Tom Bodett was born a middle-class baby boomer among the corn and cows of the Midwest, raised in the small town factory culture of Sturgis, Michigan, and attended Michigan State University just long enough to produce several empty headed short stories. Before fleeing to Western skies for something even remotely interesting to write about, he sold his books, records and his 1955 Pontiac StarChief with the Hydra-matic transmission, and stuck a thumb toward the Pacific Ocean.
Upon arrival in the West he blew himself apart on a high-power line in Oregon's Siskiyou Mountains, precipitating his return home, where he licked his wounds (not really) while driving a taxi and steering clear of all things electrical. Later, he pushed his luck all the way to the end of the road, arriving in Homer, Alaska, in the summer of 1976, where he settled in among the loggers, fishermen, miners and irreverent citizenry of Alaska.
Tom worked as an independent house builder for many years until, in the throes of nicotine withdrawal and needing something to keep his hands busy, he suddenly remembered he’d come out West to write.
He pounded out a desperate commentary on the joys and sorrows of cold-turkey tobacco withdrawal and, fueled by nothing more than wishful thinking, submitted the piece of work to the Anchorage Daily News who arbitrarily published it in its Sunday magazine the very next weekend. That led to commentaries on the local radio station-- his first being about having his dog castrated. From there, it was onto All Things Considered, books (As Far As You Can Go without A Passport: The View from the End of the Road; Small Comforts; The Big Garage on Clear Shot; The Free Fall of Webster Cummings, along with two books for young readers, Williwaw! and Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier), and a little gig with Motel 6 where you might have heard his voice. Tom ad-libbed the tagline, "We’ll Leave the Light on for You,” in the very first session, gaining him the reputation for being unbelievably lucky. The campaign is one of the longest-running advertising campaigns in history and continues to win awards for its creativity and its effectiveness in the lodging industry.
Tom's spent more than a bit of time in radio, too. His broadcast endeavors include the award-winning syndicated radio programs The End of the Road from 1988 to 1990, Bodett & Company in 1993 and The Loose Leaf Book Company from 2000 to 2002. It appears he bores easily. He's currently a panelist on the hit NPR show, Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me!
So what's he going to write about for Car Talk? Whatever he so pleases. Though, generally speaking, there's often a car, truck or internal combustion engine of some kind involved. It might be his Ford F350 Super-duty turbo-diesel 4x4. Or his tractor. Or some contraption of some kind that got stuck in a field in his hometown of Dummerston, Vermont, during mud season (which seems to last from early March straight through until black-fly season, in early May).
When will you find Tom's new posts? We can't really say to be honest. Unlike the IRS, he doesn't seem to care a whole lot for schedules. But, if you must know, you can subscribe to our Car Talk newsletter or follow up on Facebook and be the first to know. Tom has promised us, however, that he'll try to write at least monthly, and sometimes a few times a month -- depending on the number of newly appearing boulders that need to be yanked out of his field and the mechanical state of affairs around the hilly acres he and his family call home. Whenever he does toss something our way, we tend to like it. We hope you do, too.
Want to learn more about Tom? Check out his site, right over this way.
(all photos courtesy of Tom Bodett)