Wheel Life 

A year-long road trip gave psychiatrist Doreen Orion a lot to think about.

She loves to shop, especially for shoes. Her husband loves the great outdoors. They're both psychiatrists, both at midlife, but while Doreen Orion had cut down on her practice to focus more on screenwriting, hubby Tim was still working sixty hours a week. Needing a break, he suggested that they set off from their Colorado home and tour the US in a converted bus for a year, hippie-style. Orion remembers asking him, "Why can't you be like a normal husband in a midlife crisis and have an affair or buy a Corvette? ... I will never, ever, EVER live in a bus." In retrospect, she muses: "He's obviously the better shrink."

They took that trip, and the result is a memoir, Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own, which Orion will discuss at A Great Good Place for Books (6120 La Salle Ave, Oakland) on Tuesday, June 17. For a psychiatrist, writing personal emotional revelations "wasn't easy. But ... I wanted to share how life-changing the experience was," the author explains. "That's why I dedicated Queen of the Road to anyone searching for his or her inner bus. It doesn't have to be as dramatic as taking a whole year off; we all have some 'other thing' to experience, to shake up our lives. ... Tim and I hadn't realized how routine our lives had become. ... We actually ended up being grateful for all the disasters we experienced on the trip — fire, flood, armed robbery, my developing a bus phobia, and finding ourselves in a nudist RV park, to name just a few — because, ultimately, they taught us the importance of stretching and challenging ourselves, as well as helped us get our priorities in order."

It's easy to get caught up in quotidian minutiae and not notice the decades flying by: "There are a lot of memoirs about some terrible catalyst that forces the author to change his or her life. Our case was different because we volunteered for this experience. ... It doesn't have to take a tragedy to change our lives. Tim and I are living proof. ... Another important lesson we learned is that all that really matters is to be with the people you love. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Yet that's not how most of us spend our time. And while it's true that in traveling around the country we met incredibly diverse and unique people, we also found we all have one thing in common: Wanting to love and be loved." Shrinks know best. 7 p.m. GGPBooks.com

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