We all get in ruts, right? And what's the best way to get out of a rut? Change your view. Literally.
Recently, I traveled to Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was for work (day job), but while I was there, you better believe I did some Nurse Nate stalking.
"How do you stalk a fictional person?" you might wonder. Oh, please don't underestimate my "crazy." Let me show you how it's done.
First, after a hellacious day of traveling (that will have to be the topic for another blog post... or purged altogether from my memory so I don't suffer from PTSD as a result of the events), I arrived at my destination after midnight to find that my rental car for the week was this:
That's right. It's a Toyota Prius. Just like the one Nate Bingham drives in the Nurse Nate Trilogy. The one pictured above is obviously not the exact one I drove. This was the best picture I could get of it... in the rain... after midnight... in the very dark car rental lot that would be the perfect hangout for rapists... if people in Green Bay weren't too nice for that kind of thing.
I did get some interior shots, though, in the light of day. I needed proof that it had more buttons, bells, whistles, and doohickeys than the Starship Enterprise bridge.
I drive an older car, so this thing was like learning how to drive a spaceship. About halfway through my trip, I discovered a quick-start learning guide in the glove compartment. It would have been super-nice of the rental car agent to tell me that thing existed when she gave me the keys--or what passes for keys in a push-button car--but whatever. I guess she looked at me and thought, "This one's adventurous. She's going to want to fumble her way through learning how to drive that car in an unfamiliar city in the middle of a rainy night. I'd hate to spoil her fun." Actually, she was probably thinking, "I can't believe I had to work late for this frazzled weirdo." So anyway. I eventually made it out of the rental car parking lot with a much better appreciation for Nate's car and his driving skills. And I may or may not have thought the following weird and nerdy things throughout my week of driving the hybrid:
"This is how Nate turns on his wipers."
"I wonder if Nate ever forgets to turn off the car... must write that into next book." (Because I did that one day at work. And through some miracle of technology, the thing still started at the end of the day. Must have gone into hybernation--a.k.a., "idiot," mode. As in, "Oh, this idiot forgot to turn off the car, but she took the key fob with her, so she's not coming back. Shutting down now...")
"I want a Prius like Nate's... er, this one."
"I'm sorry for all the Prius jokes I've told in my books. They may look silly, but they're really fun."
It was sad having to hand in the keyish thingy and go back to driving my regular old car at home.
I also got to swing by Lambeau Field for a visit. Yeah, yeah... I know... Nurse Nate hates football, BUT he does attend a game in Let's Be Real, so it wasn't a betrayal of the Nurse Nate experience. I didn't get to actually see the field (all of the tours were full), but just walking through the atrium and seeing this two-story statue of the Lombardi trophy was amazing.
I also visited the pro shop, where the people who come up with t-shirt designs revolving around the Packers "G" put my creativity to shame. I mean, how many ways can you make it different? A lot. And they're just getting started. Camo, sequins, every color combination known to mankind. And the jewelry... You can get a replica Super Bowl ring. I really wanted to get these, but I couldn't think of an occasion when I'd get a chance to wear them.
Finally, I did my own version of the Lambeau Leap with these delightful bronze fans. They love me.
Other things I saw in person that I'd mostly only read about in my Nurse Nate Trilogy research efforts:
Younkers, which Betty mentions in Book 1: I didn't go in (malls aren't my thing), but it was close to my hotel, so I saw it a few times on my way to and from other places.
Roundabouts: Green Bay loves 'em. We have a couple in Springfield, but not on any of the streets or routes I regularly travel. While I was visiting Packerland, I had to use them every day. Very European.
Cheese curds: I ate some deep fried cheese curds at the Farmer's Market, and they were amazing. Heart attack in a cup, but it would be a delicious way to die.
The Sardine Can: a cool, indoor-outdoor bar in the heart of downtown that features live music acts. It's not quite the same as The Cheesehead, which is a bit... quieter. And less crowded (The Sardine Can ambiance is exactly as its name would suggest: they pack 'em in there). A ton of fun but not conducive to conversation.
Below-boiling temperatures in July: While I was away from Missouri, they experienced a major heat wave with heat indexes up near 110 degrees (Fahrenheit, obviously). This was the temperature on Thursday evening in Green Bay, right before a lovely, gentle summer shower:
The next day, the temperature soared to the upper 80s (91 in some nearby areas), but the humidity was low, so it still felt like the most heavenly summer ever. Summer is supposed to be hot, right?
Upper Midwestern Nice: Apparently, Wisconsin and Nebraska are competing for the "Nicest People in the World" title. I didn't think people could get nicer than the ones I encountered in Nebraska last fall (yeah, I'm becoming quite the mid-American traveler), but I didn't meet a single sour-faced person in Wisconsin. Not even when I cut them off (inadvertently, of course) in my clueless navigation of the roads and highways while trying to figure out how to drive my car (I really was a hazard, and I'm sorry). My co-workers were amazing hosts and tour guides, going above and beyond, never letting me sit alone in my hotel after work, eating fast food and binge-watching Broadchurch.
Even the woman who had to wait for me until after midnight at the car rental desk was chipper and sweet (although I think she was getting back at me in her own way by not warning me about the robot car I was about to drive). Everyone made me feel like a rock star. And I was just not-so-little ol' me, bumbling my way through unfamiliar territory, trying to pretend like I knew what I was doing. They played along fabulously.
And then it was time to come home. I had to gas up the spaceship...
Sidebar: I only used $1.88 in gas those five days, and I was motoring around town, let me tell you. A Toyota dealership's going to be getting a visit from me soon, I think. Maybe I can get a discount if I show them this shameless advertisement of a blog post. I'll conveniently forget to show them the jokes in my Nurse Nate books.
...return the key fob (sob), and make my way through airport security and the exhausting obstacle course that is flight travel in the United States (horrible, horrible, horrible system). I even saw a real rock star, Alice Cooper, in the Green Bay airport. We nodded at each other like rock stars do while the security agents went gaga over handling his carry-on baggage and making him take off his shoes and looking at him in the X-ray machine. Actually, he didn't look at me at all. And I almost missed seeing him altogether, because my nose was buried in my book (The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow, which is wonderful, by the way) while I tried to keep as relaxed as possible before setting off on my stressful journey home. But the airport security staff's inability to play it cool saved me from missing my brush with fame altogether.
And I was happy to be able to say that seeing a celebrity didn't even come close to being the highlight of my visit to Green Bay. I met a lot more interesting, funny, and amazing people than that. And I saw firsthand their turf and that of the imaginary characters I love so much.
Speaking of those characters, it's good to be home, getting back into my normal routine. Only now, I have some fresh perspective and feel as charged as that Prius. Back to work!
Thanks for reading! This post is part of the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. To return there and read more participating posts, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-july-2015