Peter Heller: And I Asked Her to Marry Me
Road Trips for Readers asks one question to authors who are attending the South Dakota Festival of Books each year. This year, we asked, “What is your favorite road trip you ever took?” We’ll be posting their answers as soon as they get back to us.
The best road trip I ever took–and I used to live out of the back of a Toyota pickup–was a surf odyssey down the coast of Mexico in a 1985 Vanagon. What made it so interesting was that I had never really surfed. And the Beast was always threatening to die. And there were flares and boat motors and drug drops in the middle of the night on the remotest points in Baja. And I asked a woman I loved to come with me and she was terrified of sand fleas and sun, but terrifically brave in the surf and everywhere else. And I asked her to marry me right after I asked her if she wanted to take a break and go stay in a nice hotel (she was in a Yes frame of mind). And she said Yes!
So we went snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez and asked the boat captain to marry us and he took it with great dignity and honor and joined our hands and poured seawater over them. And we met Leonel Perez in Zihuatanejo, the master surf champion of Mexico, and he took us in like family and taught us. And in the end, after six months, we both surfed a fast, hollow, twelve foot wave in southern Oaxaca. That was a great road trip.
By Peter Heller, author of The Painter
From South Dakota Festival of Books: A longtime contributor to NPR, Outside magazine, Men’s Journal and National Geographic Adventure, Peter Heller is an award-winning adventure writer who has held various positions as logger, fisherman, kayak instructor, construction worker and river guide. Winner of the Michener fellowship, he received an MFA in both fiction and poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Heller published four works of literary nonfiction, including Kook: What Surfing Taught Me about Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave, winner of the National Outdoor Book Award for Literature. His first novel, The Dog Stars, hit a dozen best book lists and became an international bestseller, and his second, The Painter, was published in May.