Friday, September 2, 2016

Ain't notthin out here but me and the road and the radio

Amarillo by morning Amarillo is where I’ll be.

I escaped Kingman before the hot sun barely woke. Williams, Arizona was on my mind. Cooler temperatures and   mountain scenery.

 Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort   became my little piece of pull thru-property for the next two nights.   I took a deep breath and proceeded to unhook the Short Story for the first time on this trip.  My nerves tensed as silly thoughts sprouted inside my head. What if I couldn’t get it hooked back up? What if I drive off and can’t find my way back? The Grand Canyon Railway sounded tis long whooohoo whistle as it pulled out of the depot only a block away and headed for the Grand Canyon to drop off its load of tourist. My heart twisted as I thought of my time on the train so long ago. 

In town, two roads led thru the historic district, which was one block wide and a mile long. I drove a mile north on Railroad Avenue, which was Route 66, thru the historic district and turned left. Route 66 stretched on, taking the traveler to the Grand Canyon, but I proceed back south on the other road. The Traffic was slow and steady and parking was limited but I slipped into a short space where no other car would fit.

All businesses contained the words such as Canyon, Railroad or Route 66 in their titles. I stepped into The Canyon Club Bar to grab a Coke.

I sashayed up to a cowboy and biker, the only ones sitting at the bar.   The cowboy’s black hat sat snug on his head as if he had been born with it. His whiskers, white puffy along his jowls faded to a dirty brown, matching his mustache, as if he just come in off the dusty trial. His kind blue eyes appeared bluer against the whites of his eyes and the bearded face creased from the sun did not mask the man’s   soft smile. When I introduced myself, Albert Beck called me Ma’am.

Albert Beck's  friend reminded me of Willie Nelson, smaller in stature than his cowboy friend he wore bandana tight on his head. A bleached white, short-cropped beard and mustache sculpted his round face.  He reached past his buddy, it seemed on tiptoes to shake my hand when I introduced myself.

I ordered a Coke and we laughed and talked about our lives, where we lived where we had come from.   Seeing the sights on Route 66 was my goal, but talking to locals, like Albert Beck, and listening to their stories intrigues me like a good movie.  When folks tell me their stories it is as if I travel with them back to their roots, experience their adventures and meet their family.

Story Corps. Com is a nonprofit organization who understands this phenomenon I am describing.  The organization was formed to record for history, ordinary people’s stories which otherwise would never be told. then assigns an ISBN number and sends it to the Smithsonian Institute   where the story will be forever a part of history.

Enjoy my first interview using the Story Corp. Meet Albert Beck.
StoryCorps Interview with Albert Beck

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Jacque La Croix-Clayton an artist from Flagstaff,  whom I met at the Visitors Center. It was the story of her husband which  was intriguing. Her husband  who is an author like most of us, had a real job repairing  surveillance cameras.  One day he witness a young girl being kidnapped by traffickers.  It so moved him he wrote, SHADOW IN THE DARKNESS.  He writes descriptively and kept me turning the pages. Please read and pass the message  on to everyone, especially your children.
Claytton's book ties in with Sportster's, first book in The Feline Series,  ACTIVATE LION MODE.


I didn’t have a problem hooking up the car. I regretted leaving Williams. It was much more than a tourist stop on Route 66. Williams, Arizona  was hometown America, with townsfolk who knew each other’s names, cared about your business, and would give you a ride to town when your truck broke down.

Back on I-40 I leaned back and turned up the radio.The landscape streamed by, once again overwhelming me –– the scenery, the hum of the motorhome’s engine, and Sportster sleeping on the dash is not a one-time feeling. It happens every time, everyplace, no matter where I travel. Kenny Chesney’s voice chimed in. “Ain’t nothing out here but me, the road and the radio …..
Searching for a feeling I ain't felt in a while."


In this mystery-romance, widow Judy Howard drives her RV along Route 66, encountering the ghosts of her teenage past when she was drugged, raped, and forced to undergo an illegal abortion.
         Tragedy strikes when Judy is drugged and date raped on a Saturday night in the parking lot of the town’s roller rink. But her high school crush Brad comes to her rescue, helping her deal with the crime perpetrated against her, even going as far as to arrange an abortion for her, though the practice is illegal. Judy must live in fear as the drug prevented her from knowing the identity of her attacker. Racked by guilt over the abortion and panic over the sexual assault, she accepts a college offer in California and flees to West Coast.
         After four decades of marriage, her husband dies and a high school reunion invitation from Brad threatens to shatter her illusory peace. Nonetheless, she summons up the courage to go, loading up her motor home and heading out on Route 66 with her cat named Sportster.
            Judy Howard is a writer whose debut novel is fictional, even if she happens to share the same name as her protagonist. She has traveled alone in her motor home with her cat, Sportster, throughout the country.

Sportster the cat had always envied the huge cats who lived the big life in the jungle until opportunity sends the motorhome in which he travels veering into a roadside ditch. When strangers whisk away not only his Winnebago, but also his chauffer, Judy, he is alarmed. However, once the dust settles, he purrs a happy tune as he discovers he is free! I He is in the wild! And he is in the Olympic Forest!

ACTIVATE LION MODE is just what Sportster does as he spins this yarn in his own words. Living wild and free brings on encounters he never have imagined. The life he dreamed becomes an adventure full of bears, pit bulls, drugs and more. Sportster weaves this story of his incredible journey as only a coddled cat of leisure can do.


When her husband of twenty-five years, Jack, passes away, Howard is faced with an overwhelming sense of loss. She takes to the road in her Winnebago on a journey of self-discovery accompanied by her cat, Sportster, and Jack Incarnate, a life-size stuffed doll she creates with an eerie resemblance to her late husband. During their travels she and Sportster experience the beauty of the land as she resolves her troubled memories through conversations with the doll. She comes to terms with her deep love for her husband despite the abuse that was part of their relationship and discovers how she became a stronger woman for it.

“The book is a narrative, both of physical travel and of emotional and spiritual evolvement,” says Howard. “It leads the reader through the hills and valleys and provides insights to fear and bravery.”

Howard aims to weave an emotionally-charged narrative with humorous anecdotes and a unique perspective on life, engaging and inspiring the reader. She looks to take the readers on a ride into her new stage of life, through the joys of travel, over unexpected bumps in the road with glimpses of the world through her eyes and even the eyes of her cat to a final destination that is hope.

Masada, a bumbling golden retriever puppy, struggles through eighteen months of training to become a lifeline for a veteran with PTSD.
As part of her training, the puppy is assigned to prison life, where she matures and adapts to the cold concrete life of confinement and experiences hair-raising risks, tension, and the ache of loneliness.
She forms unusual bonds, first with Roy, her inmate trainer, and in the end, the total prison population as well.  

When she walks point for her veteran down the graduation aisle, an awe of respect silences the crowd.

Will the readers also be led down the wedding aisle?  Brad and Judy, founders of the K9s for Warriors training facility,  who have reunited after a forty-year separation, face monumental responsibilities that test their relationship as they try to build the dog-training program for veterans.

A touching yet educational story, about the world of service dogs who save veteran lives.


When the subject of our military arose, I proudly stated my patriotic views and gave a blanket, but silent ‘thank you’ to all who lost their lives to keep me safe. My heart twisted in sadness every Veterans Day and Memorial Day. I consider myself an average American.

              When I decided to write MASADA’S MARINE, I imagined it as a nice story about a puppy named Masada who grows up to become a service dog and changes the lives of two men.

              One man, who began his life as a patriotic boy, graduates high school, starts his own family and becomes a gung-ho Marine. The young man has everything to live for until he comes home from his first tour in Iraq with PTSD and loses it all, even his will to live.

              Another man, who began life as the son of a drug addicted mother, learns how to fight a war of survival on the streets and exists inside a life of crime. The pressures of the young man’s illicit career takes its toll, and he ends up in prison, defeated. He, too, has nothing to live for.

              As I penned my story, the characters took on lives of their own and demanded that this not be a nice story about a man and his dog. During hours of research and interviews the characters became people, electric with emotions, and sometimes terrifying, like the firefight that promises only one victor. As I learned more about the invisible disease, PTSD, the story’s heartbeat pulsed out of my control, like the disease itself.

              Masada and her littermates, the real heroes in this drama, matured into valuable service dogs. They changed not only the characters’ lives, but my life as well. I am no longer the silent American. I hope Masada will change your life, too.

Every hour a veteran takes his own life.


Author, Judy Howard’s mailing address is Sun City, California, but you will rarely find her there. Instead, you might find the top ranking Amazon author strapped in at the race track ready to check out the Mario Andretti Racing Experience or cruising  down Route  66. 

Of one thing, you can be sure she is living up to a quote by Henry Thoreau, Howard questions, “How vain is it to sit down and write, when you have not stood up to live?”

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