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, January 22, 2016

April Is Getting Closer

The last of our gear has arrived. Camp stove, pots and pans, water filter, sumptuous six-inch memory foam mattress, tent, lanterns, back up batteries for all our electronic needs, coolers, and on and on and on.

We have everything we’ll need to set out on the third week of April. From there, if we need anything else, we’ll pick it up on the road. 

The plan is to spend four or five nights a week camping and two to three nights a week in affordable motels. Much of that will depend upon the weather.

One of the advantages of setting out in spring is that not only will we see wildlife emerging from their winter torpor, we’ll also have a good chance of seeing their young. Oh, how exciting that will be!

This will be so different from the trip my father took us one in the summer of 1969. We won’t be going to the regular tourist hang outs and we’ll skip most of the National Parks to give Atticus more freedom. Still, it will be nice to pass through some of the National Park Service land during its hundredth anniversary.

I’ve only set up connections with a few friends along the way. The plan was always about traveling and seeing the land and not so much visiting with folks. Of course, there will be many interactions along the way of the unplanned variety. There are interesting people in the world and I look forward to meeting some of them as their fate intersects with ours. 

The night before we set out, we’ll take a hotel room three hours to the south, right in the Medway vicinity. My old hometown doesn’t hold any special allure to me, other than it being where I used to come from, and that it is the place where my parents, Jack and Isabel are buried.

On that first day, we’ll visit their grave at sunrise. Then it will be down the street, around the corner, and about a mile away to the house I grew up in. I don’t think anyone lives in it any more, although I’m told they are fixing it up. But we’ll stop there and park on the little dead end street it sits on. 

On the day we left on our own one-month long trip across the country, seven of us sat in the car waiting for the final checks before my father hopped into the station wagon. My two eldest siblings weren’t making the trip with us, because they had “grown-up” things to do. But here we were, all sitting together, packed in tension and nervousness and excitement. It was Jack Ryan’s idea to take his children away from the home where our hearts were heavy due to my mother’s death six days before the previous Christmas Day. We were off to see America, in the hopes of trading heavy hearts for winged ones. 

My memories are not so strong of my childhood. But I do think the closest we ever were again was on that morning, sitting and waiting for the adventure to begin.

So that’s where Atticus and I will sit for a few moments of silence. I’ll try to remember the innocence of years gone by and I’ll say a prayer for my father and my mother and for good luck on our journey. Then, I’ll start up the car, leave that dead end road, turn left, as we did forty-seven years ago, to the west to everything that is waiting for us.

That first night we’ll stay with friends Tammi and Marybeth in Pennsylvania. The next night will be our first in a campground, most likely on the Outer Banks. After that, there isn’t much planning. Just a couple of feathers born by the wind and tied together by a lifetime of friendship.  


Unknown said...

Wishing you & Atticus the trip of a lifetime! Safe travels to all the amazing wonders that will cross your path.

Donna Jean said...

I'm so excited for you and for all the stories you will share! Onward by all means! Hugs to you both.

mlaiuppa said...

Best wishes for a wonderful adventure from Ramses and me. (The closest he's gotten to a vacation is staying with my sister 30 miles away while I was in Europe for a few days.

I look forward to your travel comments and your beautiful photos. You have such a great eye. Now that I am taking a watercolor class I look at photos a bit differently. Perhaps slowing down to appreciate them more even though I cannot "be" there. I can gratuitously through your photos.

Safe journey Tom and Atticus.

Unknown said...

I am so happy that Atticus (you too) wilł be taking his Buddha practice to new places!

Unknown said...

We look forward to hearing about all of your adventures. Safe travels and blessings to you...

Jen Chambers said...

I cannot wait to follow along on your journey.

Jane Isaac said...

Nothing like a road trip to see the country! Freedom from obligations of meet-ups mean you can do what suits the two of you best! Enjoy! I look forward to your updates and salute your endeavors!

Unknown said...

It will be epic, and we look forward to hearing about it.

Unknown said...

I love reading your adventures with Atticus. Makes me feel I'm experiencing them there. I'm connected on the Facebook page but I have never been able to reply or comment. Can your moderators correct that for me?

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom and Atticus,

New follower of yours. A friend told me about your book and after being on the hold list of my local digital library for about a year, I finally was able to download it so I can listen to it in the car (I do a lot of driving in my job. Which happens to be holding dog playgroups at a local park).

I'm up to the part where you've just moved to NH from Newburyport and were doing your first winter hike.

About five minutes into the chapter called The Witch where you have the feeling something ominous is coming up, I got too nervous to proceed without jumping to the end by checking online. I'm overjoyed to read that you and Atticus are still having adventures.

So now I can listen to the rest of the book without worrying. Whew!

Have fun on your next big adventure.


P.S. It's a kick hearing you talk about your friend Steve Smith, because I also have a friend by that name who lives in Newburyport (different person, though).

Unknown said...

Tears rolled down my face as I read your pLans. What a beautiful and amazing adventure the two of you are going to have! I look forward to being one of the thousands of "passengers" who will enjoy your trip electronically via Facebook and this blog! :) God bless you both!

Unknown said...

Hello my name is Kathy and i just started reading your blog and I'm really enjoying it. We just got our puppy Maisy, min schnauser 4 months old. She is our 4th and our last guy lived to be 15 and since we live in the mountains of western Montana he was our hiking buddy. We live part time in Missoula and spend about 7 months in the Anaconda-Pintler wilderness at our cabin. It is about 26 miles south west of the historic old mining town of Philipsburg Mt. We would like to offer you to stay at either place if you get to this part of the countryand our door will be open to you and Atty. We are located mid way between Yellowstone and Glacier parks. If this is something that would work my e-mail is Enjoy your adventure
Kathy Weaver

Unknown said...

Wishing you and Atticus godspeed on your wondrous journey!!

Laura said...

Wishing you and Atticus all the best for your upcoming trip! I am very much looking forward to reading about your adventures.

Unknown said...

I just became the best friend of a totally black Mini Schnauzer! The 2 of us are traveling this summer with the Mini Cooper Takes the States group. We'll give you the mini wave as we pass on the highway. By the way my new pup is named Atty- because of Atticus. Be safe and "keep between the hedgerows" as we say in Scotland.

Julie McDevitt said...

Hey Tom ! Finally got around to reading your book. On page 130 already. Just picked it up at Jabberwocky a few hours ago. Just had to check out your blog. Glad to see you're still living life to the fullest !