hit tracker Dave Shields Author Blog: August 2005

A journal detailing my efforts to launch my career as a novelist. The goals are to share info about succeeding in this field with other aspiring authors, to provide updates to the many supporters who have asked me for them, and ultimately to build the momentum necessary to assure success in this venture.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

De Ja Vu All Over Again

Sporting News Radio called and scheduled another Saturday morning interview with me during the same time my wife goes to her aerobics. If you've already read my July 2 post, you probably have an idea of where this is going.

Five minutes before the interview all was well. Three minutes before both the three-year-old and the eight-month-old start whining. The eight-year-old says, "Oh no. They're getting ready." Soon everything is in control again, though. Minutes later the call comes in. I step out onto the deck and begin the interview. The questions are complex and have to do with the Lance Armstrong doping allegations. I turn my back on the house to avoid distractions so that I can give good answers.

Right in the middle of answering a tough question I hear a knock on the sliding glass door behind me. I turn around and my eight-year-old is wearing a frantic expression and saying something she clearly believes is urgent. I look around the house for smoke but can't see any. I decide to finish my interview but the only hope is to turn my back on her. I do, and a she starts crying so hard that I assume it was audible over the radio.

I complete the rest of the interview and then hurry into the house to figure out what went wrong. Apparently the eight-year-old, a little overenthusiastic about her temporary position of authority, decided to put the three-year-old in time-out. She shut her into the bathroom and somehow the door got locked. Mayhem ensued. Amazingly, though, the eight-month-old spent the whole time smiling and laughing. I'm sure she figured it was all being done for her entertainment.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Doping Allegations

A story has come out in an unknown newspaper that samples of my urine collected over a decade ago have been shown to contain traces of cranberry juice. I'll admit it right now. I just can't seem to get enough of the stuff. Because I'm uncomfortable with the idea of talking about my urine though, let alone thinking about people studing it years after it may have been produced, I'm going on a campaign of talking about Lance Armstrong's urine instead. It's really a facinating subject. Take a look here.

It's little wonder that this is all happening. I mean, how bitter would you be if you went to school for years and years only to land a job where your life revolved around the study of urine?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Refreshing Swim

I'm hard at work on the new book and thrilled about today's Salt Lake Tribune article, but I want to jot down one of my France experiences before I forget to.

On the only night that I camped far from my car I was awakened at 2:30 a.m. by loud thunder. I hadn't installed the rain fly on my tent. I was so tired that I decided I'd just try to go back to sleep and hope the storm passed quickly. It didn't. Bright flashes were followed, often within one or two seconds, by earsplitting crashes of thunder. My face was being sprayed by a constant mist from the water coming through the nylon taffeta walls. At 3:30 a.m. I decided that I might as well pack everything into my car and drive to my first scheduled destination for the next day because sleeping was out of the question. The storm was only gaining strenght. I still had 75 K to go and now was as good a time as any to do it.

I reached for my shirt which was with my other things near my feet, just off to the side of my air mattress. I was surprised to discover that it was soaked. I accidentally left my flashlight at home and had decided not to buy one in France because the prices were outrageous, so I felt around a bit more in the dark. The water at that end of the tent was six inches deep. A subsequent lightning strike gave me a brief visual of how bad things were. My shoes were floating around like two little boats. That's when I remembered that the floor and bottom six inches of my tent are made of impervious Polyethylene. I was on a slope with my head high. The tent was essentially filled to the brim. Sheesh. This storm was worse than I'd thought.

It brought a smile to my face when I put my feet into dry shoes. It was just the sort of minor victory that I needed at that particular moment. (Note to self: Bouyant shoes = nifty camping idea.)

I gathered up as much of my stuff as I could and headed out into the night. Still disoriented, I took two steps and landed in a puddle that came halfway up my calf. So much for the dry shoe victory. After some recognisance I figured out that the only way back to my car was through what had become a lake. I waded to the other shore, climbed a staircase, and reached my car.

I was camped at a rest stop on the Autoroute. I put all of the soaking wet stuff on the roof and hood of the car and drove slowly to the gas pumps which had an illuminated canopy over them. There were already a number of people there waiting out the weather, but I was the only one who had come up with the idea of covering my car with clothing and supplies so I got lots of stares. I got even more when I climbed out of the driver's seat wearing nothing but a pair of soaking wet boxers.

A sight like that might get you a ticket in America. In France it earns you a brief glance followed by a disinterested shrug. These people have already seen it all on the beaches. If you don't have some sort of implant they aren't impressed.

I opened the hatchback, toweled off with a t-shirt, and got dressed. Then I wrung my soaked belongings out as best I could. There was nowhere to dry things except on the backs of the seats. I hope my rental car company isn't reading this. They are probably currently rethinking their unlimited mileage policy while vaccuming baguette crumbs out of every little crevase in that Citrone. At least the rainstorm had cleaned the chunks of sod that got thrown all over the vehicle by the spinning wheels when I got stuck in wet grass. (Except for the few that somehow landed inside the car. I swear that some of that magic mud broke the laws of physics. I should have thought to bring a sample home for study.)

Once I had everything in reasonable condition I got back in the car and returned to retrieve my tent. I knew about the wading I was going to have to do, so I went barefoot this time. I reached my camp spot and started taking things down, but the tent was too heavy to budge. It's a really cool model with the springbars built in. I can always set up in less than thirty seconds and take down in a minute and a half or so. That is, when it's not doubling as a wading pool.

Eventually I rolled it onto its side and got the water drained out. Then I collapsed it, but not in record time. Back at the car, I shook my little bedroom out and stowed it in its usual spot. Then I got behind the wheel of my trusty steed and headed down the road. Windshield wipers beating an accompanyment to a very groovy French rock station, I arrived at my destination to start the next day's research. It was still very early so reclined my seat. I didn't have another coherent thought for at least an hour and a half. It's a night I'll never forget, though I'm not sure I can completely remember it, either. Just another day in a very unusual and eventful trip to France.

Hopefully I'll find time to share a couple of other stories over the next few weeks.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Home at Last!

I've been on the road for three weeks. While it was an incredible adventure, it's great to be back. The first two weeks were taking advantage of Tour de France related media opportunities in New York City. The last eight days were spent in France completing research for my new novel, The Tour. To say that things went fantastic is an understatement. I've already written several drafts of the novel and needed to find locations that would be suitable for certain scenes. In nearly every case, the places I found turned out to be better than my wildest expectations, and I'm certain that the book took a giant leap in the right direction.

It was a very unique experience, though, as my brother-in-law, who speaks fluent French, was unable to travel with me at the last moment. I brushed up on some basics of the language, but basics don't go too far when you need to have a real conversation. I could often ask for what I wanted (or at least, I thought I knew what I was asking), but could seldom decode the answer. My inability to communicate plus the tight schedule I was under to visit all of the necessary locations resulted in near total isolation.

On a typical day I'd be on the road by 7 a.m. I'd visit a bakery in a small town and buy a pastry for breakfast and a baguette for lunch. Then I'd try to find other groceries like fruit and water or juice. I covered over 300 miles a day (much of them on winding switchbacks and multiple trips through confusing round-abouts), and one day I exceeded 700 miles. The road system is complex and I took more than a few wrong turns, even though I worked hard to map things out in advance. I took lots of photos and pulled over frequently to jot notes about what I was seeing. The sites were incredible. France is a breathtaking country in every respect. When the sun went down I'd buy dinner, then eat it in the car while I drove to look for a camping spot near the place I needed to start the next day's journey. My tent was never set up before 9 p.m. and typically not before midnight. So, while it was a wonderful experience, it was far from relaxing and not at all the sort of trip to France that the average person in their right mind would take. On the entire journey I ate at a sit down restaurant a total of one time (and what a great meal it was).

I've got a huge pile of backloged work, and I particurlarly need to get the final drafts of the new book completed, but I'm energized by the experience and can't wait to get everything down on paper. I'll do my best to keep this blog updated now that I have reliable computer access.