Furlough Tour: Day One

"Raindrops keep falling on my head..."

We make plans, and God kind of snickers at us. The Furlough Tour stumbled right out of the gate, as it was supposed to kick off with an all-day appearance at the Harvest Thyme Festival in Carlyle, Ill.

The skies had other plans, however. I spent two hours chatting in a tent with several other authors as a thunderstorm downpour drenched the festival, a plastic sheet tossed over my books to keep them safe. Finally the organizers threw in the towel, so to speak, and canceled the festival for severe weather. We packed up a full nine hours ahead of schedule without having had any visitors.

Technically that breaks my streak. In ten years as a published fiction author, I have never had an event at which I sold nothing. The closest I came was a Waldenbooks in some mall that apparently had told no one that it would have three or four authors signing that day. We sat for three hours and nobody bought anything. However, two people had called into the store that day and ordered my books from remote, requesting that their books be signed and shipped to them. So technically I sold something, but not to anyone physically present.

Today I sold nothing, so the streak is broken. I could argue the technicality that the festival was canceled, but really, we're just talking about my pride here. I am not foolish enough to think that I will make it all the way through this tour without having one or three Starbucks Stops where no one is there and/or I sell nothing. Frankly, I'd rather resign my winning streak under the deluge from heaven. So be it.

Do I need to tell you that as soon as the festival was canceled, the weather cleared up? You know that. God snickers. I really am quite disappointed to miss the festival, because it looked like it would have been a lot of fun. There were lots of activities set up, vendors and food folk galore, live music all day and a greased-pig-catching contest.

No, really. I saw the piggy. I was all ready to film this, folks. Tell me that wouldn't have been big on YouTube. I swear, I'll accept an invite to next year's festival just so I can film the greased-pig-catching contest.

I suddenly found myself with most of a day free and only an hour or so from home. Jimmy likewise reported that his D&D game had been canceled, and so he drove out to Carlyle to have lunch with me. My friend Mark Kaiser was on his way back from a Friday night gig in Effingham, so he joined us in time for dessert.

Note: The Wheelan BBQ in Carlyle is tasty. The sauce has just enough kick for a spice wuss like me, which means it's probably quite mild to normal humans. The brisket was amazingly tender and flavorful, while the side dishes were nondescript. The only downside was that it's all outdoor seating, so you're fighting the flies at a picnic table to eat. Judging by the crowd, however, the accommodations don't hurt their business.

Dessert was at Covered in Chocolate on Fairfax Street, which was quite a marvel. For one thing, it was even cheaper than Wheelan's. We got a giant freaking slice of cake, a huge cream horn, two sodas and a cup of coffee for seven bucks. And when I say "giant freaking slice of cake"...

It was a glorious fight, but Jimmy defeated the cake.
I am not capable of leaving on a business trip without forgetting something. In this case, it was my jacket. Jimmy helpfully brought it with him, so I would not freeze on the rest of my trip. For the record, I did not say, "Yay, D&D was canceled! Drive an hour each way to bring me the jacket I stupidly forgot, would you?" I said, "I'm sorry D&D was canceled. My thing was canceled too. Wanna have lunch?" And the jacket was a happy bonus. So there.

Boy, by the way, had an attack of Teenager and opted to stay home watching Netflix all day rather than join us for barbecue and oversized desserts. He's gonna regret that when he sees the picture of that cake. Which, by the way, was delicious. I strongly recommend Covered in Chocolate. In addition to normal-if-giant desserts, they had things like "chocolate-covered cookie dough" and "chocolate-covered cinnamon roll." Om nom nom.

We parted ways (again) and I set off for Indianapolis. I deliberately took the scenic route, in part because sitting alone in a hotel room is depressing, and in part because I love off-road American silliness, and in part because I need new photo fodder.

First victim: Carlyle Lake. I can't say much for the camping facilities; both the (closed) federal campgrounds and the primitive campsites at Eldon Hazlet State Park left a lot to be desired. The walk-in sites were next to a giant trench of stagnant water. Hello, skeeters. But the view made up for it.

I wished I could have hung around for sunset, because I bet that would be a wonderful sight. Carlyle is a lovely little town and a gorgeous lake, and it is definitely on our "weekend getaway" list.

I don't know what this crop is, but it made for gorgeous scenery.

See all that rain! The weather people did say rain all day... which should tell us to stop listening to weather people.

Mark Kaiser is an evil man and you can all blame him for telling me about the "Roadside America" app. It led me to the World's Largest Everything, folks. You can rest assured that through most of the tour I will not have nine hours to fritter away on silliness, so you will not have to suffer through eight more days of photos like these.

It's the fun-size Gateway Arch! Located in Vandalia, Ill. and visible from the highway.

This one's for Dad! The World's Largest Golf Tee, in Casey, Ill. Also home to the world's largest knitting needle, crochet hook and wind chimes. I didn't get to see those. As you can see, I was racing the sun.

Sometime around 7:30 p.m., Count Rugen sucked an hour of my life away. Either that, or Mulder's aliens abducted me, because my cell leaped ahead an hour and Falkor's internal clock remained the same. It's possible I simply traveled into another time zone, but isn't there something funny about Indiana and time zones? I can't remember. I suppose it would be helpful to find out before tomorrow's events.

I guess I didn't really need to be in this one. We'll call it proof of life.

To tell you the truth, folks, I'm a little nervous about being back in Indianapolis. The first time I was here was for a journalism conference in 2001. I came back with what I thought was an eye infection, and turned out to be a severe case of corneal degeneration. I had to go through extensive treatments at St. Louis University's Eye Institute and nearly lost my vision. As it was, I got to spend five days learning what it's like to be functionally blind, and it was truly a life-changing experience. (I was about to say "eye-opening experience," but there'll be enough time for puns later this week when I'm really tired.)

The next time I came to Indianapolis was also for a journalism conference, and before it was over I was lying in my hotel room with a fever of 104.5. Massive doses of aspirin knocked it down enough (barely) for me to drive home, where I spent days in bed recovering from what turned out to be swine flu or H1N1 or whatever the hell we're calling it. Hamthrax. It was the sickest I've ever been in my life, and I compounded it by stupidly taking leftover antibiotics in an effort to avoid doctor bills, which damn near killed me.

So... what am I going to bring out of Indianapolis this time? Well, at least I'm not here for a journalism conference....

Missed opportunity of the day: The CANDLES Holocaust Museum of Terre Haute, Ind. commemorates the horrific experiments done on twins in the Nazi concentration camps. Founded by a survivor who took the controversial step of publicly forgiving the Nazis for the horrors they inflicted on her and her family, the museum focuses on preserving first-hand accounts of the Holocaust and conducts a trip to Germany each year for a survivor to educate the travelers on her experiences. Not exactly a laff riot, but definitely something I would have chosen to visit if I had been in the area at the right time.

Thanks: to Jimmy, for driving two hours round-trip on few hours of sleep just to see me one more time and bring me my jacket.

Tomorrow: SoHo Cafe in Indianapolis at noon, followed by the Chocolate Cafe in South Bend, Ind. at 6:30 p.m.! Oof, more chocolate!


  1. Indiana is very weird about time zones.

  2. You also opted to miss the covered bridges of western Indiana.

  3. soy beans.... the crop in the pic was soybeans. They are all over Illinois along with the corn. :)

    I grew up in East Central Illinois - the land of tall corn so I know these things. lol


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