By Ann Parker
“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.” ― Colette
Since April is the month Thonie has asked us to confess those times when we might have lost our minds and all good sense, I had to think hard and go back a ways in time and space.
There was that summer, decades ago, when I rather blithely (and, yes, foolishly) stuck out my thumb and hitchhiked (! solo !) in patched jeans, embroidered workshirt, and “Janis Joplin” style wire-rim glasses through parts of Wyoming. (Truckin’ by The Grateful Dead sums up the gestalt of those long-ago days.) Let’s just say that, since I’m writing about it now, all’s well that ends well… but it could just as easily have all gone sideways on me and very badly at that.
More recently, while conducting research for my Silver Rush historical mystery series, I foolishly ended up in a “tight spot” on a deserted road in Leadville, Colorado. “The Boulevard” appears in early Leadville articles and descriptions—in fact, it’s mentioned several times in an 1880 Daily Chronicle article, quoted here, about Ulysses S. Grant’s visit to town. (You can also find a great photo of The Boulevard by William Henry Jackson on my Pinterest site, here.) However, by the time I went looking for it in 2005 or so, it seemed to have fallen off the map. Honestly, how could a wide, macadam road described as “so smooth that it had nary a straw to impede the wheels of a carriage” disappear so completely? Finally, in an early-version Google Maps satellite image, I spotted the faintest track heading out of town in the right direction through a wooded area.
Determined to set foot—if not wheels—upon The Boulevard, I printed out the grainy blown-up image and drove my little gutless rental car through a church parking lot at the edge of town, looking for a trace. And, by gosh! There it was! A barely visible dirt road.
Or was it a hiking trail?
I hesitated a moment, warnings and legal admonitions from the rental car agreement flashing through my mind. No unpaved roads. Assume all liability. Etc. Etc.
I put the car into gear, eased off the clutch, and pushed on.
I drove that poor little car, shuddering and grinding, down the rubble-strewn more-a-track-than-a-road for maybe a quarter of a mile. The rocks littering the “boulevard” got larger. I slowly negotiated a sweeping curve and, dead ahead, there it was: a huge boulder. Blocking the… well, it was no longer a thoroughfare but more like a path.
That was the end of the road for my yellow rental economy sedan. And there was, alas, no room for turning around. So, I shifted into reverse and backed up the curve and around all the rocks and rubble. I held my breath the entire time until I had completed my retreat to the parking lot.
Since then, I’ve kept my foolishness limited to impulse buys (! for research !) on eBay. Which is how I’ve managed to amass a modest collection of Victorian trade cards from 1880s for my most recent book in the series, A DYING NOTE. Imprudent, perhaps, but much safer than off-roading or hitchhiking, since the only victim is my wallet.
Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press. The newest, A DYING NOTE, brings her protagonist Inez Stannert to Victorian San Francisco, California. During the day, Ann wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer and marketing communications specialist (which is basically a fancy term for “editor/writer”). Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit annparker.net for more information. You can also find Ann on Facebook, Twitter, and muddling around on her Pinterest boards.
A DYING NOTE is available in paper and e-book—find buy options here