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Jill's Diary #1: Road Trip to Westminster, MD

The tale of a GPS unit and her BookCrosser
by KateKintail
November 17, 2008
Starting destination: Northern Virginia (with a short stop scheduled in DC)
Final Destination: The Pour House, Westminster, Maryland

The adventure began on a warm June morning when I was taken out of my case to navigate during a road trip. My name is Jill, and I am KateKintail's GPS unit, though I prefer to be called a portable, car navigational system, if you don't mind. I help Kate-- who is just plain awful with directions-- find her way to meetups, locate special places to release books, and go hunting for wild releases.

This road trip consisted of melydia, florafloraflora, and KateKintail heading together to an OBCZ in Westminster, Maryland to participate in a joint meetup between the Westminster group and BC in DC. During the hour and a half drive, the trunk of florafloraflora's car became a release work station-- filled to bursting with bunches of books, sticky notes, sharpies, and release bags. But I sat up front, mounted on the dashboard in a place of prominence.

I prompted the BookCrossers to enter a destination and in a matter of seconds, I calculated the quickest route for them to take. However, several times they stopped off in different towns along the way to release books to satisfy requirements for various challenges in which they were participating (eight different challenges, most notably the 52 towns in 52 weeks challenge). I noticed a few onlookers watching curiously as we rolled into a town, dropped books in creative places-- in planters, on benches, by bushes, on top of pay phones-- and then headed back onto the open road as quickly as we had arrived. No matter how many turns we made or roads we took to find good release spots, I was always able to get us back on the road without breaking a sweat (though, of course, machines don't sweat).

The quaint main streets of Westminster were quiet that Sunday as I pointed out the destination “on right”. But the car kept going past the café, and suddenly I was instructed to find them a place to eat. I took them to a Ledo Pizza, where they had lunch and left more books, naturally. We arrived at The Pour House, one of MaryZee's two OBCZs, not long after the meetup began. Though I maintain that if they'd just followed my instructions in the first place, we would have been early.

I was taken off the dashboard and slipped into KateKintail's purse for safekeeping. Perhaps she is ashamed of me, but I wasn't even given a formal introduction at the meetup. I had to figure out what was going on from the threads of conversation-- which I learned gets lively when you have multiple groups of BookCrossers in attendance. The ten BookCrossers there were: MaryZee, SqueakyChu, melydia, florafloraflora, KateKintail, Lghtheart4, ResQGeek, purplypup, lil-ladybug, and LarkOnapost (visiting from Oregon). They spent time getting to know each other and then swapping books so they didn't go home with the same ones they'd brought. Discussion topics ranged from careers and hobbies to favorite books and future book-releasing plans.

This was only the second time KateKintail had ever been to an OBCZ (I haven't taken her to one before, but apparently she dragged her family to a Panera in Des Moines, Iowa on vacation years ago). She was proud of the copy of Sunday Evening at the Stardust Café she left in the café on a Sunday. She also spent some time drooling over the shelves, making exchanges and explaining BookCrossing to uninformed, interested customers who noticed her behavior. “They're really free? I love books!” exclaimed one, who didn't need a portable navigation unit to dart across the room and start looking through the books.

When it was time to leave and I was back in the car, I was shocked and insulted to see the three women had taken out a road map. Instead of following my efficient route home, they wanted to take a more leisurely, roundabout route through different towns. So instead of giving me a final destination, they just punched in any old address in the first town along the way and had me calculate the way home town-by-town.

First, however, we swung by a fountain in front of a Westminster city building that KateKintail had spotted earlier. She was excited to do her very first double-bagged wet release for the ocean-themed Secret Sunset Mission (just a few hours shy of sunset). She was disappointed when the water levels and fountain fixtures did not make it an ideal place for a release but left Ocean in the Closet on the edge of the fountain anyway.

The BookCrossers drove home via the back roads, passing woodchucks and multi-vehicle car accidents. They had the audacity to repeatedly turn down my volume when they found a town but didn't really want the random location I was trying to navigate them to. Instead, they released books near small shops and in city parks, in shopping carts and in free newspaper boxes, atop vending machines and on gas pumps. They stopped and purchased multiple beverages to A- combat the heat of what had become a hot and humid June afternoon and to B- use the cash register receipts to determine the exact town and address of the releases.

Though they were overheated and exhausted by the time we got back to DC, melydia and KateKintail made another book release stop in Virginia on the way home and melydia made two more releases on her final leg of the journey alone, after she dropped me and KateKintail off at home. In total, they managed more than fifty releases in twelve different towns, more than thirty of them wild; the rest left their hands at the meetup. I'm told that they have had a handful of catches since then. It truly was a fun road trip that I was proud to be a part of.

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