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 26, 2016

Why Not?

Sitting here considering the benefits of some fresh platelets, I am drawn back to thinking about walking the tightrope between life and death from when I was at Maine Medical Center in Portland for five weeks. 

Years ago, I adopted the idea of something called my death bed thoughts. Here’s how it works. If something is bothering me and I’m getting stressed out about it, I ask myself, “Is this something I will be thinking about when I only have hours to live?”

If the answer is “no,” I tend to let the worry evaporate into the ether. If it’s “yes," I know the importance of it. 

This had me further thinking about regrets in my life. We all have them. Well, I won’t speak for you, but I know I have some. Many of them I cannot do anything about. That ship sailed long ago. So I choose to let those go, as best I can. But there was one I had when I was hooked up to a dialysis machine for four hours. 

Years ago, asked me, “If all of the sudden, you became filthy rich, what would you buy?”

“A convertible.”

“A convertible?”

“Yes.”

“What else?”

“That’s pretty much it. I don’t need a lot.”

Three decades have gone by since that conversation, and I realize I have only owned three cars in my life. None of them were a convertible. 

Therefore, in the spirit of tackling a regret and switching it over to a wish fulfilled, I’ve decided that while I never did get rich, and it may not seem  practical, when Samwise and I hit the road for our book tour next spring, and then again for our grand 20,000-mile trip around the country, we'll be riding in a VW Beetle Convertible. 

The more I think about this, the more I like it. The idea of seeing the west for the first time since 1969 makes me want to be swallowed whole by it. That means with the top down and Samwise in Doggles with his ears flapping in the wind. 

Another goal I have is to get an Airstream trailer, but I cannot afford one yet. That will be the next rare desire for something material to own. That and a pick-up truck to pull it. For now, I’m putting that on hold until it is more realistic. For now, we are going for free and silly and fun. 

Yes, we’ll be taking a tent along to pitch in various state parks and national forests during our two months on the road from April 21st through June 21st. We’ll also be spending two or three nights a week in motels or hotels. A little convertible is not the most common sense vehicle to drive, but I don’t care. This is about fulfilling a wish. 

Some have already offered advice suggesting something different. But my friends know when I want advice, I seek it out. Otherwise, when my heart's set on something, I go ahead and do it. Heck, that’s how most of the best things that have ever happened to me came about - by ignoring advice from others telling me what I should do. Had I listened to them I wouldn’t have started a newspaper, participated in Ironman triathlons (was it really thirty years ago?), attempted to hike two rounds of New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers in winter with a little dog, and I wouldn’t have moved north to where I’ve spent the happiest years of my life. 

Life is temporary. The end can come at any moment. I understand that more than ever in this year of finally feeling my mortality. However, if it does end sooner, rather than later, I can lay on my death bed and say, “I once owned a convertible."   
This is a stock photo from the VW website. I have not picked out a color,
although that isn't really important to me. And I'm still a few months away
from buying our adventure car. But in my head, it's a done deal.

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

FUN!!!!

Stacey Betts said...

That's absolutely awesome, Tom. I love the idea of Samwise in his doggles with his ears flapping.....you both will be quite the sight on the highways and byways!

SueMel said...

I truly understand the desire to own a convertible. I swallowed hard and bought one 22 years ago-----still own it, still drive it. The world envelopes me and I love it!!!! I wish I had a dog to accompany me.

AWBookGirl said...

Congratulations! How fun. And you know they say we regret the things we don't do, more than the things we do. I'm glad that on your deathbed, you won't regret that you never took on this one wish.

Janice Badger Nelson said...

The perfect ride. I see tons of them here in Utah. They traverse the mountains with ease. How fun!!

Mary Marriner said...

Only you and Samwise know what suits you and gives your hearts pleasure. We all should listen more and hold our opinions...it could be a learning experience! What a concept! The trip sounds glorious! Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Onward in a convertible, by all means!

LoriJK said...

I can't wait for the photos!

Kathleen Sarnacki said...

You are going to love it! Life is short. Carpe diem!

Linda Lynch said...

This blue seems to suit you, Tom. Calm,serene with a pop of adventure!

Karyl Griffin said...

YEAH! Sounds like a dream worth fulfilling! I can totally see Samwish in doggles enjoying this trip.

dcdashe said...

Go for it!! What wonderful memories you and Samwise will make in that car and on that trip!

Tammy Eger said...

I just spoke about this on my blog www.allthingstammy.com and not living with regret. Go live life, Tom! Enjoy!!

Tammy Eger said...

I just spoke about this on my blog www.allthingstammy.com and not living with regret! Make your dream a reality and get that convertible. Onward and upward by all means.

Margo Chapski said...

Whoo-hoo!!!
You go, Tom!

Newfie said...

Hooray for you guys!

Anonymous said...

Good for you,Tom, for making the decision of getting your dream VW convertible....That was always my dream when I was young, to own a pink convertible....but, that dream died a long time ago....but, I still look with envy during the spring and fall at those riding in convertibles along the beaches....Don't let anyone change your dream....you will always regret not letting the wind blow through your hair and Samwise's wears....enjoy your next adventure! Go for it!!

Dawn Middlestead said...

I am going to adopt your idea of death bed thoughts. It is just so perfect! Woohoo to you buying the convertible you've always wanted and how fitting it will be on the 20,000 mile adventure you and Samwise will be going on next year. I can't wait to see pictures of Samwise in his doggie goggles, ears flapping in the breeze...what an adventure you and he are about to embark on together...and Atticus will be there along for the ride too. You are so right, life is indeed temporary. No regrets. Thank you for this Blog...for your wisdom.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! I always wanted one as well and finally bit the bullet last year and did it. It's baby blue with a tan roof - great little car and so much fun. Our little Daisy Mae (13 years and counting) fits it beautifully and my husband and I will be taking her along with us on a trip to Phoenix this fall. I named her Babyblu (the license) so my husband doesn't feel inclined to take it out often, leaving it for Daisy Mae and I to enjoy. Have fun - great little car.

sistermek said...

WOOT!

Lis Boucher said...

You GO!!! ..Be Happy. The USA awaits you invasion :)

Cindy Ciocca said...

Awesome! There's nothing like following your dreams...

Ruby Milam said...

Isn't it funny how God gets our attention! You've always been out in the middle of his wonder with Atticus Will and now Sam Wise! I went on my on journey with near death a few years back and now I am totally in touch with my God and appreciate each and every new day! I have so enjoyed Atticus, Will and Samwise thank you for sharing them! Can't wait for Will's red coat too!!!!

Christine Ambrose said...

We will need pictures of you and Samwise in matching Doggles! I cannot wait for your adventure to begin!

Lee Curd said...

You and Samwise should consider matching Goggles/Doggles and perhaps a lovely scarf to billow about. Onward, by all means.

Sue Furlong said...

In 1987 my 21 year old son and I traveled cross country in a Dodge Omni with our 6 month old Rottweiler. We tented the entire way since we were travelling on a shoe string budget. Best trip ever! You and Sam wise will have a blast!!!!

Steve said...

Fantastic idea and a great way to travel. Unlike you have had many different cars and many different convertibles. I finally have two vehicles I love and will not trade. One is a convertible and is driven with the top down only on good weather days. I have a short 40 mile loop through the country and longer routes when I have more time. Samwise will love the open air as does my basset hound ... the bloodhounds can't fit in the convertible so they have to ride in the FJ.

Good luck on your purchase and as long as that idea is in your head, the car is 90% purchased. :)

Coni E said...

My husband and I went on a 10,600 mile trip across the country, then north to the Canadian Rockies and back home to FL in a Hyundai Azero. It was great. Not a convertible but had a large opening in the roof. I'm all for doing your own thing. I know you will have a great trip just experiencing it all..... together.

Wendy Morgan said...

Good for you. My first car was a customized 57 Chevy Convertible, 3 speed on the floor-loved it.

Barb said...

I feel the freedom driving with spirit full and your dreams so touchable Live life to your fullest. Passion by all means

Candy said...

I can see it now; smiles all around, ears flapping in the wind. The simple things f life are the best. Enjoy

Anonymous said...

WAY TO GO TOM! There is no one youer than you!

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend a convertible! Useful in the winter - put the top down and load up the Christmas tree, just make sure you wear a heavy parka. That's what my dad did back in the 60's in Indianapolis!

Janet & Maestro said...

My brother bought his convertible at age 61. He said he wanted to feel the wind blowing through his hair - while he still had hair. Samwise doesn't have to worry about that :-)

Mendy said...

Homerun again Tom!!!! Thank you for being YOU

mazie's mom said...

I own a convertible, too!! Its great fun, totally impractical and makes me feel alive and young. My 2 dogs, however are NOT impressed. When they're with me, it's top up, windows down, heads out! Have fun, Tom.

Mary Ann said...

Fresh air is good for the soul--hope there are two set of ears just a flappin'!

grumblesmom said...

Your "death bed" review struck quite a chord with me. When I cannot sleep for all the "should do, must do, why did I say that, etc" nonsense running through my head - I will, instead, settle my mind asking that same question. And, promise to self - my next car will be a convertible. Thank you, Tom, Atticus, Will and Samwise.

Laura Bachofner said...

GO FOR IT!

Anonymous said...

Hip,Hip, Hooray!I hope you have a fabulous time with it!

C said...

Good for you, Tom! Wind in your hair, smell the countryside, Samwise riding shotgun. Bliss. Enjoy. Make every one of your wishes come true, sooner rather than later. As you know, life is fleeting. Be fleetfooted and outrun it. Onward!

Mrs A said...

That's perfect I did just that, let your hair and Samwise's fur fly in the wind !

susan goodreau said...


Fulfill your dreams Tom and have lots of adventures with Samwise.

I look forward to seeing the pictures, and reading the stories you will have to share, and the words of wisdom.

mama bear said...

Think often "What will be my final thoughts ". Like you, Tom, I think the small, sweet things of life well lived....no regrets, no sadness, only the stuff of smiles. Drive that buggy down the road, "California Dreamin" serenading you and Samwise. I can see it now! ��

Honey Bear said...

I can see Samwise ears flapping in the wind as you travel along in your new convertible. Watch your smiling because you can get bugs in your teeth. Absolute true. It has happened to me. Looking forward to stories from the road. Happy trails to you my friends.

Robert said...

enjoy and have a wonderfully memorable experience! something I have always wanted to do after reading "travels with Charlie"...

mlaiuppa said...

Fabulous idea. And what a cute car. No, I don't suppose you like it being called cute.

I love Airstreams. My parents once rented one for a vacation at Yosemite. I was really young so don't remember much but they hauled it with a big Ford station wagon.

I'm not supposed to haul anything with my Prius, although some people have. So, no Air Stream for me. I'm not sure I'd want something that big either. I have a tent I can put over the open hatch of my Prius for camping but really want something a little more comfortable and sturdy.

For me, my dream trailer is a teardrop. I've looked at many brands and configurations and still haven't found "the one". I suspect if I ever do get one I'll have to buy a semi-shell and modify it so that the kitchen is exactly what I want for camping.

But the Prius can't haul even a teardrop. Well, it's not supposed to.

I want to go to Yosemite for at least a week. Same for Yellowstone as I have never been there.

There is no public transportation to get me to either destination so I will have to drive. I suspect I will have to forego my dream of a teardrop and stay at the local hotels instead.

I'll be following your adventures and experiences to make some decisions of my own. I hope to learn from you how to plan an extensive trip and the dos and don'ts beyond the general magazine articles. Your suggestions have always been very valuable.

Anonymous said...

Good for you, Tom! I love the"Samwise in Doggles with his ears flapping in the wind" image.
He will love it too. I've never seen dogs looking happier than when they're in that situation.
jd

Suzanne B said...

Oh wow what a fantastic road trip you and Samwise will have! Bring on the convertible! Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

In 1972 my first car was a 1962 Beetle - black with red interior. First year to have a gas gauge. 10 gallon tank/42 mies to the gallon. In the winter ( and I was in Ithaca, NY) I needed a passenger to scrape the ice off the inside! Not a convertible - but mine. In 2007, I got a 2001 Mercedes SLK 320 (hard top convertible). Black with red interior. It was a testament to the sin of pride - major repair issues. But you and Samwise go for that Beetle convertible - and consider royal blue, to compliment Samwise's coat. Drive happy!!!

Anonymous said...

Such fun! To use three great words we see so often..."Life is Good."I don't know how we are all going to fit into that new convertible as you know we will all be with you every inch of the way, but enjoy, be safe, and live the life you love!