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Wednesday, 4/11/01 - In Charlotte with the President

First thing in the morning, I drove to Metrolina Dodge from the KOA and the RV did not buck. It was the classic "go to the doctor and the symptoms go away." But I knew something had to still be wrong. The Apache has no zip.

They called Enterprise, the rental car company, and the manager Mike showed up in a Montana minivan. When he offered it to me at the cost of an economy car because they were out of smaller vehicles, my first thought was "how can I drive something that big?" Then, I remembered, I was driving a 23 foot RV. I accepted the minivan at the reduced price.

Driving a newer vehicle with a powerful engine brought up thoughts of "what am I doing in a 1977 RV?" and "maybe I should look into a newer vehicle." But my heart was with the Apache, and for now, I would fix it up again and do my road trip as planned.

I pulled into the Waffle House parking lot as soon as I saw it, definitely needing some comfort food, and had my favorite Cheese N Eggs. I was scheduled to appear on's Business@Noon, a local television show about the new economy. The interview would last one hour which was a great way to plug that night's Barnes and Noble appearance.

After breakfast, I headed to the offices of East Coast Entertainment, the company where I used to work when I lived in Charlotte. I had been the office manager, opening the Charlotte office with three agents at the time in a house that had been converted into offices. Now, the company was in an office park and their space was enormous, almost cavernous. Two of my old bosses were there and we dished a little until it was time for me to head to NBC.

Before I got to the studio, the producer warned me that George W. Bush was in town to speak at a school in Concord, NC, the next town over and was also going to meet with the parents of one of the pilots held in China. I had heard about the pilots being held while I was in Virginia, and China felt so far away and so foreign all of a sudden. I was totally out of touch of the world's happenings. Now, the pilots were being released, something I probably would not have known about if President Bush hadn't pre-empted most of my TV appearance.

By the time the President finally got into his limosine to head back to the airport, there was barely 10 minutes left to do the business show. It was, despite the short length, a fun, fast-paced interview, and I was able to throw in a plug for East Coast Entertainment. bert

I checked into La Quinta for the next few days, looking forward to the continental breakfast that comes with the room every morning because I was already over my budget and anything "free" sounded good to me.

Had a late lunch with my old boss Larry Farber - chicken and dumplings, lima beans, cornbread, sweet tea. I had to have some real Southern food, satisfying some insistent craving for the familiar.

The booksigning was modest, but Kathy from the Classic RV list on Yahoo Groups stopped by with Ginger who had cooked the fantastic Southern meal for me the last time I was through town, just as the fever was setting in. Also, a woman named Elizabeth who I had met early that day at East Coast, showed up. And woman in her seventies, Ione, sat with us, although she may have been just resting. Still, we engaged her in conversation and found out she was a lecturer and she ended up enthralling us with her life stories.

Kathy and Ginger had to head home because of the long drive so Elizabeth and I had dinner. She and I realized that we had a lot in common, from our love of sushi to our theories on marketing to our love of travel and the outdoors. ern

The entire time, the Berts were with me in their bag, quiet and well-behaved. We returned to our hotel to sleep.

Thursday, 4/12/01 - Columbia, SC by Rental Car

After a morning jaunt to Kinkos to make some fliers about my Columbia bookstore appearance that day, the Berts and I piled into our Montana minivan and headed South to Columbia, South Carolina, only about an hour and a half away.

We gave a flier to the Happy Bookseller, who didn't really have any signs up for my appearance in the front of the store. Then I went to nearby businesses and asked to hang the flier in their window. Everyone agreed. In one restaurant, Lillians, a mother and daughter overheard me and asked about my flier. I told them about my book and the signing but they said they couldn't make it.

A little while later, the daughter came running up to me in the parking lot, my book in hand. "We couldn't make it tonight but we went over and bought your book. It looks like it has a lot of good information." she said and asked me to sign it. I was so excited about that!

The Happy Bookseller was a very cool, smaller independent bookstore with a lot of personality and a great book selection, particularly in the travel section where I ended up with three new books - "A Little More About Me" by Pam Houston, "On Mexican Time" and "Travels with Lizbeth." Just what I needed. More books.

Other than a few women who hovered by my table, very few people came into the store at all. I felt like I was witnessing the struggle of independent bookstores in a world of book superstores. The people who did come in were avid readers and loyal customers. How can any business survive like this?

I left knowing that I should support more indy bookstores but realizing that they were fewer and farther between. Headed back to Charlotte for a night of terrible Chinese food - probably the worst I'd ever tasted in my entire life - that was delivered to me by one of those delivery services for a whopping $25.

Then I watched television - something I had been avoiding so far on this trip. "Survivor" followed by two episodes of "CSI," an excellent show with the heartthrob (and oh, yes, good actor) William Petersen. TV does not soothe the soul, the heart or the mind, but it does provide some escape when it isn't numbing your brain.

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