My whirlwind research trip was a success. At least I think so, we'll see how much I actually end up changing in my manuscript. Mostly, it was pretty cool to spend two days driving around the countryside of upstate New York and Vermont at the time of peak fall colors.
I rented a little Toyota Yaris that zipped up the mountains pretty well and got great gas mileage (35 mpg or more), which meant it was almost cheaper to rent this car than to have paid for the gas if I'd driven our minivan.
I made stops in Schenectady, Schroon Lake, Ticonderoga, and Saranac Lake on the first day. Then went back home, through Ticonderoga again and Middlebury, Vermont. My little micro-cassette tape recorder was the perfect tool while driving--I recorded about 50 minutes of notes in the car and while walking around (trying not too look too weird, muttering into a little recorder). At stops, I'd also take written notes on various locations and towns, and also took a fair amount of video notes. I drove about 750 miles over the two days.
I definitely came across a few times where what I'd written in the draft of my book was completely wrong and will need to be changed. So that made the whole trip worthwhile right there. Plus, I found myself extremely focused on the story of the novel during the drive, and it's not often that I get to spend a good 15-20 hours in a row thinking about it.
Staying with my high school friends Ray and Patty was a high point of the trip. And I found folks along the way helpful, once I explained what I was doing--a woman at a hospital in Ticonderoga let me look in at the CT scanner, a clerk at a tiny little motel let me video tape an empty hotel room. Cops answered questions about how they'd respond to a missing person request. Though in the post-9-11 world, some people are a little weirded out by strangers. The clerk at a Super 8 motel wouldn't tape the inside of their lobby--I guess I could be a domestic terrorist or something.
On the way home, I stopped at this amazing tavern (see above) in Brandon, VT, the Watershed Tavern. It has nothing at all to do with my book, but the view out the windows of this waterfall was stunning. And the food was good, too.
As always, I'm grateful that writing books gives me an excuse for an occasional road trip where I get to poke around the countryside and visit old friends and meet new people. (Sure would be nice if this book goes on to sell a huge number of copies, so I can keep taking more jaunts.)