I undertook this ride - on a borrowed bike, in thoroughly unsuitable clothing, in a fierce September heat-wave - because I felt that driving around the Great Plains in a rental car was never going to give me an authentic feel for the landscape as the pioneers felt it. You may ask, why did I want to find out about that? And all I can say is, I just did. I never trusted the Hollywood version of the West, and I still don't. I like authenticity. (I've just seen The Homesman and was de-railed very early on by the sight of this wagon plodding eastward with the sun shining down on the driver's LEFT shoulder. Wouldn't bother most people, I dare say, but it had me spitting feathers. Throw in the wide landscapes covered in short, short grass (yep, it was filmed in New Mexico) and bang went any credibility as far as this viewer was concerned.)
But back to my foolhardy venture on that bicycle. What with the tent strapped on the back, the airbed, an occasional night in a motel, and plenty of family-run diners along the way, I was far more comfortable than those wagon-borne overlanders ever were, but I was scalded by the sun, chased by dogs, and had my path blocked by a dust-storm - from which I was rescued by a cowboy in a pick-up truck.
As to the title, 'There Used To Be A Guy... But He Died', that was a gift - if not from heaven, then from the horse's mouth. I asked an old geezer outside a barber shop where I could get my front wheel bearing fixed. As I wiped the sweat from my eyebrows and jotted down his reply, I knew I'd got myself a little gem.
This is part of what will be my spring publishing drive. Alongside the many, many books I've been writing for other people (and for money) over the past twenty-two years - close to two dozen now, and twelve over the past seven years - I have been nursing along a few of my own projects. This is one; among the others is my first completed novel, Distant Kin, which I should be putting out over the next few weeks.
Before I go and eat my dinner, I can't resist sharing this photo, taking for the Falls City Journal, almost 22 years ago. I'd arrived in town after pedalling 71 miles from Auburn, via Rulo. I'd just showered and collapsed onto my bed when the reporter knocked at my door. He was a lovely fellow called Bill Schock. He was quite a character, with quite a history, and the city has recently named a highway after him. (http://bit.ly/1Rw4MwB)
|Unable to raise much of a smile after 71 miles in 90 degrees|