I can't tell you that I ever dreamed I'd write a travel guide, because I didn't. It wasn't a dream I can remember ever having. In fact, I never expected to write a book.
I didn't think about that until I started riding my bike. And the book I thought I would write then had nothing to do with travel...at least not in the touristy kind of sense.
The book I dreamed about writing, and will write next, had to do with the journey in my head. That will be my BIKE LESSONS book. But it's not time for that one yet.
Despite the 35-page proposal I wrote for what I can call my dream book now, that work morphed into a travel guide. Not physically. But by coincidence, perhaps serendipity.
My BIKE book idea didn't take off when I thought it would, because, I know now, it wasn't yet time. I was given a different choice. I met people, by circumstance, who led me down a different path.
And I must admit, it's a path I'm glad I took, because I have always wanted to travel all parts of Arizona. Because of that, my natural instincts took over, and I knew exactly what to do to get a completely different proposal off the ground. I included in it places I have always wanted to visit: Tubac, Lake Havasu City, Greer. And I did visit all of those places.
The other trips taken for research for the travel guide involved places I'd never heard much about before--Aravaipa Canyon, Page Springs, Young. I was open to exploring them, because they included a history or amenity or peculiarity that seemed interesting to me and, based on reading about them ahead of time, worthwhile. Aravaipa Canyon is a lush and remote region of the Sonoran Desert that is relatively unknown. It's a place for backpackers and birders and people who don't mind hiking in a stream bed. It sounded intriguing, and I was invited to go by friends unexpectedly. Page Springs? That visit involved another invite, and I learned what was once not much more than ranchland is now a place ripe with vineyards. And Young? It comes with a very remote piece of Arizona history that wasn't very pretty at the time but is quite attractive now.
At some point, I realized this travel guide was the exact path I needed to take in order to get to the place I needed to go. My BIKE book awaits. It is patient. And I am learning to be.
I recall some hesitancy as I moved forward with the Arizona travel. I was driving places I'd never been before, using maps I'd never held, looking for signs I'd never seen. It was all so new. What I understand this book to be about now is preparation. Preparation for a bigger project. It came with quite a huge learning curve. And I made it to the end. Such a good feeling when I consider all that it took to get here. It helped me build a confidence I will need for the next book, for my dream book, which I expect to have a far greater impact.
The amazing thing to me is that I now realize different people approach the same place differently. I have written a book that is similar to what others have written. But no two people will ever see it quite the same. Some of the places I visited would never make a list of 1001 places you should see before you die, but they are all beautiful just the same. They all have their own story to tell. And I'm glad I am now able to be one of the story tellers.
While researching and writing this book I learned yet another important lesson: The paths we think we want to take are not always the ones we need at the moment. But if we keep moving forward, the paths we must take will appear when we are ready to see them. When they do, it's then time to make a choice: take it or turn away.
The next time you cross a path you're not sure you should take, maybe because it takes you where you weren't expecting to go, how will you know what to do? Do you think there is a right or a wrong? Share your thoughts. Perhaps you have some insights we haven't yet heard.
(The above photo of the West Baldy Trail near Greer, Arizona was taken in June 2009 by Jackie Dishner.)