Colona native Rob Erwin left behind a career coaching college football to tackle a new challenge — travel writing.

Colona native Rob Erwin left behind a career coaching college football to tackle a new challenge — travel writing.

“I’d coached college football for seven years, and I’d been coaching in South Dakota, but I left it all behind to move back to the Quad Cities with my then fiancée, now wife,” said Erwin, who recently released the travel memoir “Lost With Directions.”

A stint at an office job left him “absolutely miserable.” “I found myself asking, ‘What do I do? Where do I go from here?’ I needed to get re-jolted, re-inspired and re-charged,” he said.

The answer came from a thought that had been tossing around in Erwin’s mind for a number of years — write a book.

“I think a lot of people have that desire. They think they have a story worth telling and they want to write,” he said. “I’d always loved traveling, and travel writing got my imagination going.”

With “loose” plans, Erwin set off on a journey to some of America’s most iconic national parks.

“I’m a big fan of travel writers like Bill Bryson, but I’ve always wondered if the writing’s not quite authentic, because they’re traveling knowing they’re going to write about it,” he said.

However, Erwin found knowing he wanted to capture his journey on paper “made me a little more daring.”

“I’d take more risks and step outside my comfort zone because I did want to tell an interesting story, and to tell an interesting story, you have to do interesting things,” he noted.

Erwin made plans to undertake “one mega road trip.”

His adventures took him to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Tennessee and North Carolina before he headed west to visit Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Rock Mountain national parks.

Prior to his trip, Erwin had experience in Yellowstone, the park he calls “the granddaddy of them all.”

During his collegiate coaching career, Erwin took the summer of 2013 off to travel to Yellowstone and work.

“I used to coach at Montana State University, in Bozeman, Mont., which is a little over an hour away from Yellowstone. I was familiar with the area, but had never actually visited the park,” he explained.

A colleague at Montana State mentioned she spent her summers working at the park, and Erwin decided to give it a try.

“That summer, I was a dishwasher, which was a change of pace from coaching football, but it was one of the most enjoyable jobs of my life because of the people. People came from all over the world to work at Yellowstone, and they were all very like-minded, adventurous and daring. We all meshed very well.”

Erwin considers his time at Yellowstone as “transformative” and knew he wanted to return to the park during his travel journey.

“Being there surrounded by nature put me in an entirely different frame of mind,” he said.

The U.S. National Parks System celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016.

“The parks have really grown in popularity in the past decade,” he said. “I wanted to use them as my frame of reference for a humorous romp through America. In addition, I wanted readers to be informed, so I tried to include back stories and tidbits to enhance the experience.”

Erwin opted to title his book “Lost With Directions” because, while he had loosely planned his itinerary, a sense of adventure guided his travels.

“I knew where I wanted to go, but what I did when I got there became spur of the moment plans,” he explained. “I was completely out of my element when it came to a lot of stuff. I was trying to be a rugged outdoorsman with no experience. I figured if I was able to laugh at myself, readers would be able to laugh at my mistakes as well.”

Returning home, Erwin set about capturing his experiences on paper.

“To get through the initial rough draft took three to four months, and I ended up with 80,000 words. It was a big whopping document. I discovered it was easy to spew a bunch of stuff on paper, but it was far more difficult to trim that down to a clear, concise, well-flowing story,” he said, adding the editing process took another five months.

“Lost Without Directions” was officially released on Nov. 26, and Erwin plans to visit Geneseo to meet readers and sign copies of his book.

Erwin will be at the Geneseo Public Library from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10.

Copies of his book may be purchased at www.lostwithdirections.com or at Amazon.com.