By Laura Mahal
Originally posted June 2019
Summer is the time to explore new places, correct?
If you are like me, children’s sports schedules usually dictate where our family goes on vacation. Though there was the one time that I had a piece accepted by an anthology based in Ireland, and I simply had to go to County Cork. Twist my arm. Twist it again.
Luckily, my daughter’s softball team plays in pretty towns up and down the Front Range, and adventure-filled places such as Rapid City, South Dakota and Cheyenne, Wyoming. (Umm, don’t tell my husband, but last weekend in between softball games, I bought the cutest 1920s Remington typewriter at an antique shop in Cheyenne.)
There was a tournament in Steamboat Springs.
She and I left Fort Collins on a Wednesday afternoon. We opted to stay in a small town called Hayden, about twenty-five minutes east of Steamboat Springs. Our room, one of three total in the hotel, was situated above the restaurant and bar.
I DECIDED THAT THIS WAS THE PERFECT TIME TO DO A LITTLE WRITING RESEARCH.
Writing research? As in the explore the internet or visit the quaint local library?
Circumstances called for meeting the beautiful people of Hayden and getting to know them better. I utilized my expert skills inspired by Diana Gabaldon and ordered some Jameson on the rocks.
The woman on the barstool next to me was also sipping whiskey with water. I happened to mention that it wasn’t often I met a woman who enjoyed a good whiskey. In less than two minutes, she had pulled out her cell phone, showed me photos of her children, and introduced me to everyone in the restaurant.
Within the hour, I had received invitations to attend the circus at the fairgrounds the next night, as well as the best insider information as to where to dine and explore in Steamboat Springs.
IT TOOK ONE LINE OF DIALOGUE TO SEGUE MY WAY INTO THE HEART OF A TOWN.
I learned which high schools had sixty graduates and which had only nine. One woman told me she liked Fort Collins but was scared to get out and do anything when she visited because it was just too big for her.
Perspective. That’s what I gained, for the price of two drams, a shared basket of French fries, and the conversation between total strangers. Plus, I had what was possibly the best spinach salad with a blueberry vinaigrette that I’ve ever tasted.
My daughter and I stopped at a historic dance hall in Wyoming and learned about the art of hay baling from an elderly proprietress over a couple of Heath ice cream bars. She explained how afternoon rains could spoil a whole crop of hay, which the kids would be baling over the next month. I’m tempted to drive back there in July and interview these youngsters regarding their hopes and dreams.
DARE TO EXPLORE THIS SUMMER. YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO FAR.
Step outside your comfort zone for an hour or two and call it research. Who knows what you will discover? A whimsical poem? An edgy flash fiction piece? That bit of tricky dialogue that’s been eluding you? Perhaps even the core idea for your next novel?
And if not, at least you might earn the wonderful reward of a new friend.
There’s an adventure out there with your name on it.
For more ideas of summer adventures, check out:
Three Way Travel Makes You a Better Writer
Where do travel writers find inspiration
Laura writes literary fiction and humor. She is a two-time winner of the Hecla Award for Speculative Fiction from the Colorado Writing School. She has three completed manuscripts, which she occasionally takes out of a drawer and dusts: Racing for Racine is edgy literary fiction. (S)he and WC is an edgy YA historical fantasy. The Kid From the Other Side is edgy literary suspense. (Who says Laura doesn’t have a brand?)