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Tour Life: Kaleidoscope Lifestyle

Location: Harrisburg, PA

Miles: 1342

Morale: Pretty Good

Munchies: Sugar Coated Pony Kisses IPA from Stable 12 Brewing (and a grilled chicken chopped salad)

I'm having trouble remembering what city I'm in when I wake up in the morning, or even what time zone. It takes a second, and I blink and look around the motel room and try and piece together where on this tour I've ended up.

It's a little surreal, but I also kind of don't want it to end. And the beauty of this #ProjectNomad thing is that...maybe it won't end?

I mean, for a while, anyway. This whole kick in the teeth has been just what I needed to get back into permanent adventure mode, which was always my ideal lifestyle when I was a teenager thinking about how I'd spend my adult years.

So here we are! I have adventure planned until the end of the month, and then I have a new adventure planned until the end of September, and then I have a few book events plotted out beyond that, but otherwise, no real clue of what comes next.

It's not perfect. I spend a lot of time in the truck alone with my thoughts and the dog and lonesome country music, and sometimes I think about my former partner and I miss her and it hurts like a stab wound to think about the life we had last year and how happy I'd been believing we could live that life forever.

Sometimes I can't see how I'll get back to that level of comfort and familiarity with anyone else and it hurts and I miss that, but I suppose time will tell, and in the meantime the benefits of this life are manifold.

Yesterday, for instance.

I woke up early but well-rested in Gaithersburg, MD, eager to get on the road again. I didn't have a long drive, only a couple of hours up to Harrisburg, but I wanted to use the day to visit some famous train-watching spots in the area before heading to Pennsylvania.

Gaithersburg is on the CSX Corp's line to Washington DC, and in fact my hotel room looked out onto the tracks. So did the bar at which we'd read the night before, and Lucy and I drove back into Gaithersburg's quaint downtown just in time to catch an eastbound train rolling past the station and its displays of old railroad equipment.

It was already hot out, and getting hotter and muggier, so we blasted the A/C and pointed the truck out of town, back into the rolling hills and well-tended farmland on our way east along the Potomac to Point of Rocks, Maryland.

Point of Rocks is famous for a beautiful old train station, and on this day it was positively lousy with foamers, mostly younger guys scurrying around the tracks and the station house or clustered in lawn chairs in the shade.

Lucy and I kept our distance; we found a father and a little girl who'd also stopped by to wait for trains, and the little girl was obviously fascinated with Lucy, so we chatted with them for a bit.

Eventually, a train came, and I shot it, and then we set out to our next destination, the town of Brunswick, and then onward again.

We dipped our toes into Virginia and West Virginia at the historic town of Harper's Ferry, where the Shenandoah River meets the Potomac, but we didn't really have time to stop and look around, so we idled the truck through the old townsite and then kept moving.

From there we drove back into Maryland and headed north to the Pennsylvania line. I was just amazed at the history in this part of the country; we passed near Civil War battlefields at Antietam and Gettysburg, and plenty of monuments to Washington and other giants of the American past. Very cool.

By mid afternoon, we'd made it to Harrisburg and what may be my new favourite motel chain, the Red Roof Inn. They're clean and comfortable and extremely dog friendly, and the WiFi works pretty well, too.

Plus this particular motel was in a commercial park surrounded by a lot of empty lawns for Lucy to run and sniff and explore, and it did my heart good to see her trotting about happily after so many days in the truck.

The evening's event was another Noir at the Bar, this one organized by the illustrious Erik Arneson, who'd worked pretty hard to set up the evening when he'd heard I'd be in the area.

Erik's another train fan, and a pretty darn good writer to boot. He'd found us a room at a downtown speakeasy and stocked the night's lineup with ringers, including my good friend Jon McGoran, who doesn't like trains and is only a mediocre writer but has a wonderful sense of humour.

(And his books are actually fantastic; check out the Doyle Carrick series.)

One of these days I'm going to do a post on the secrets I've learned to giving a successful reading, but until that day, I refer you to Robb Cadigan, who crushed a passage from his sequel-in-progress to his debut, PHOENIXVILLE RISING.

Robb's reading was punchy and engaging. He chose an interesting, self-contained segment of the book that didn't need any introduction and immediately grabbed me as a listener.

And he nailed the performative element; so many authors get up onstage and read in a monotone, but the successful readers recognize it's an act that requires, well, acting. Robb looked up from the paper, made eye contact with his audience.

He spoke in an engaging, conversational way that at once knocked me off guard and drew me right in. I was mesmerized, as I was with Merry Jones' and Gabriella Gill's readings that followed.

I think I did pretty well myself, and McGoran knocked his out of the park, but none of us held a candle to what our host had in store for the finale.

Erik pitched his reading as a love song after a night of stories about death and dismemberment. He enlisted two talented musicians, John Austin and Nathan Froehlich, to accompany him.

I won't spoil the "love song" but suffice it to say what happened next should live on in the annals of Noir At The Bar's most memorable moments.

The man had us in tears.

And also hooting with uncontrollable laughter.

It was an epic closer, and I wish you'd been there.

Also, a great way to close off my string of four events in four cities in four nights. I'm on the road today, but my next event isn't until Tuesday evening in Ann Arbor, when I'm in conversation with my buddy Nick Petrie at the Ann Arbor Public Library.

In the meantime, I'm off to go shoot some trains. See you down the road.

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