I had the happiest possible stay in Sheridan, Wyoming, talking to terrific kids at three different schools, writing in the Java Moon Cafe, writing in the Cowboy Cafe, writing in the public library, walking along Goose Creek, and making new friends who are dear to me after just a few days, or even hours, together.
My travel plans had to change, so I ended up renting a car to drive home from Sheridan rather than returning by private plane. I started driving yesterday after my final assembly of the day, with a plan to spend the night in Casper and then drive the rest of the way home the next day. I am usually the world's pokiest, most timid driver, but it was so easy to sail along the deserted highway at well over the 80 mph posted speed limit. I felt like Mr. Toad, heading out on the open road in my gleaming new motor car.
When I arrived at Casper at dusk, I wasn't sure where to stay, where to eat, what to do. But as I turned off I-25 onto Central Street, what should I spy but a most inviting "clean, well lighted place": the Wind City Bookstore. It was open until 6. A parking space with no meter was right there in front of it. And so I went in.
Ten minutes later the co-owner, Vicki Burger, had called ahead to Glen Rock to see if there was a room for me in her favorite hotel (there wasn't, and she sounded as disappointed as I was); she had also given me a couple of restaurant recommendations. When I shyly pointed out to her that, although the store most commendably had not one but two copies of my friend Jeannie Mobley's fabulous book Katerina's Wish, they had none of mine, she ordered Kelsey Green, Reading Queen on the spot.
I asked her for a book recommendation, since how could I not buy something from the world's most helpful bookstore lady? "What kind of book do you like?" she said. "I like books about middle-aged women following their dreams,"I replied. She led me to a memoir, Altitude Adjustment: A Quest for Love, Home, and Meaning in the Tetons by Mary Beth Baptiste. It's sitting beside me on my desk right now.
So if you are ever adrift in an unfamiliar city, hope they have an independent bookstore, and set out to find it. Right away you'll be home.
Oh, and buy a book while you're there, too.