Long Bike Rides
Thanks for having me, Amber! I’m thrilled to be here, to talk about my holiday story “Toy Run” and give away some goodies. The Rafflecopter is loaded with five prizes, and all are International (as long as you live somewhere the US Postal Service goes—and that’s almost everywhere).
Early drafts of “Toy Run” had Ian riding all night—500 miles from Grass Valley, California to Northwest Oregon. My editor suggested that didn’t seem practical, and I agreed and changed it so his ride was about half that. Still at night—but only a little over four hours instead of the nine-hour trip I’d given him to begin with. I wasn’t sure the average reader could suspend disbelief enough to go with me on that point.
The funny part is, it’s not really a stretch—even in winter weather. Ian is a man who grew up on bikes and a 500 mile trip isn’t a big deal. For a nice chunk of my life, it wasn’t a big deal to me either. I’ve known men like Ian; I’ve packed behind men like Ian. Once I rode North on Highway 80 when it was lined with snow banks taller than our heads. I’ve easily ridden 400 miles in a day just for fun, and the stakes are much higher for Ian. He’s not looking for fun or even comfort (because it’s true—even on the smoothest ride, after you pass the 200-mile mark you’ll feel it; I did in my misspent youth and Ian’s 35).
Ian’s been searching his whole life for someone to love, and for three years he’s been doing it completely alone. For someone like Ian “I’ll ride anywhere to find him” isn’t figurative—it’s all too literal.
But stories aren’t like life. Stories have to make sense. So Ian’s only riding four hours in the dark and the cold and the fog—to a little truck stop diner I plunked down in northwest Oregon to hold the stool where he finds the man with the dark eyes that warm his heart. I hope his story warms yours too.
What’s the craziest thing you ever did just for fun? Leave it in a comment, and don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter!
While you’re thinking about it, here’s a bit from the story. (You can read the opening here.)
Former physical therapist and reluctant loner Ian Bowen has spent the three years since his grandfather’s death searching for a man to inspire him to park his Harley for a while—without much hope of finding him. On a whim, he shows up for a Toy Run and meets Ed Gonzalez, another loner with a pile of toys lashed to his bike. A few beers at the end-of-the-run party turn into an invite to Ed’s for homebrew. But instead of a night of fun, the unseasonable cold renders Ed immobile with pain. When he tells Ian he just needs meds, Ian does one of the things he does best—he massages Ed’s pain away, allowing him a rare restful night’s sleep and creating intimacy neither wants to lose. Ian thinks two men have to follow certain rules to be together, but Ed’s prepared to show him how wrong he is.
THE RUN went longer than those things usually do. Went to a couple in San Francisco and from the staging area to cruising past the hospital to wave at the kids only took about three hours, give or take. Thirty miles of pavement was all there was to it.
They do things differently in Oregon. We loaded the toys onto two school buses and followed the one going to the hospital. The rest of the toys headed in the other direction to be wrapped and delivered to the kids of deployed soldiers.
Once we passed the hospital, the route felt more like a Poker Run—roughly two hundred miles through four counties. The scenery changed from woods to farmland and back again, the ice glittering in shady patches alongside the road the only constant. As a group we rode straight through. Every time we passed a gas station or one of those little stores or taverns scattered alongside the rural highways, a few bikes peeled away from the group. I imagine they caught up later, but it’s impossible to know for sure since they were all strangers to me. I stopped once for gas, and even though the colors and smells were all wrong, the feel of the place made me a little homesick.
SPENDING THE afternoon in the sticks made the hotel bar seem shinier than it was.
I grabbed a stool at the end of the bar where I could almost put my back against a wall, and sat nursing a longneck. The hotel was full but I wasn’t in any hurry to get back on the road. It’d been cold enough during the day, but the nights up here made me shiver at a full stop.
He was on his third beer before he came over but I caught him looking a few times. He wasn’t the only one—it’s hard to miss a tall redheaded stranger, even after a few beers. Ed was the only one I looked back at.
“Ian Bowen,” he said as he slipped up to the bar next to me.
Most of the crowd regrouped on the other side of the room once the music started, but the stools all stayed full.
We clinked the bottom rims of our bottles together, and his eyes darted away to scan the men nearby.
“Nice ride,” he said.
“That it was.”
Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!
Buy “Toy Run”
Dreamspinner Press: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4500
Where and When:
Nov. 29: Tempeste O’Riley
Dec. 1: Grace R. Duncan
Dec. 8: Jana Denardo
Dec. 10: Kim Fielding
Dec. 11: Amber Kell
Dec. 16: Anne Barwell
Dec. 18: Skylar Cates
Charley Descoteaux has always heard voices. She was relieved to learn they were fictional characters, and started writing when they insisted daydreaming just wasn’t good enough. In exchange, they’ve agreed to let her sleep once in a while. Charley grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during a drought, and found her true home in the soggy Pacific Northwest. She has survived droughts, earthquakes, floods, and over a decade living in an area affectionately known (in her strange little world) as Portland’s middle finger, but couldn’t make it through one day without stories.
Rattle Charley’s cages—she’d love to hear from you!