The place was Yellowstone, sometime during the 70s. The image in my mental scrapbook is of a K-5 Chevy Blazer with a camper.
I had arrived at the campground mid-afternoon, been directed to a campsite by the ranger and parked my VW pop-top camper in the assigned space. As daylight faded, a walk around the campground loop was my de rigueur antidote for the road miles to get there, a welcome time to stretch my legs, get the layout of the place, observe others engaging in activities of making camp. These recon walks always provided establishment of place, characterized by sights and sounds; tent pegs being hammered into the ground, subdued conversation within the boundaries of each individual campsite, the scent of woodsmoke from cookfires
The Chevy Blazer stopped me in my tracks. A camper-equipped K-5 was an unusual sight, but this one had the added interest of a large outline graphic of the United States on both sides. Several of the states were filled with color; I reasoned that they represented states already visited. From inside came the unmistakable sound of a typewriter clacking away. The graphic and the typing informed me that the owner was on a long adventure, likely being documented in a series of articles for prearranged publication in newpapers or magazines, or perhaps a book at journey’s end.
I was consumed with envy.
Funding such an undertaking with one’s writing was still rare but not unheard of. As I understood it, the process started with conception of the journey, something not before accomplished or at least not documented, defining the objectives and why it would be of interest, development of the route and the plan, outlining the itinerary and stops to be featured along the proposed route, the pitch to be made to agents or directly to prospective publishers and, if they bit, negotiation of the fees to be paid for the writing. It combined a couple of unrequited daydreams of mine; having writing skills good enough to be deemed publishable, and a sustained, self-contained, long-term journey of some kind. It was also, as far as I knew, the only viable way to fund wanderlust.
Now, shelves are filled with the books that came out of this model; walks the length of California, the length of the Grand Canyon, the length of the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, El Camino de Santiago, road trips along Route 66. Travels with Charley; Stolen Season; Blue Highways, The Curve of Time.
It seems the internet and electronic publishing has changed all that. Yesterday I learned there is a new model, not based upon print publishing, but as a shill for corporate sponsors.
Now if only I was young, ambitious, talented and willing to sell out…