COLUMBIA – If you passed Erifnus Caitnop on the road, you probably did not give it a second look. The 1999 Pontiac Sunfire, or Erifnus Caitnop backwards, is nothing special. Its air conditioning quit blowing cool air some time ago, its windows crank, and you can hear it starting from up the road. However, this car has seen more Missouri roads than almost any, if not all other vehicles.
The car has also accompanied local author John Drake Robinson on every mile of every road on the Missouri highway map after he bought the car in 1999. Robinson wrote a collection of stories of his travels in two books, A Road Trip into America’s Hidden Heart – Traveling the Back Roads, Backwoods and Back Yards and Coastal Missouri – Driving on the Edge of Wild. Now Robinson is writing a third book in the series, 300,001 - A Road Trip Odyssey.
Robinson’s wife, Cheryl Robinson, said she did not feel like joining him on his journey to drive every mile, which took him 13 years.
“I said, ‘Go for it if that’s what you want. But don’t expect me to go with you,’” said Cheryl Robinson.
Now Erfinus Caitnop has become a character in Robinson’s newest book 300,001 - A Road Odyssey. Robinson said his third book is about the stories the car had a part in.
“It’s about the car. It’s about the stories that the car experienced and had a part to play in. But, putting it together so that it’s going to be a fun read and people don’t want to put it down, that’s the goal,” Robinson said.
He gave an example of a story from his first book where he invented makeshift airbags.
“The Ozark airbag, if you go to a store and pick up an 18 roll of toilet paper and set it in your lap as your drive, that’s the protection that is called the Ozark airbag,” Robinson said.
He said he filled 40 notebooks with various notes over the years about his trips. He said the series gives him a chance to tell his stories.
“Now I’m getting the opportunity to tell the stories that I’ve seen on the road. So, what I would hope that people get from my books is a smile. Maybe they’ll connect to an event or a place that I talk about and it will trigger a memory of theirs,” Robinsons said.
He said his books are meant to entertain readers.
“My books are written to entertain, more than to make sure that you know how to get from point A to point B and see the sights along the way. Rather than the destination, it’s the journey that the book talks about more than anything,” Robinson said.
He starts the third book with a story about car trouble on Interstate 70.
“The new book actually starts off with an incident where my car broke down on I-70. And without going into great detail, that led to meeting one of the most unique characters that I met in my 17 years of driving this car,” Robinson said.
He had some advice for anyone who is considering traveling themselves.
“A lot of these old places don’t take credit cards. And you know, that’s part of the ambience too, but know that going in. Always carry a little bit of cash with you if you want to stop at one of the old Ma and Pa’s.”
Robinson said 300,001 - A Road Trip Odyssey should be released in summer of 2018. Readers can find the first two books in the series online and at certain local locations like Yellow Dog Bookshop and The State Historical Society of Missouri.