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Essay Excerpts

Private Varnish: A Birthday to Remember

Readers of my first novel The Dining Car often tell me the book makes them want to take a long trip by train. Earlier this month, the stars aligned, and my wife, Teresa, and I took just such a trip -- a chartered, one-of-a-kind journey I decided would commemorate my sixtieth birthday. Come, travel with us on two vintage private railroad cars, which industry insiders call private varnish.

Two private railroad cars coupled to an Amtrak Superliner car at Los Angeles Union Station

Foodie Fun in a Motorhome

If you're anything like me, you spot a glitzy private bus, big as a Greyhound, tooling down the interstate, and you wonder who might be in it -- what rock band, what country singer, what up-and-coming tour golfer?

You may be surprised to learn that most of these flashy, garish buses are owned by ordinary folks. I know this because my wife, Teresa, and I joined this particular club of itinerant travelers a few years back when we bought Sarah Palin's tour bus.

Yes, that Sarah Palin.

A luxury motorhome parked at night, its  bus-style door open

My Fire Truck

My wife, Teresa, takes first prize for the best gift ever. She bought me a fire truck.

The truck, a red 1987 Ford F-350 crew cab pickup named Rescue 93, commands more than its share of attention, particularly when it's parked in front of a liquor store and I'm stocking up on cases of wine, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey, and Tito's Handmade Vodka.

As I load booze into the fire truck, I like to wink at old ladies and tell them the boys and girls at the station need to blow off a little steam.

A side cargo panel on a red crew cab fire truck, the number 9392 on the compartment door
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