Traveling the United States the way we do for Carpe Librum is an amazing experience. We make our products by hand, pack them into a retired U-Haul truck with a ten-foot book on the side, and hitch our home to the back of it all, meandering to a new place almost every week. As I write this, I’m sitting in Louisiana, but by tomorrow afternoon I’ll be in Texas for another show. We get to see a wide swath of our country, and we get to meet the book people everywhere we go.
As we travel, I’ve found we build up an understanding of different states and areas, and the challenges we face in each one. Each of the states we’ve visited has been beautiful and unique, and I deeply enjoy almost all of them. In no particular order, here are my 5:00 a.m. thoughts on many of the states we’ve spent time in.
We spend a lot of time in Pennsylvania. Partly, this is because we love Gettysburg, but also because if you’re traveling on the eastern side of the United States, Pennsylvania is on the way to almost everywhere. The issue I have is this: Pennsylvania is vertical. Everywhere you go, you go up or down (or both) to get there. One day we were on a state highway (not an expressway) in bad weather, and
Maine and other New England states are lovely (especially in the fall, which is when we were there). I adore all the bookstores and the beaches, although I wouldn’t want to spend the winter. I just… have issues with food that is still looking at me, and that Maine lobster… (This isn’t just a Maine issue; we’re based out of southern Louisiana, where dinner will literally try to crawl away if you don’t get the crawfish in the pot quickly enough. But that lobster had big ol’ eyes.)
Arkansas is absolutely stunning, geographically. I’ve always enjoyed driving through and doing shows there. Arkansas is just a little… strange. It’s just weird. It’s so normal on the surface, and then something odd will happen, and you’ll think, “Oh, yes, I forgot. I’m in Arkansas.” One time I came out of a stall in a gas station restroom to find a male biker in full leathers standing in the (open) stall next to me using the facilities! I just washed my hands and smiled awkwardly when he turned around and realized he was in the ladies’ room. Arkansas is also where I randomly found the second-best fried catfish I’ve ever tasted—at a gas station at 10:00 a.m.
Oklahoma and New Mexico are both places close to my heart. I love the western landscape and the cultures, and both states hold people that I love dearly. I am, apparently, also deathly allergic to those states from February until June each year, which just happens to be the time of year when the wind there tries to knock you flat.
I want to like Ohio (well, sort of. I am Michigan born and raised). I like the Midwest mindset, and parts of it are very pretty. Besides the fact that it’s Ohio, though, the amount of construction you have to go through to get anywhere in the state is infuriating. Also, I bought Vernors there once, and it was expired and awful.
Texas… well, Texas is amazing. I know why Texans are so proud of being Texans. Texas tries to kill you. It’s big and beautiful, and it hates you. If you can survive living in Texas, you are one tough person. In our own experience, we have lost tents and products (also our composure) to the wind in Texas. We have broken down in actual ghost towns. We’ve driven through the night, begging God for a town with a hotel to show up like a mirage. We’ve overheated. We’ve frozen.
We’ve blown tires, lost our brakes, killed an engine, all in Texas. None of this takes into account the snakes, spiders, tornadoes, and hurricanes that Texas can throw at you. God bless Texas. Bless their little hearts. But please, God, keep me out of Texas—or at least get me out alive.
I leave for a week in Austin tomorrow morning…