the (often) meandering travels of a student anthropologist
Field Notes: November 20th, 2017 - Denver, CO
I am on the road again, and in hindsight, remember that while I was anxious whenever I drove, this was probably the lowest.
The Long, Long Road
I’ve been sick. Picked up the flu and it’s settled in my chest. Some days are better than others and I’ve made it from Denver down to Paraje, NM. It’s about an hour west of Albuquerque. I’m staying at a casino RV lot. Last night should have been warmer - only was supposed to get down to 19 degrees.
I’m two days driving (8 hours) from my destination, where I’ll be doing my fieldwork, yet I’m feeling more depressed, anxious, and questioning myself than I have since I’ve started. All I want to to do is click my heels together and be home. I cannot express the enormity of the feeling inside me that I’ve made the biggest mistake in my life. There’s nothing for it but to go on, though.
The RV lot has been an example of what I feel, to a nomad, is a bit of a sanctuary. Despite its dreary, walled-in, and dirt parking lot situation. For $11.38 (including tax) per night, I get full hookups (gas, water and electric), access to strong wifi, and a daily shower pass to the travel center across the street. There’s a nice laundry room in the office, and a casino on one side and a grocery store on the other.
In Trinidad, Colorado I had to stay for two nights in a Walmart parking lot due to high winds - thankfully my battery held out through the cold and snowy nights til I could get on the road, but once here, I have a suspicion that driving isn’t recharging my battery like it should. Hopefully being plugged in, the converter will, unless there is some wiring messed up or the battery is going.
No more mechanical issues but I was driving when it was pretty cold. I did have to put $400 worth of tires on. My own fault. I had a mechanic check them but didn’t follow up and turns out the inside duallies were 16 years old. I’m surprised we didn’t have a blowout. Discovered it when one was low and had the tire place take them off.
My money is gone and I haven’t even started!
Worse, I’m not sure how much I care about this subject/project anymore. My feelings of needing safety and being back home are so overwhelming, and it’s such a battle to keep up my spirits, I find myself unable to blog or pull out my camera. The loneliness and feeling of isolation is just pervasive. It’s made even more so by the strange landscape and people. Sometimes I get smiles from the native americans here, sometimes dismissal.
My friends and family have urged me on, though - fortunately there is skype, and email, and a community forum. I can’t really be sure of how this is going to go until I’m at my destination and have found “my tribe”. My sitting tight here is about trying to get my bearings, heal some more, and try to accomplish more classwork since it’s impossible when on the road (between packing up, driving, finding where to park for the night, unpacking and just dealing with all the necessities the day is always gone even though I’m often up early - 5 or 6 am and up til 10 or 11).
I know I’m not alone in the latter - the woman I’ve been emailing (and we hope to meet up at some point) feels the same. She too drives by points of interest needing to get to her destination so she has time before it gets dark to find it, ensure she will feel safe, and set up. She feels tied to her RV (I think it’s roughly the same length as mine) and often doesn’t go see the area around where she’d camped because of the logistics of packing and unpacking, hooking and unhooking. But unlike myself she has sold everything and committing to this life. She agrees it seems everything takes longer - whether it’s washing dishes or dealing with hygiene. Cleaning is constant (she also travels with a dog).
Also, my puppy doesn’t seem so good - she’s actually an older dog, and rather than this seeming like an adventure, seems like me’s she’s just bearing with it. The one time she perked up was when we were back in Denver with Rick. I took her on a greenbelt we used to walk and she seemed perkier than she had in weeks (and now that we’ve left seems depressed again).
This morning I am in tears just thinking what the heck have I done? One of my big fears is that the rattlesnakes will still be out when I get to south Arizona. If I put her in danger…but, I’ve told myself I will be vigilant, I will camp around others which hopefully will create a situation snakes stay away from and at least it will be warm again which will go a long way to helping my mood I’m hoping.
I will say the drive from Trinidad to Las Vegas and then over to Santa Fe was truly breathtaking. I hope my last two days will be similar. My plan is to overnight in Flagstaff - it’s another 2000 feet up to 6910, then it’s down I-17 through Phoenix and back to 879 feet. Pretty nervous how well my carburetor is going to handle that as well as the warmer temperatures since the issue seems to be vapor lock [heat sink]. My plan is to start out early and drive before it gets too warm. That’s temp related. If it starts riding rough, then I need to find a carb mechanic to try to adjust it for the lower altitudes (it’s all about the mixture of fuel and air from what I understand).
I feel in some ways I’m whining, and in others like I’m looking at myself deeply in a mirror and realizing I am not the person I thought I was. A heck of a way to find out. However, the process of transformation was never promised to be an easy one and I was forewarned that this sort of lifestyle would engender that.
All there is to do is continue forward.
These field notes, while essentially raw, are an edited version. While I have tried to leave them intact in order to offer my project visitors an authentic peek into the process of creating an ethnography, as well as my own emotions concurrent with the experience, at times I have needed to remove or modify information to protect my relationships, or my informant's privacy. Grammar and spelling is only modified when necessary for readability, I've designated omissions with [...], and sometimes will add hover notes for clarification. Please see methodology for more information.