her left hand and pulled the Glock out with her right. “Pull the truck over!” she yelled. When Veronica didn’t look at her nor did she slow down, Jen used the gun to tap on the window. This got Veronica’s attention and when she saw the gun her face paled. Slowly, the window began to lower. “Pull the truck over!”

Ashley and Dennis were nervous about Jen going out the window. They suspected Sarah was too, but she didn’t show it. She was set and determined. Sarah manuevered up next to the Uhaul and in the next second Jen was gone.

“Holy shit!” Ashley burst out. It hadn’t seemed real until that moment. After that, there was a weird silence in the Escape as they watched Jen cling to the side of the Uhaul.

“The Uhaul is slowing down,” Dennis said pointing out the window.

Sarah swung the vehicle behind the truck and followed it down the exit ramp. When she pulled to a stop, Jen was pulling the Uhaul door open, gun still pointed at the pregnant lady.
Veronica carefully exited the vehicle and leaned against the truck, arms up, facing Jen. Toby leapt from the open door into Jen’s arms almost causing her to drop the gun.

Ashley jumped from the vehicle and raced to Jen’s side taking the excited dog from her. Sarah exited and casually sidled up to Jen, as Ashley climbed back into the Escape with Toby.

“So, what’s her story?” Sarah asked.

“I don’t know,” Jen said keeping the gun aimed at the woman. “She hasn’t told me yet.” They narrowed their eyes on Veronica and waited.

“What?” she said in a snotty tone that surprised them.

“What the hell is the meaning of this?” Jen demanded. “Why the hell did you steal my truck?”

Veronica didn’t answer, instead her eyes flicked toward the freeway when she heard an automobile exit to the rest stop. A smile slid across her lips when she saw the blue Dodge.

“Jen, we’ve got company,” Dennis said approaching them.

“That would be the ‘husband’,” Sarah said making air quotes.

“Here,” Jen said, handing Dennis his gun. Then she pulled a knife from her pocket and flipped it open.

The blue Dodge passed by them and stopped fifty feet past the Uhaul. The dark haired man previously known as Veronica’s angry husband climbed from behind the wheel and began to approach them. “What the hell is going on?” he demanded pulling a gun from his waistband.

“We’re one up on him,” Sarah whispered. “Three to two, plus we have a knife.” There was a smirk in her eyes and Jen just shook her head smiling. Ever the optimist.

Dennis had his gun pointed at the husband while he pointed his right back. “That’s precisely what we would like to know,” Dennis said. “It seems we’ve been told a story that doesn’t quite ring true.”

“Yea,” Sarah said. “We picked her up in a gas station in Texas and she claimed that you beat her, but now here she was just trying to steal our Uhaul in Tennessee.”

“Really? The way I see it, y’all kidnapped my wife in Texas and now are holding her at gunpoint in Tennessee,” he said.

“Kidnapped, my ass!” Sarah yelled. “She begged us to take her with us.”

“I’m sure we can come to some sort of ‘arrangement’ to keep the authorities out of this,” he said.

“I don’t think so,” Jen said and out of the corner of her eye, she saw Ashley sneaking around the front of the Uhaul. She had a large silver Maglite in her hand. In an instant she was behind the husband and clubbed him in the back of the head. He went down like a sack of potatoes.

“Shit,” she whispered in shock. Jen ran over and kicked his gun away from him. It skidded across the parking lot and stopped somewhere under the Uhaul.

“Sarah, in the back of the Uhaul is a silver case… the one I used at the CSI party,” Jen began. “There is a pair of handcuffs in it. Get them.”

“Right,” Sarah said walking to the back of the truck.

Dennis had turned his attention away from the unconscious husband and was focused on Veronica again.

Sarah returned with the cuffs. “You want Veronica cuffed to the husband?”

“Exactly,” Jen said. “That way she can’t follow us.”

Sarah bent down and placed one half of the bracelet on the husband’s right wrist and closed it tightly—he would not be pulling his wrist out of this. “Okay, I’m ready for her,” she said.

Dennis used the Glock to motion Veronica over to Sarah. Veronica shook her head negatively. “Now,” he said. She didn’t moved.

Jen closed her knife and pocketed it. Then she walked over to Veronica and grabbed her arm. “Sorry, sweetie, but we can’t have you and your crazy husband trying to carjack us again.” She started to pull the pregnant woman towards Sarah when Veronica flipped open a knife and caught Jen under the chin with it. Everyone stood still as Veronica held Jen back, the knife to her throat.

“Back away from my husband,” she demanded of Sarah. Then to Dennis she said, “Drop the gun.”

“No,” Jen mouthed to him. If he dropped his gun, they would lose. Their only advantage was that he had a gun.

Sarah stood and moved away from the unconscious man. “You brought a knife to a gun fight?” she asked Veronica.

“I don’t know what you think is so funny,” she said. “I have the upperhand.”

Jen was searching her brain for a solution to the current problem. What could she do? She didn’t want to hurt this woman’s baby, but she also didn’t want her own throat slit. And that was when she heard Toby barking. Veronica’s attention wandered behind her to the dog just long enough for Jen to sweep her off her feet. The knife scratched her throat, but didn’t cut it as it went flying through the air. Veronica went down with a thud and her shirt floated up revealing a fake pregnant belly.

“You’re not pregnant!” Jen said in disbelief. She could’ve kicked the woman for that, but she held her cool and did not. Instead she grabbed Veronica’s wrist and dragged her to her unconscious husband. She slapped the other half of the cuffs on Veronica’s right wrist and then walked away. She’d like to see them function with both their right wrists handcuffed together. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

“I’ll drive,” Sarah said climbing up into the Uhaul.

“I’ll drive the Escape,” Dennis said holstering his gun. He and Ashley returned to the vehicle and started up.

“Hold up,” Jen said bending down to look under the Uhaul. She located the handgun and picked it up with a napkin. “We don’t need them finding this anytime soon.” Then she dropped the gun into the sewer.

When she buckled into the Uhaul, Sarah said, “Ready to go home?”

“Hell yes.”

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River Yachting

The first trip of the year took place on July 6. The three hour tour consisted of Sarah, Scott, John, Kelly, and me. Sarah and I are old pros at this; it was the debut adventure for the rest of them. We did the usual route, however, this trip was anything but usual. We got off to a slow start–even with all the rain this spring/summer, the water was still low enough in some spots to beach us. And then we ran into something that’s never happened before… one of the rafts popped, deflating completely. Kelly and John had to double up in the big orange raft and I ended up in the big grey raft with all the supplies. And, I pulled a Kevin… I had purchased Bud Light the day before and thinking it was a more economical purchase, I bought talls, instead of regular cans. But I drank them like regular cans. I was cheepingmerry until well after the trip was over and everybody had gone home. On the plus side, the injuries I received from scraping rocks at the bottom of the river were undetected until the next day. So, I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I can’t wait for the next trip and I’m hoping the group will be bigger.

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Hiking in New York


My friend, Dennis, and I went hiking in New York on June 12 and 13. It was awesome. The picture was taken at Robert H Treman State Park. In addition to the 6 mile hike we did there, we also hiked Watkins Glen State Park and Taughannock Falls State Park. We saw lots of waterfalls. The Finger Lakes region of New York is beautiful. On our way to NY, we drove through Niagara Falls, so, of course, we had to stop and see the falls. They were pretty cool. The parking was uber expensive though– $18! But it’s one of those once in a lifetime things that you just do.

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