I love to read, and I love to travel. Every time I travel to a new town, I look to see if there is a bookstore that I can visit. Imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled upon something wonderful that combines those two loves!

St. Rita’s Amazing Traveling Bookstore and Textual Apothecary is a bookstore in a van. Rita Collins is the book seller who crisscrosses the country in her van, selling used books everywhere she goes. She also sells t-shirts that sport the name of her traveling store — I’m wearing mine as I write this column.

I stumbled upon this magical van via a story that “Today” did about the traveling bookstore in May. That story was shared on one of the book-related Facebook pages I follow, and I happened to read it. In that story, I read that Collins had traveled to more than 30 states as of May, but she had a couple new ones on the horizon.

One of those was Nebraska, so I checked her schedule to see when she was going to be in my home state and learned that it would be in September. She was spending only three days in Nebraska as she made her way to South Dakota for that state’s Festival of Books. I marked the dates in my calendar and made plans to drive to Lincoln to see her van in person.

Like me, Collins is a retired teacher. She currently lives in Eureka, Montana, a small town that is only a few miles from the Canadian border and that is quite near Glacier National Park. As a teacher, she spent a few years teaching overseas, the bulk of that was done in the Czech Republic.

When she travels with her bookstore, she finds places that will allow her to set up near their businesses, and she locates people who will put her up for a night or two. While in Lincoln, she stayed with a Czech family she knew from her time teaching overseas.

The interior of the van is a compact bookstore with specially designed slanted shelves on all four sides of the interior. Those shelves house about 600 used books, and Collins estimates that she sells about 30 books each day she’s open. She replenishes her stock in a variety of ways. Some books are donated by people who come to see her store on wheels, and some books come to her in strange, fortuitous ways. Occasionally, she must go shopping for books to replace what she’s sold.

Her store’s shelves are well organized, and you can find books in a range of categories — biographies, travel books, children's books, literature, westerns, poetry and even books in foreign languages. I bought three books from her store and a T-shirt.

She and I had a lovely chat, and I hope our paths cross again someday. After all, I do like to travel, so maybe my travels will take me to one of her stops in a state neither of us has yet visited.

Check out her website at saintritasbooks.com for a few photos and to read the blog that Collins writes about her journeys. Feel free to follow her, as I do, on Facebook, too.

Contact Marshall at tamreader@gmail.com. This month’s reading selection is “Ghosts: A Treasury of Chilling Tales Old and New.”

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