‘Beyond Heart Mountain’ book tour memories in an Electric Vehicle

I’ve been figuring out how to slow down my life since I arose from my deathbed in 2014. That was when I had an “aha” moment about my mortality, and I should take time to enjoy what the world has to offer rather than rushing around from place to place.

I was a not so happy camper after pulling into the Casper Nissan dealership to charge up after a 15 hour drive.

I didn’t know that an Electric Vehicle (EV) would be in my future, and ended up writing a book about my experiences called On the Trail: Electric Vehicle Anxiety and Advice, Navigating 2,600 miles over open and desolate highways. My experiences are a cautionary tale about aspects of EV driving that the sales people might not tell you.

My 2015 VW Sportwagen gas tank was close to “E,” and I stopped by the Loaf and Jug filling station to use my loyalty points which are at a minimum good for three cents off per gallon.

“$40?” I thought. That was double what I paid before. I don’t drive that much and knew I’d pay more because of the various economic uncertainties, but not that much more.

I began researching EVs, thinking now would be an excellent time to trade in my internal combustion engine (ICE) VW. I thought that would be my last car, but even after seven years, maintenance costs would loom, like changing the timing belt. I just bought new tires, too.

I did some research into EVs. There were the Teslas on one end. Used models are $40K to $75K but in exchange, the driving range is 300 miles. For a starving artist, those were out of my price range. I could buy a lot of Uber rides, plane tickets and hotel rooms for those prices.

A 2021 Nissan Leaf on Carfax dot com was advertised in Longmont. I decided to check it out on Friday afternoon. Sure enough, it was on the lot. After talking to Ben, the sales guy, he wouldn’t let me out of his store without the title to that EV.

He offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse. The trade-in value was nearly what I paid for the VW, plus he gave a pretty good discount. I drove it off the log, not knowing what to expect.

I learned about the various charging stations and that driving an EV around town was like an ICE car. The battery range was 240 miles which I thought was a good compromise between the Tesla and others with ranges in the 150 miles. The Leaf range would be more than enough to get to Denver or Fort Collins and back.

What about a road trip? I’d been planning a couple of treks around Wyoming for two conferences and stops on my “Beyond Heart Mountain” book tour.

I’ll recount the first day of my first outing. I read that long EV drives require some preplanning. I plotted out my routes. My first stop was Casper, Wyoming, 278 miles from Boulder. I left Boulder with a full charge and reached Cheyenne with 150 miles of range. My idea was to charge at the Nissan dealer, which had a Level 2 charger. The Level 2 charger rate is about 10 miles per hour. I had a meeting that lasted two hours and would charge then.

As bad news would have it, I didn’t plug in correctly and lost two hours. After my meeting, I sat there for three hours to get 180 miles of battery range. That would have been enough to make it to Casper, but I knew there would be wind and charged for two more hours.

I became impatient and took off. When I made it to Glenrock, 24 miles from Casper, my battery indicator estimated that I’d be 11 miles short. I was anxious about that. It was getting to be dusk, and I pulled off at Glenrock looking for an electric socket on the exterior of a building and ended up creeping into an RV campground. I sat there for four hours at a 110-volt socket that provided only five miles per hour of charge. The owner allowed me to charge up for $30.

I got back on I-25 and crept into Casper with 1 percent battery to spare. It was now 10:00 p.m. The Casper Nissan is right off the highway, I pulled in there and charged for an hour, not knowing if the hotel had any outside plug.

I rolled into the Ramkota and checked in at 11:30 p.m. after 15 hours on the road and charging. The drive in an ICE car usually is five hours.

Little did I know that slowing down my life would ironically mean triple the stress. The second time I made this drive three weeks later, I cut the drive time to 11 hours.

I was interviewed by a news reporter the other day. The story was picked up by a variety of the conservative outlets like Breitbart and Fox News. They viewed my experiences as negative and anti-EV.

I can see how my story could be spun in that direction, but my experiences show how much farther the industry has to go before EVs become mainstream. Anyone who would rather fight than switch should rest at lease. ICE vehicles will be around for decades and not being obsolete anytime soon.

Always be unprepared

Had I canceled my gig at the Sidekick Books and Wine Bar, I probably wouldn’t have returned.

I never know what to expect. Last night I was at the Sidekicks Books and Wine Bar in downtown Rock Springs, Wyoming, giving a Beyond Heart Mountain book talk.

The opening event was a solo guitarist and singer named Wayne. He’s an indie musician and his own roadie. He started his set at 4:30 and ended at 6:30 pm. After he packed up, he was on his way for another gig in Ogden, Utah.

Four people sat and listened to his music. That’s the life of an indie artist. We move from place to place, not knowing if anyone will show up.

“Do you want to cancel?” The bookstore owner named Lisa had called me the day before. She didn’t know if anyone would show up because of other activities happening in town.

“No, I’m pretty sure there will be people,” I reassured her. “Even if it’s two people, that’ll be worth the drive.”

Rock Springs is 350 miles from Boulder. At a minimum, I’d sell some books to the store. I also planned a stop at the Centennial, Wyoming library in a small town 25 miles from Laramie.

On my way to Rock Springs, I made a cold call at The Second Story bookstore in Laramie and closed a book sale there.

After leaving Laramie, I stopped in Rawlins to stretch, went to my bank, and deposited some money. On my way to Centennial this afternoon, I’ll deposit the check from Sidekicks.

What I have learned over the years is that I can’t plan for everything and go into everything unprepared. I set things up to be around 75 or 85 percent complete. The remaining 15 to 25 percent are unknown challenges. Resolving them can be routine or a mad scramble.

The four people who sat down for Wayne stuck around for my book talk, along with six others. It was a small but appreciative crowd who all bought books, beer and wine. A good time was had by all!

What I’ve learned about literary agents

How many times have you assumed someone was going to complete a task but didn’t? The more middle people involved in a project, the more time it takes, and in the case of creative industries like books, that means more money out of my pocket for no guarantee of results.

Self-produced “Beyond Heart Mountain” media kit

“I thought …” are the first two words that come out when I asked a beta reader if they’ve made any progress reading my manuscript draft. “It was the other guy’s fault.”

I don’t need to pay someone to be incompetent. I can procrastinate as well as the next person.

People shouldn’t think so much. I wrote yesterday about what I’ve learned about traditional publishers. They aren’t in a hurry because they are beholden to first-time memoirists like me who need quite a bit of editing and editors who have multiple projects to read.

Over the past year, I’ve attended a couple of writing conferences and signed up to talk to literary agents, mainly to find out what criteria they use to pick books and authors to represent.

Agents are in business and need to make money. Agents aren’t interested in your first book. They want to know about your second and third books.

“I don’t want to take on a one-trick pony,” one LA-based agent told me after I handed him a copy of “Beyond Heart Mountain.” “I don’t make any money from authors who have one book.”

“Here’s the synopsis for a novel,” I responded and handed him my one-sheet.

“Well, it’s a novel. How many novels have you written?” he asked, continuing to dissuade me.

“The manuscript is finished. This is the first, but I have a sequel, too,” I said.

“Here’s my process. I like that you have one book published and doing pretty well. Send a query letter and the completed manuscript for your novel,” he said.

I can join the crowd.

He hears from many first-time writers and to the point that he can be picky about who he represents. He nurtures the clients he has to create stories that are likely to sell.

“Even if you have a publisher or agent, you still have to promote yourself,” another agent advised. “I can only open doors if we have a good product. I can hire people to improve your cover or come up with marketing materials, or you can do it. If I do it, that is in addition to my management fee.”

In exchange for 10 percent, an agent can only move as quickly as their subcontractors perform and as fast as a publisher answers or returns phone calls.

“When you’re starting out, it’s better to self-promote,” she said. “Build your social media audience. You need to show your books sell.”

When I started the market development process for “Beyond Heart Mountain,” I contacted public relations consultants and event planners about hiring them to schedule a book tour.

That would be an additional cost, considering the publisher charges me 60 percent of the $15 cover price for my copies and pays 20 percent royalty for books they sell.

I didn’t find anyone to help, which was a good thing because I learned what it takes to set up events. The process is very time-consuming and costly to print up professional-looking promotional materials.

My success was mixed. Out of the 200 first-class mailings and 400 emails, I ended up with six museums and stores that carried the books and 15 speaking gigs.

I don’t think I’ll make any money from “Beyond Heart Mountain.” I see the project as one of “customer acquisition” and hope I have the capacity to finish my novel, the sequel, and a second in a series of three “Beyond …” memoirs.

Maybe I’ll make enough money to trust an agent. Maybe I’ll become an agent or publisher.