WRITING THEIR OWN ADVENTURE
How one West Coast couple hit the highway in their F-150 to meet dozens of America’s greatest storytellers
by Julie Russell
When Salli Slaughter and George Mason retired three years ago, they saw a golden opportunity to begin a new chapter in their lives. The couple pared down their belongings, leased a 2011 F-150 to haul a fifth-wheel RV, loaded up their dog, Ella, and hit the road. The plan—what there was of it for the free-spirited, go-with-the-flow couple—was for “a retirement with a purpose and a passion and a vision,” says Salli.
The vision soon became clear. “We realized that what we like most are writers and books,” says George. “We decided, let’s go meet these people. And boy, has it been an adventure.” Salli and George began interviewing authors, poets, songwriters and other storytellers, and compiling the filmed talks on their website The Author’s Road.
In three years, Salli and George have logged more than 47,000 miles of American highway—in the 2011 F-150 and now a 2014 F-150—in trips from their base in Portland, Ore. “The F-150 has been an amazing vehicle for hauling a lightweight fifth wheel,” says George. “We never have a problem going up and down mountains, or through the desert, or traveling in four-wheel-drive areas. This truck is so equipped for hauling, it’s been perfect.”
In fact, the EcoBoost® has proved to be a point of curiosity among other drivers, who are impressed by the hauling might of their F-150. “We’ve been asked, Can we look at your engine? We’ve had five guys under the hood with flashlights, going ooh and ahh,” laughs George.
With a largely unplanned itinerary—a three-day stop in Arizona once turned into a three-month stop, for example—George and Salli meet up with the writers where they write, like studios and coffee shops. “We thought, wouldn’t it be a kick to talk to writers not about their new books, but about them, and how they became writers?” says George. And as to how they get boldface names to agree to be interviewed, Salli credits what amounts to a charming blend of guilelessness and enthusiasm: “We just don’t know that we can’t!” she says.
Even a short conversation with George and Salli reveals their infectious love of books. Literary references are sprinkled throughout their traveling stories: The F-150s have both been nicknamed Rocinante, after Don Quixote’s horse; their dog is often referred to as their “trusty sidekick Charley,” after a famous canine traveling companion. And that passion translates. “The authors respect us and what we’re doing,” says George. “They understand better than anybody what we’re doing.”
Now the couple is having an opportunity to share their journey and the compiled wisdom of their famous and accomplished interviewees, not just through their website, but at speaking engagements at libraries, bookstores and schools. Which seems like the perfect outcome for this particular adventure. As George says: “It’s so much fun talking about books and the storytellers who create them.”