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.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Dream Reconfigured

Last winter, before Atticus and I both became ill, I had planned one last grand adventure for us. Because Atticus couldn’t hike very far, I was determined to let him see some of the astounding natural phenomena across the country. If we couldn’t walk to such sights in our beloved White Mountains any longer, we would set out by car and drive to see them. 

The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Devil’s Tower, White Sands, and an almanac of other such places.

The trip was to be completely selfish. Two friends doing something plucked from dreams on last time. We’d head down the East Coast, down to Key West and then along the Gulf Coast. The idea of seeing all that glistening blue-green water after a long White Mountain winter excited me. But the portion of the trip I was looking forward to the most started at Big Bend National Park in Texas. That was to be our gateway to where I most wanted to be - the West. New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas. On the way home, we'd hit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

Sprinkled throughout the approximate 20,000 miles, and two months on the road, the plan was to stop in on half a dozen friends and my brother John and his wife Yvette in Minnesota. But mostly it was going to be just about us. Lots of solitude to mix with those incredible landscapes. A time to become anonymous and get lost in our friendship again. 

Alas, we both became sick. I almost died. Twelve days after I returned home from a five-week stay in the hospital, Atticus did die. He lay in my arms under a gentle rain at the foot of some pine trees. 

As fate would have it, another four-legged friend came into my life. It was much sooner than I expected. Within three weeks six-month-old Samwise Atticus Passaconaway came to Jackson. 

That first night, it was overwhelming. So much change. 

But that first night gave birth to a more optimistic first day. In the light, we set out in the car. I wanted Samwise to see the mountains that would become part of his life. There was a stop in Woodstock to visit with Ken and Ann Stampfer, and in Lincoln to visit Steve Smith at the Mountain Wanderer. It was a good day. It led to another. And another. During those first times together, Samwise showed how tied to me he was and when we went to the forest, off came his leash. Freely he cavorted with me along the trails, staying close but drinking in the wonder. 

I knew from those first few times off-leash that he would be a good partner. He was smarter than any puppy I’d ever met, and it was important to him that we stick together. That’s when it hit me. 

The trip was back on. We’d deliver some of Atticus’s ashes to the Pacific Ocean he never had the chance to see. One of Samwise and my first chapter's would take the place of what I was planning for perhaps the last chapter in the story of Atticus and me. 

We were going to go in December, returning home in February, before the release of “Will’s Red Coat” in March. But that meant leaving out a lot of the states I was excited to visit. We would drive to the west coast, as I had originally planned, head as far north as Oregon, and then reverse our route. 

But recently, when talking to Cassie Jones, my editor at William Morrow, and Brian DeFiore, my agent, I let them know we’d postpone the trip until after the book tour for “Will’s Red Coat.” So on my fifty-six birthday, April 21st, the fates willing, Samwise and I will start our trip at Jack and Isabel Ryan’s graves in my hometown of Medway, Massachusetts. Then it’s down along the vast waters of the Atlantic. The rest of the trip will mirror the original plans, except for two additions. We’ll drive through the place where Atticus was born, and where Samwise was born. 

Actually, there may be more than those two additions. I talked to Cassie and told her we’d be open to having our publicity team at William Morrow set up a handful of stops for us along the way if some bookstores wanted us to come in for an event.

We will still be basing our trip on a select few objectives: hitting national forests more than national parks, because dogs are more welcomed at national forests; stopping by various Whole Food Markets to ensure I can eat vegan during those two months no the road; and most importantly, making time for quietude and breathtaking beauty as whim moves us. 

I look forward to sharing this trip with you all from our blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account. And who knows, if some book events are set up along the way, perhaps we’ll even meet some of you. 

Onward, by all means.  

39 comments:

Kay Distefano said...

This fills me with joy!

Mary Ann said...

Sounds wonderful.

Di Stone said...

Onward, by all means! We here on the left coast are most ready for you!!

Wendy Willis said...

So very happy for you and Samwise. Your trip planning already inspired me and my husband to plan a dream roadtrip of our own for September 2017 of several western national parks. We enjoy sharing your journey and now look forward to more new experiences!

Pamela Bingham-Hall said...

I'm so excited for you and Samwise!

colodreamer said...


I am excited to hear your trip is scheduled again...it will be a wonderful experience for both of you...I cannot wait to see your pics and words about the trip

Robin Fowler said...

Yes! Georgia is beautiful in the spring! Please have a book stop in Atlanta!

Jeanne said...

That's wonderful! So glad you are feeling well enough to make the trip! Can't wait to read of your travels!

Diana Crowley said...

Tom if yo get to Idaho I would be glad to show you our state. or some of it. We live in the Noise area and we have Whole Foods and Barnes And Noble. So you have and Samwise have an invitation!!!

Putman Lake Designs said...

Hope that you visit a bookstore somewhere near me!!

Gina said...

Katherine Beach said...

I am so happy and excited for you and Samwise! Will be excited to see the pictures and read your wonderful writings.

Duinrandir said...

Oh! We have a Whole Foods right near us here in Alexandria. We have several independent bookstores. We have a guest room off to itself. We have an adopted mother/son tag team who would be thrilled to meet Samwise (and you as well, of course). How wonderful it would be to meet you! Cynthia

J Arkell said...

If only we could convince Samwise and yourself to visit Canada! I'm awaiting the release of Will's Red Coat anxiously and would be so honoured to meet its author. I know you and Samwise will create some wonderful memories on the trip. :)

Trish Dinsmore said...

I'm so happy to read this Tom. What a fantastic adventure you two will have.
So looking forward to the blog and the new book. It would be great to meet you both at a book signing..unfortunately I don't think your awesome trip will include Cape Cod. Happy happy travels!

Linda Morris said...

We hope you will come to South Lake Tahoe, CA

Linda said...

As it should be......onward.

Judy Mangan said...

I am so happy for you and Samwise. Enjoy your adventure and create new memories.

Dawn Middlestead said...

What a wonderful trip you have planned with Samwise. It's going to be a great adventure. Atticus is always in your heart, so he'll be there along the way too. I am very excited for you and Samwise. Hopefully, there will be a book store near where I live, so I can meet you and Samwise. I live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois...moved here last March after living in Fort Worth, Texas for 20 years.

Val Royed said...

I can't wait to read about your trip! I've been thinking of doing something like that myself, so I'll be interested in your route, and where you'll be stopping. I'm only in the preliminary research stage.

Sue Massi said...

Asheville NC and surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains seems like a perfect destination for a book tour stop and visit :-)

Ruby Milam said...

Onward by all means! I have been so touch by you Atticus, Will and now Samwise! So many tears! Please know that God answered many prayers concerning you and I guess it was just time for Atticus to go home! Keep writing Tom we love it! Thanks!

Pam said...

Wishing you and Samwise the trip of a lifetime! I hope you'll do a book store stop in Salt Lake City. I know you have a lot of fans out here.
Pam

melf said...

So wonderful Tom and Sam. How wonderful to be able to take this trip together - new places for new friends.

I had no idea you had family here in Minnesota, but if you do stop in, I hope you will have a chance for a book signing or reading. I would love to meet you.

NMLinda said...

Sure would be fun to meet you and Samwise if you came to the Book Stop Bookstore in Albuquerque. They have regular author talks and book signings. It is right next to a wonderful, eclectic restaurant called the Flying Star that welcomes dogs on the patio under the big cottonwoods. All the best in your plans!

Budala56 said...

Tom, my heart just leapt when I realize we share not only a loved for animals and nature, but we share the same birthday! We Taureans love the fine things in life but are deeply connected to the natural world. And I'm also vegan. If you come to California, you'll have plenty of fine vegan meals to choose from. Have a great trip!

MDS said...

Just read your book, Tom, as I had three weeks on the road with my six year old Australian Shepherd- Samwise :) You chose a great name! This year we drove down the 101 and the CA hwy 1 from my hometown of Vancouver BC to central California. Brother, traveling and hiking, just you and your dog, there's nothing quite like it. You have some kindred spirits up here in BC if you make a visit. Blessings.

Kate Eastman said...

We will be with you every step of the way, we your enchanted readers, ready drive or to fly at a moments notice to bring trail magic to you. Wherever you are whatever you need , I pledge to be there!! You are held!

joyce said...

Perfect......

Johanna Donovan said...

Love your news, Tom. Looking forward to it is one of my favorite
parts of a trip so I'm glad you have that opportunity. And we can
look forward to reading about it.

Alison Cameron said...

This is great news! Please stop by Long Beach, California - we have a Whole Foods and a Barnes and Noble practically next door to each other - and you have many fans here who would be thrilled to meet you and Samwise. I'd invite you to stay but our cats would be not so thrilled. :)

mlaiuppa said...

What a wonderful idea. I think delaying the trip so you can include all of your original plans is a great idea. Adding the birthplaces also.

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego often has guest authors. They have two locations. I go to the San Diego one. Saw Spencer Quinn there and got my books autographed.

I knew dogs weren't exactly welcome in National Parks but had no idea the National Forests were a bit more lenient. I will have to look in to that. Ramses is a bit old for long distance traveling and having never done that I think the stress might be too much. But perhaps sometime in the future, if I'm still able to walk a bit.

I look forward to the book and to reading about your adventures. You always make it so real I feel I am experiencing it right along with you.

ViollaLyne Paisley said...

Tears of happiness knowing part of Atticus will always be on the PNW side of the mountains. Safe travels from Tacoma, WA & the 5 Mini-Schnauzer's that bless our lives!

Candy said...

And, my two dogs and I will be headed to the White Mountains from Idaho and all points in between in October. I look forward to seeing some of the places you've mentioned and the beauty of New England.

Katie McDonough said...

Please consider stopping at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach DE, an awesome independent bookstore! I would recommend stopping by Chincoteague Island in VA, but dogs aren't allowed on the refuge :(. They are on the MD side of Assateague though.

Katy said...

How wonderful!!! I am so excited for you both~ let the adventure begin :)

Sidney Burr said...

Can't think of a better way to travel - unplanned destinations; no end dates; free to stop anywhere for an hour, a day, or a week; new and old friends along the way; and, most importantly, the companionship of a loving best friend, especially of the four legged variety. Enjoy, because this doesn't happen often in a lifetime.

NMLinda said...

Tom, my apologies about a mislabeled Albuquerque Bookstore, just in case you come here on the big trip.......Bookworks, not Bookstop! Have fun with wise Samwise! There looks to be wisdom in those eyes, you lucky guy!

janene said...

Please come to Austin, Texas. Book People is a GREAT bookstore, we love dogs here, there are multiple Whole Foods, and you can go from here to Big Bend National Park. All good things!