Aspen’s Rickey Gates to publish book about his 2017 Transamericana journey
In 2017, Aspen native Rickey Gates spent five months making his way across the United States, mostly on foot. Already an accomplished professional runner, this was hardly out of the norm for the then 36-year-old, although it became something that stuck with him in a far greater way than many of his other foot-powered adventures.
“I think about it often,” Gates said in a recent interview with The Aspen Times. “I’ve had a couple little endeavors in my life that have made me stronger as a human being and believe in myself, but also that provided me with an immense amount of empathy for my fellow human beings, and that has certainly stuck through with me since that trip.”
The trip, which Gates called “Transamericana,” is now a book, another new endeavor for the first-time author who now calls Sante Fe, New Mexico, home. Published by Chronicle Books in San Francisco, “Cross Country: A 3700-mile run to explore unseen America” will officially hit bookshelves in the spring, although it’s already available for preorder.
Gates said the book is 20,000 words over 13 chapters with 200 photographs from his trip. Some of the words are no more than small vignettes about people or places, while the rest weave the full narrative of his journey. Not only does the book focus on the five months of his trip, but Gates also spends time talking about the five months both before and after his 2017 odyssey.
“It’s super exciting. Been working on it for a few years and it’s fun to actually have it in my hand now,” said Gates, who recently held the book for the first time. “I had hoped to write this book before I even set off on my run across the country and I kind of paid attention to everything around me and photographed as though I would be writing a book.”
Gates set off on his trip March 1, 2017, from South Carolina. Born and raised here in the Rockies, the South was a foreign world to the Aspen High School graduate, which is why he wanted to spend time exploring that part of the country. He went through parts of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee before making it into the Ozarks and eventually the plains of Oklahoma and Kansas.
He arrived in Aspen June 1, 2017, for a short bit of rest and relaxation in familiar confines before continuing his journey through the deserts of Utah and Nevada. His journey ended five months to the day after it started at the “finish line” in San Francisco, where he called home for a while. All told, Gates said his trip was roughly 3,700 miles long.
“I didn’t feel I really had something worthy of a book up until I ran across the country,” said Gates, who had done some writing previously, including for Trail Runner magazine. “It was pretty awesome to put that focus on the trip as I did. It kind of made me pay more attention than I probably would have, and it also made me slow down and appreciate certain things in a way I wouldn’t have if I didn’t have that intention of writing the book.”
Gates said the first agent he took the book idea to shot him down. He had better luck with the second, who was able to pitch it to a handful of publishers with three agreeing to take it on. Ultimately they chose Chronicle Books, which Gates said has a more artsy following than that of athletes, something that actually excited him.
“They go more into the art realm a little bit, and that’s kind of the audience I was aiming for,” Gates said. “I was hoping that if I can put it out there in front of an audience that isn’t my normal one, hopefully I can keep the runners and the sufferers in there and then bring in a new audience as well.”
Not only will there be the book, but Gates said they have put the final touches on a feature film documenting the trip that will come out around the same time. The film, called “Transamericana,” has been submitted to numerous film festivals across the U.S. and Europe. The book, which is available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indie Bound, will be released April 14, 2020.
Ultimately, Gates hopes people see the book — and the film — as more of a journey about people and places, and not so much about running.
“We continue on in our political climate where I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of things that are happening in the country right now,” Gates said, “but doing a trip like that provided me with the empathy of getting to have known a lot of people that think differently than me and trying to understand their perspective. That’s what kind of still sticks with me two years later, and I hope the book helps convey that.”
More can be found about Gates at http://www.rickeygates.com.
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