Road Trip

Road Trip

Road Trip

Road Trip


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A summer adventure you'll never forget, from a beloved Newbery Honor winning author!

Dad and Ben haven't been getting along lately, and Dad hopes a road trip to rescue a border collie will help them reconnect. But Ben is on to Dad's scheme, and he's got ideas of his own. Like inviting his buddy, Theo, who's sure to get into fun (and trouble) along the way. And if Dad wants a family road trip, then the family dog, Atticus, should get to come, too. What could go wrong?

But when their truck breaks down, the family trip takes plenty of unexpected turns. Before they know it, they've commandeered an old school bus and joined forces with its cranky mechanic, Gus. Next, they pick up Mia, a waitress escaping a tense situation. Only sharp-eyed Atticus realizes that Theo is on the run from something bad—and someone is following them. 

With alternating chapters from both Ben and his dog, Atticus, this fast-paced book takes readers on an unpredictable ride that's all about family, friendship, and surprises.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307930866
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 01/07/2014
Series: Gary Paulsen's Road Trip Series , #1
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 1,116,418
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile: 700L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

About The Author
GARY PAULSEN is the distinguished author of many critically acclaimed books for young people, His most recent books include Crush; Paintings from the Cave; Flat Broke; Liar, Liar; Masters of Disaster; Lawn Boy Returns; Woods Runner; Notes from the Dog; Mudshark; and Lawn Boy. 

JAMES PAULSEN is a sculptor.

Gary Paulsen is available for select readings and lectures. To inquire about a possible appearance, please contact the Random House Speakers Bureau at

Read an Excerpt

The Plan
“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Because I’m your father and I said so.”
“That’s really lame.”
“But it works. We’re going.”
“That’s what I thought.” I lean against the pickup in our driveway and watch Dad shove the road atlas in the glove box without even looking at it.
Checking freeway numbers and plotting a route beforehand would be too traditional for him—he knows which direction he’s heading and how to find the main freeway out of town; he’ll figure out how he’s getting where he’s going when he’s closer to getting there. That’s how he rolls.
I don’t roll like that, but I usually wind up going along for the ride. This time, literally.
Dad’s always coming up with ideas for things for us to do together—rock climbing, sculpting class, fencing lessons, poetry slams, white-water river-rafting camping trips, helping the librarians organize a protest against censorship during National Library Month, ATV riding, and a photography class we took at the community center last year.
You’d think I’d be used to his spur-of-the-moment plans by now. But the clock on the dash says it’s 5:17 a.m., and I didn’t expect to be up this early on the first day of summer vacation. Dad shook me awake a few minutes ago and pulled me out to the driveway, talking nonstop: “We have to get on the road, now, right now, this very minute. Hurry up, Ben, we’re burning daylight. We gotta hit the road.”
I yawn, rub the sleep out of my eyes, and smile as I remember the rest of what Dad said. “There’s a border collie pup who needs us. I just got an email from someone in the rescue group. We’re going to bring him home.”
We already have a border collie, Atticus, and we foster them sometimes when they’re between homes, so I know how awesome they are. I love all dogs, even if they’re ugly or yippy or they drool all the time or snort and wheeze. I even like the old, fat, waddly ones who can’t control their pee. But border collies are extra special. They’re not like dogs. They’re more like control freaks with paws. They’ve been bred to herd sheep for generations, and even if they haven’t been born and raised on a sheep farm, border collies are always trying to keep everyone in their world in check. Another border collie is definitely a good idea for someone like Dad. And maybe this one will like me best. Atticus has always preferred Dad, even though he tries to pretend not to. I can’t really blame him; Atticus was part of the family before I was.
“Gimme fifteen minutes so I can get packed.” I start back for the house.
“Packed? You’re not making a grand tour of the capitals of Europe, you know. Couple days, there and back. I already threw skivvies and a toothbrush and a clean T-shirt and shorts in a paper bag for you. A sweatshirt, too. You’re good to go.”
I look at the crumpled bag he’s tossed on the floor of the truck. I’m not at all sure that’s everything I might need, even if it is just a two-day trip like he promises. I start a mental list: snacks, bottled water, a book, my iPod and the charger, my laptop, sunglasses, sunscreen . . .
Dad guesses what I’m thinking. “Travel light, Ben, so you can move fast.”
He won’t even let me brush my teeth or take a shower before we leave. I sleep in gym shorts and a T-shirt, so he considers me dressed. He does let me slip on a pair of flip-flops and grab my phone and charger from the kitchen counter.
He’s revving the engine and has started edging away from the garage, so I hop in the truck and slam the door as he whips down the driveway in reverse. The house is a blur as we leave.
“How do you think Atticus is going to deal?” I tip my head toward our fifteen-year-old border collie sitting between us on the seat. He’s staring holes through the windshield as if he’s responsible for memorizing the route and is making note of landmarks and directions.
I’m not sure how Atticus will react to a new dog in the family, because I don’t think he considers himself a dog. I get the feeling Atticus believes he’s more of a person than a pet. He’s old and kind of crabby. Plus, he ignores other dogs if they approach him. So I’m a little worried about how he’s going to live with a new puppy.
Dad laughs. “Oh, he’ll hate it. But they’ll work it out.”
That’s his motto, I think: It’ll work out. I pull out my phone and take a quick picture of Dad and Atticus in profile. Ever since our photography class, I take a lot of pictures and post them on my Facebook page.
“What did Mom say when you told her we were taking off?” Mom runs a tight ship and is very organized, but she’s a lot more flexible than a border collie, so it makes sense that I’d have worried about Atticus’s reaction before I thought about how Mom would take it.
“I’m going to stop by Colonel Munchies on the way out of town.” He screeches around a corner and jerks the truck to a stop in the parking lot. He jumps out and says, “I’ll just call your mother while I’m grabbing supplies.”
Ah. He didn’t tell Mom.
She probably wouldn’t have been happy that we were taking a trip before we cleaned the gutters and painted the garage. So I’m pretty sure Dad’s timed the call, hoping Mom will be in the shower before she goes to work so he can leave a message. But I bet she woke up and realized we were gone and she’s been sitting at the kitchen table ever since, drumming her fingers and waiting for the phone to ring.
For a second I’m worried that Mom might put an end to our puppy rescue, or at least delay it until we get the stuff on her chore list checked off. But then I see Dad stagger out of the convenience store, loaded down with enough junk to keep us fed halfway across the continent, and he nearly drops the phone as he flashes me a thumbs-up. Nice. Dad’s good at getting people to see things from his perspective. Plus, Mom loves dogs as much as Dad and I do, so getting her to say okay to the puppy was a no-brainer. Our sudden exit was the only wild card. Mom and I aren’t as good with the unexpected as Dad would like us to be.
Atticus makes a noise like a snort. He’s watching Dad on the phone. He cocks his head and flattens one of his ears, skeptical.
And Dad’s not so good at getting border collies to see things from his perspective.

I wasn’t paying full attention when the boss and my boy were talking before we left. They were near the truck and the only thing on my mind was getting in the front seat before they left without me. They forget sometimes and try to drive off without me. When that happens, I sulk. Sometimes I chew a sock. Not a good one, but the next time, they think twice about forgetting me.
The boss is driving too fast. He always does when he’s excited. And my boy has no idea what’s really going on. I do, though, and I’m worried.
Plus, I don’t want a dog. Getting a dog is a terrible idea. Dogs are not my favorite thing. Dogs are messy and needy.
The boy should have a dog, I suppose, because boys like dogs. But dogs are a lot of work, and I just know this one will not understand the pecking order at home.
Maybe they’ll forget about getting a dog. The boss does forget things. That’s why I always have to remind him to take me in the truck.

The Sucker Punch
Dad hops in the driver’s seat after stowing supplies in the backseat of the cab. Instead of roaring out of the parking lot to hit the highway, he turns to face me and clears his throat.
“Ben,” he says in a voice I don’t recognize and that makes me a little sick to my stomach. “I have something to tell you.”
“Uh-huh.” I nod, though I’m sure something really bad is about to be dumped on me. Good news never needs that serious tone.
“I quit my job yesterday.”
It’s funny how five little words can make you go numb all over. I hold my breath, waiting for him to continue. And, I hope, get to the good part.
“I can’t continue existing as a soulless midlevel corporate drone.” He talks like he thinks I’ll understand.
“Well, no, I guess that’s not right,” I say cautiously.
“I was suffocating behind a desk.” This is news to me, but I nod as if I get where he’s going. “I needed to get out in the real world and start working with my hands.”
“Uh-huh . . .”
“I’ve started my own business.”
“You did?” I struggle to remember exactly what it is Dad does for a living; weird how you never really pay attention to the things that matter, isn’t it? He’s a vice president in charge of, um . . . something for an insurance company. Mutual Fidelity Unlimited. I know that much because of all the pens lying around our house with the company name on them.
“Yes. Flipping houses.”
“Excuse me?” I look at the clock again: 5:47 a.m. This is a pretty big change to take in before six in the morning. Has so much news ever come my way in such a short amount of time? We’re going on a road trip and getting a new dog; Dad quit his job and is starting a new business called flipping. I’m a little dizzy and glad I’m sitting down.
“Buy low, renovate, sell high. It’s a no-brainer.”
“Oh.” I think. “You’re going to remodel houses? Like that show on TV?” That’s scary. Dad can fix or build anything, but he’s not great at finishing. I flash on our garage, which is packed with half-completed projects. Mom and Dad have to park in the driveway.
“Not remodel. Renovate.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Civic responsibility and making the world a better place, one crummy neighborhood at a time. The plan is, I’ll go into a run-down area and buy a house in rough shape. After I renovate, not only will I provide some family a top-of-the-line new home and make a profit, but I’ll have raised the market value of the entire neighborhood at the same time.”
“What do you mean, ‘crummy neighborhood’?”
“I bought our first place over on Fifteenth and Humboldt.”
“You bought a crack house.” I know that intersection from the news: a police car crashed through a wall during a drug raid.
“We bought a crack house.” Dad beams. “Duffy and Son, that’s our company name. Nice, right? Oh, and for legal purposes, it’s a former alleged crack house.”
“Well, that makes all the difference,” I say, rolling my eyes. And wait just a minute here: “You already bought it?”
“I had to move fast to get it.”
“Yeah, I bet former alleged crack houses are very popular.” Dad always thinks everything needs to happen fast.
“I was sure you’d be more excited about this. I was counting on your support.”
Fat chance. “Does Mom know?”
“Of course.”
“She’s not happy.”
“Define ‘not happy.’ ”
“Your mother’s problem is that she’s looking at this from the wrong angle, son.”
“What’s the angle she should be looking from?” I hope he tells me something amazing enough to make the rising panic go away.
“That this is the start of a brand-new chapter in our lives.”
I feel worse. He’s delusional.
“Good chapters hardly ever start with houses where drugs have been sold,” I point out.
“That’s what makes this so cool—it’s completely unexpected.”
“We can finally agree on something.”
“The future is ours, Ben. There’s no limit to what we can do with this opportunity.”
“Where’d you get the money?” The other day Mom said we couldn’t stretch the budget to afford the new laptop I want. Lately we’re eating more leftovers and she runs around turning off lights in empty rooms. She’s been trying to talk to Dad about the bills over dinner, but he puts her off. They don’t think I notice that he’s been sleeping in the guest room lately.
Dad’s phone rings. He looks down and tilts it toward me so I can see Mom’s picture and phone number on his screen. The second he hits the answer button, I hear her: “. . . getting ahead of yourself . . . wish you had told me first . . .”
Dad shrugs and starts to get out of the truck to take the call. Before he shuts the door, I hear him tell her, “We’ll work it out.”
I wonder if Mom’s stomach is as jumpy and tight as mine.
Okay, I never gave much thought to what Dad did for a living or whether it made him happy. Still, the fact that he quit his job and bought a crack house to fix up is a little terrifying. And kind of selfish.
I watch him pacing in the Colonel Munchies parking lot, phone to his ear. He’s doing a whole lot of listening. When he catches my eye, he makes his right hand into a beak and taps his fingers and thumb together so I understand: Mom is talking his ear off. He gestures at me to take the phone. I shake my head; no way am I getting in the middle. Even though I’m curious to hear what she has to say.
I grab a half-empty bag of red licorice from the dash, and Atticus and I share breakfast while we wait for our folks to figure this one out.
I adjust the radio to a news station. We listen to international events: same old, same old—economic sanctions, military invasions, overthrown governments. “By comparison, our day is relatively peaceful. It’s all a matter of perspective,” I explain to Atticus. He yawns and looks unimpressed by my wisdom. “Yeah, you’re right,” I admit. “When you have to compare your day to wars and market collapses in order to find the upside, you aren’t in good shape.” We each chew another piece of licorice and watch Dad head back to the truck.
He climbs into the cab, a big phony grin pasted on. “She thinks a road trip is a great idea.”
Sure, she does: Mom likes her space when she’s mad, and I bet she’s mad enough to hope Dad stays on the road all summer.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, November 26, 2012:
“The authors score on all fronts: they set an entertainingly frenzied pace, provide twists aplenty, create true dialogue that blends humor and pathos, and bring together a close-knit ensemble.”

Customer Reviews