Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A New Adventure

Six days before Christmas, 1968, my mother, Isabel Shea Ryan, died in her hospital room. It was due to complications from third degree burns that came from smoking in her hospital bed, which caught fire. I was eight at the time and I don’t remember much about her. Truthfully, I don’t recall much about my childhood at all. But one thing that I do remember was something my father did in the summer of 1969.  It was about as courageous as anything a widowed father of nine could possibly do.
In August, he piled the seven youngest of his children (John and Joanne were already out of the house by then) into a station wagon, bought a tent trailer and we took a month to discover America. We didn’t go everywhere, but it sure seemed that way.

There were stops at the Grand Canyon and the Redwood Forest, Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore. Of course we did Disney and Sea World, too, while out in California. I remember some of the trip, but more than anything I remember the utter grandeur of the experience and the views and, most of all, I think of Jack Ryan’s courage.
I have often thought of taking a similar trek on the fiftieth anniversary of the “Big Trip.” I think most of my brothers and sisters who experienced it have given some thought to re-living it on their own.
However, now that Atticus is thirteen, pretty healthy, still sharp, but also a too old for the intensity of our past mountain explorations, I think we’ve both grown restless waiting for a new journey to share. Therefore, I have decided that once Will’s Red Coat is nearly completely done and in the hands of our publisher, but not quite ready to make it to the stores, Atticus and I are going to set out next spring on a two month quest to see as much of our country as we can while he can still enjoy it.
There are many details to be ironed out.  There are no definite plans of where we are headed, although you could say we’ll be chasing the colors of spring.  We’ll follow the coast down to Key West, then the Gulf Coast until Louisiana and then after that, who knows? The bulk of our exploration will take place west of the Rockies and once there we will where the wind takes us. We’ll avoid major cities, and concentrate on National Forests more than National Parks since Atticus will be allowed more freedom in the former. There are many particulars to figure out – and that is part of the fun of it all, but the one certainty is that we are going and I imagine it will be an expedition of a lifetime. I know we'll be flooded with suggestions but we mostly are going to wing it.  That's part of the fun of it all. I find my daydreams taking us to magnificent open country, along twenty thousand miles of road, to mountains and rivers and mesas and coastline, and perhaps some wildlife too.

I’ll be taking photos every day and keeping everyone up-to-date on Facebook, Twitter, and our blog. Other than meeting up with a few friends during the trip, we’ll be off on our own doing what we do best. I expect there will places in the backcountry we’ll love so much we may stay for a few days.  It will be a life without a schedule, built around wanderlust and nature.
Soon after coming home the finishing touches to Will’s Red Coat will be taking place and we expect it to be out soon after, in the autumn of 2016. While we won’t be doing book appearances during our two months of living like gypsies, we will most likely be on a tour for the book after that, depending on what our publisher sets up for us.
We hope you’ll enjoy reading about our experiences as they come our way as we head south, west, north, and finally east.
Throughout it all, I’ll be thinking of dear old Jack and what he did for our family back in the summer of 1969 when he took grieving hearts and introduced them to wonder.

You’ll have to excuse me now as I go back to studying the Road Atlas to figure out the best way to catch every western state.