"I know I'm not really the last hitch-hiker, but it sure feels like it sometimes." Mark Kneeskern
I have been working on this project for about a decade. Seriously. My first hitch-hiking experience EVER was almost ten years ago, here in Terlingua, Texas. That remarkable day, I met the love of my life. No wonder I kept at it. Every year since then I've been taking a month or two in the late Summer or Fall to go on a "Thumbin' Adventure". My little pocket journals are a constant companion as I jot down character details, methodology of the hitch, and random thoughts that occur to me while patiently courting the denizens of our complex highway system. Thus, it has taken ten years to accumulate the material necessary for a full-size non-fiction novel.
I have almost 100,000 words. I've completed most of the illustrations. I'm sculpting my material into something with rhythm and surprise, to match the experience of thumbing it across these amazing states. Next, I'll make PDFs to send to Englehart Printing in Wimberley, TX.
One of my ambitions for this project is to awaken peoples' appreciation of the basic kindness of their fellow citizens. I hear all kinds of stories about how people look the other way when they see someone in desperate need. The experiences I've been writing about demonstrate many instances of good Karma...people who give with no expectation of anything in return but some worthwhile conversation. There is much humor woven into my stories, as I find so much in this world to laugh about. I inherited that quality from my Grandma, Cora. I've also included a realistic dose of the dark side of the road, with its predators and edgy situations. I will, however, make the case that it is no more dangerous for a guy like me to hitch-hike than to take the bus, as there is a chapter on riding "The Dog", which I have so many times in the past.
Each time I arrive at my destination, usually a friend's or relative's home, I write down the story from my trip. After several years, that really adds up to something! Right now I'm hard at work on finishing the illustrations. I'm also including some of my sketch pages and notes-to-self, letting the reader see behind the scenes into the process of making a book.
Here's an exerpt from the book...
10:57am, Rosendale, Missouri. A woman and her autistic son are taking me...somewhere. She's turned onto a rock road. Rising from the dusty gravel is something which thrashes violently. It's a red-tailed hawk, fighting gravity to take flight ahead of us. Twisting in the talons of this giant flapping raptor is a long snake, which the hawk just caught. Amazing. We're in awe, gaping mouths and all. When I saw Susan and her son back at the Shop-n-Hop where I'd been waiting, I gently asked her which way they were going, half expecting them to scatter like quail. I noticed that Susan's companion was different. He just stared at me when I greeted him. She hesitantly agreed to give me a lift, saying with a sly laugh that her son Greg would be watching me from the backseat and would beat me up if I did anything funny. When Susan turned off on a gravel road, I said "You're taking me out here to kill me, aren't you? You're a sneaky one, acting all innocent!" We had a good laugh. She's actually just dropping her son off at home before she goes to her job in Maryville as a substance abuse counselor. Susan also takes online courses through the University of Missouri, studying to get a degree in social work. As she tells the story of her only other experience giving a strange man a ride, it becomes clear that this is not something Susan usually does. The man, old and hunched over, had been carrying a bunch of groceries home in paper bags...during a blizzard in sub-zero temperatures. I feel pretty special right now.
A large portion of funding will go towards the printing of books.I found a printing press in Wimberley, Texas that makes books with the "feel" I'm looking for...warm, textural, and raw. It's important for me to use a printer who creates lasting-quality books. Spending just a bit more money gets you much higher quality. The unique texture and character of each page will add to the whole experience of reading. What's left after printing costs will go into my other expenses, as follows:
Printing for 1000 books ………………………………………………....$5500
(or) Printing for 2000 books ………….……………………….…….…..$8500
Gas to drive to the printer (in Wimberly, TX) to pick up the books…..$300
Risks and challenges
Prime yourself for some road metaphors...I couldn't help myself!
The challenges of this project have been multi-laned and as complex as a five-level stacked interchange. It was risky from the get-go. Just the notion of hitch-hiking was daunting. Even though I've gone over fourteen-thousand miles successfully, it takes a lot of nerve to get out on the road the first day of each trip. Hitching is one of the hardest things I've ever done, as it requires loads of patience, an ability to take almost constant rejection, plus street-smarts and some blind faith. I still get butterflies.
Work ethic has never been a problem for me. I grew up in a family-run restaurant business, 'nuff said! Relentless toil, and an appreciation of the results, transferred easily to my self-employment as an artist. If you don't motivate yourself and keep your butt in gear, you'll never succeed. However, there is a vast difference between this project and my past work: A painting job or illustration assignment usually takes a day or two at most, whereas writing a book requires a daily regimen of steady effort over the course of years. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the enormity of the project. I have wandered in the wrong direction and had to backtrack. I've been left stranded by run-on sentences. Sideswiped by doubt. I've had ideas go flat on me...but it's all been worth the struggle as I near completion of this epic project.
If the project is funded, I expect the book to be printed by early April. As I've said before, the more funds I get, the more books I print. My hope is for the funding to reach $8000, so I can have 2000 books printed...so even after my initial goal is reached, lets Keep it Rolling!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (35 days)