Exploits of a Research Junkie

Recently I spent some time in the United States, both for the ACFW 2012 conference in Dallas, and then afterwards in Colorado for a research trip.

Today I’ll just focus on the Colorado trip, as Tanya Eavenson is graciously hosting me on her blog in the next few days about what I got out of the conference.

So, without further ado here are some highlights of my trip…

In tiny Georgetown, CO we intended to visit an underground silver/gold mine and ride a historic steam trian. We get to the mine and it was shut for lunch so we go downtown and check out the antique shop… and I find the antique books. 🙂 Oh, I’m a happy girl! Spent $104 and got: (all 1800’s or early 1900’s copies) a dictionary, Jo’s Boys by LM Alcott (signed!), Broken Dreams poem book (for one of my characters, Ethan, to quote), the Merchant of venice, Nursery Tales and The Children in the Scrub (a book about children in TASMANIA!!!). Most of those are cloth bound and in pretty good nick. 🙂

We go back to the mine and meet the guy out front… then step into the workshop area and I’m hit by a certain… odour. “That smells like pot,” I say, never one to pull punches. “Yeah, it does that sometimes,” the weathered looking guy says. Mindy and I don a hard hat and dog tags, grab a flashlight and follow him into the mine. I stand a good couple of feet from him as he must have just finished a bong as we drove up, his breath REEKED! We hop on a mine car thingy and head on into the inky blackness, our flashlights lighting up sparkles and water drips. I learned lots of interesting stuff on the way in there. As we head back we stop at different side shafts and learn new stuff. At one point he lets us off and then takes off for a minute. Mindy starts freaking out, I didn’t. I thought, “Hey, this guy has been bragging about how he likes adrenaline and is a adrenaline junky and the crazy stuff he’s done, well if he has left us… then cool, I know the way out and we’ve got flashlights. No biggy. But, I thought he’d come back, and he did within a min or so… we learn more stuff and ooh and ah over the ore seams. THEN, he lights a candle and shows what it was like back then etc mining. We hop back on the cart and he then explains he’s going to light a stick of dynamite and we’ll have 20seconds to get out of there… so he takes his time lighting the stick in the wall and I’m the one who starts freaking out! I’m about 2 seconds off getting off that cart and running when he hops back on, blows the whistle (which I have no idea WHY!! we are the only freaking people for 1,000 feet in there!) and we take off. I plug my ears and it’s the longest 20 seconds of my life before I hear a nice BOOM behind me. Heart was pounding and skin clammy. Ok, maybe the clammy skin is from the damp air in the tunnel… but still… I shake my head.

We get out and look at our ore that we crushed and he starts talking mustangs. Oh goody! Man oh man he is as mad/wild as my character, Danny in my story. Perfect! So I pump him for info on mustangs and other stuff, explaining why I need to know for my book. We head over to the office and look at some pictures from that mine and area. His friend opens the adjoining door and I want to exit the building asap. MORE pot smoke drifts out in a dense cloud. I may or may not be stoned now for the 1st time in my life!! Our guide, Bill gets a bit excited and starts telling his friend about my book (I know… weird) and how his friend has written a 800 page book on mushrooms. I don’t know why I’m surprised… he probably lists every know species of Magic Mushies.

I don’t have enough cash to pay for the tour so we head back down town to get some from the only bank. I pop back into the antique shop to pick up my books and my credit card, then get my money out and head back to pay the guy. I pay him, shake hands, extract my hand from his grasp (it still smelled hours later) and thank him. He asks if I can send him a copy of my book. I raise my brows and say “It’s a Christian Romance story”. He laughs and says, “So, I’ve like read the Bible 3 times”. I tell him his nose will grow. He then says “Ok then, I’ll buy it from the bookstore.” I’m not sure if he’s talking about the Bible or my book and I don’t ask him to clarify… Mindy and I have nicknamed him “Bongo Bill”.

About 8pm it dawned on me that I now have the ability to describe exactly what it feels like to deal with explosions and will now be able to describe fear, as well as faith that God saves from my hero’s POV rather well.
My friend and I rode a historic train on the Georgetown Loop. Beautiful scenery and freezing air! I look lots of photos. Thank goodness they replaced the train bridge the year I was born, as it used to sway 5 feet in either direction when the train crossed it… and the bridge is 300 feet in the air. Yeah. Very thankful! We took the 2nd class carriage, as that’s what my characters would take. No heating for them, or for us. 🙂
After the train ride I waded into the little creek that runs past the train line and winds its way through the mountains. I tasted the water, all just so I could describe its taste in my story via my characters. My feet FROZE as I was only wearing a pair of good ole thongs (flip flops to the non-Aussies). Turns out that the water is melted snow. Figures. No wonder I didn’t get feeling back into my feet until we’d been driving for at least half an hour with the heater on full blast!
The next day I took heaps of photos of appropriate ranch land for my books, went to the Molly Brown house in Denver, checked out Antique Row. Walked and walked and walked. Got some lovely items…. and I brought a cupboard to bring home. As you do. 🙂
I scouted out lots of locations that my characters could live, and seeing as I’m writing a historical book which is set in a fictional town I have the advantage of being able to put together my own idea of what their surroundings look like. So many beautiful places to look at and see. 🙂 Here is a short video of the scenery on the way into the mountains.
There you have it! I hope the snippets of my trip have been interesting. 🙂 What is one thing you’d like to experience in the name of research, OR, what is one interesting thing that you have already experienced and wove into an existing story?

6 thoughts on “Exploits of a Research Junkie

  1. Hi, Lucy! I’m in Laurie SchneblyCampbell’s online class with you this month – and I had to stop by your blog! What fun. 🙂 I used to live in a suburb of Denver, and am ashamed to say I took all of what you posted here for granted. (I never toured the Molly Brown House, for instance. But you’d never catch me underground for anything, so no mine tours!)

    My imagination was sparked when my husband and I traveled in Canada a few years ago and ran across an outdoor monument/display about the Native American history in Medicine Bow. I discovered they looked upon children of the French trappers and Native American women as a new and improved race, which flew in the face of my experiences growing up the the American West (although I never subscribed to any derogatory attitudes myself). It sparked an idea for me, and I have a manuscript in progress with a young woman who finds sanctuary with those same natives. And I wasn’t even doing ‘research’ at the time!

    Glad I found your blog! 🙂


    1. dingo4mum

      Hi Leslie! Lovely to meet you here as well as in class. 🙂

      It’s funny how research is found in the oddest and yet most ‘normal’ of places, isn’t it?

      Your story idea sounds quite interesting. Lots of opportunity for conflict and themes to explore within that.

      The Molly Brown house was like $8 to tour and quite interesting. Well worth doing. I know what it’s like though to live in a town and just take everything historic there for granted. I grew up in Cooktown, Qld (in Australia) and never had much interest in the history of Cap’n James Cook and his ship the Endeavour. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence! 🙂

      All the best with your writing!


  2. When Ginger decides she just has to go to Scotland to research castles for her successful series of historicals based on the castles in Scotland, I’m going with her. I just haven’t told her yet! LOL


    1. dingo4mum

      what a great idea! Crashing our crit partners research trips. Count me in!! And yes, it will be a fantastic series, even though a part of me is hoping she isn’t planning on covering all 50 of the castles. I could be a wee bit sick of Scotland by the end if that were the case…


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