Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Shout Out to The Commons Book Club in Enid, Oklahoma

This is the most awesome gift a writer can receive in the mailbox. I received a note from a dear friend recently who informed me that her book club had selected Tiger Hunting for their second read.

"Dear Tracy, Did your ears burn the afternoon of March 19th? Your book, Tiger Hunting, was the subject of our second book club meeting... all agreed they enjoyed your writing, but had some questions..." 

As I am composing my letter in reply, I thought I'd share the answers.

Question #1: Could anyone ride a bicycle so far?

As someone who grew up in rural, western Kansas, I did spend many summer days riding bicycles with my cousins. The sanded roads were sometimes a challenge. More than once, I recall riding fast and losing control when hitting an unexpected sand ridge. One time, I actually spilled my bike and my cousin Dawn rode right over the top of me, the bike and all. There was about a quarter mile between our houses and who knows how many miles we tallied in a week, riding back and forth, up and down the hill. There was an Amish graveyard 3 miles west of our house and on a clear summer’s day, we would sometimes pack a picnic lunch and ride all the way there and back home again.

That said, until I moved to Emporia (as an adult in my 40s) I don’t think I would have ever thought to put a character on a bicycle and send her more than a couple of miles. In Emporia, however, I was introduced to a little event called the Dirty Kanza. This event started in 2006 with a handful of friends who thought it would be “fun” to challenge themselves to a 200 mile bicycle ride through the Flint Hills. The event has grown each year and is now considered one of the premier gravel bicycle races in the country, and maybe the world. I have gotten involved as a member of the farmers market, where I am the manager. Each year we have held a fundraiser the evening before the event where we feed these riders and their crews. More than 1,200 people are expected to ride this year. We have already received ticket orders for the fundraiser from as far away as Hong Kong and London. They have riders registered from 49 US States. 

So I guess Jeni’s bicycle ride in Tiger Hunting, though she was inadequately prepared, was inspired by the memory of summer childhood bike rides with my cousins, and the amazing treks I’ve witnessed here in the Flint Hills as an adult. 

Is it possible to ride as far as Jeni rode? Absolutely. 

Can I ride that far? Probably not. My husband has been undertaking 50 mile regularly, however. In fact, he and my daughter plan to participate in the Cottonwood 200 on Memorial Day weekend, which is a three-day, paved road ride from Topeka to the little town of Cottonwood Falls and back up again. 

It may sound crazy, but it’s true. 

It wasn’t a terribly warm day for May, but the sweat ran down my face in rivulets, the salt started to sting my eyes.
“Turn around now,” the voice inside my head said.
“Keep riding,” another voice argued, more persuasively.
I pedaled and pedaled. The more the muscles in my legs protested, the harder I pushed myself. I covered mile after mile, until I began to consider that the tiger hunters were probably still out this direction. The thought of a potential run-in with Joe was more than I could handle. We’d been a few miles east of the highway last night when we had heard the tiger roar, so when I reached the next dirt road, I steered my bicycle to the right.

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