In 1968, Armando García-Dávila joined his older brother and two friends on a cross-country motorcycle ride that took 30 days and traversed over 7,000 miles. He was 19-years-old, just out of high school.
"We had real-life adventures," says García-Dávila, who recounts run-ins with Texas Rangers and Mississippi rednecks and shares memories of seeing the Grand Canyon and stealing corn out of fields in Nebraska when the money ran low.
That real-life adventure inspired García-Dávila's debut novel, The Trip: Speeding Toward the Cliff at the End of the World, out now.
It's a novel that's been 10 years in the writing, according to García-Dávila, who's known in the North Bay more for his poetry. After majoring in English at Sonoma State University in the mid-1970s, García-Dávila fell in love with the North Bay and made the region his home, working as a landscape contractor and writing in his spare time.
His writing has been published locally in magazines and newspapers since 1990, and his short stories and chapbooks have sold well. His writing career has also included volunteer work with inmates of San Quentin State Prison and a year serving as literary laureate of Healdsburg in 2002.
"Finally, someone told me to write my memoir," says García-Dávila. Growing up in a large Mexican-American family with a twin brother and Catholic upbringing, there was a lot for the writer to explore. Yet the memoir didn't hold his interest and ultimately didn't go anywhere.
"I thought to myself, what could be something that I would be interested in writing about," he says. "It was the motorcycle trip."
Initially, The Trip began as a memoir, though García-Dávila evolved the book into a fantastical novel infused with creative license that he says is loosely based on the Odyssey.
"It's the hero's journey—a boy leaves on a long dangerous journey and a man returns," says García-Dávila. "And along the way, he has to face his deepest fears."
Several visual references to the Odyssey pop up throughout the book's wild head-trips and unexpected adventures, and García-Dávila's characters develop in a similar manner. At one point in the novel, the main character, Tino Caballero, goes through an out-of-body experience akin to Odysseus traveling to the underworld in Homer's Greek epic.
When readers meet Tino in the following excerpt from The Trip, he's just setting out on the open road, wide-eyed and naive. Get a taste of the adventure, and find García-Dávila at one of several readings he is holding in the North Bay, beginning April 23. —Charlie Swanson