the (often) meandering travels of a student anthropologist
Field Notes: November 7th, 2017 - Denver, CO
It's cold. Some mornings there is snow on the ground. I vacillate between feeling isolated and thrilled. I come down with the flu. I am tired and sick, fueled by anxiety. I don't mention any of that. I don't mention the severed and flattened rabbit head in the parking lot or, later the raw sewage that is left all over the ground by the dump station, the same color as the dirt and rocks so I don't see it until I've walked through it and sat down (on a pad thankfully) in order to access my tanks. I don't talk about getting Juno to another repair shop and worrying I've been lead down the primrose path, and paid the most so far on a repair that's not fixed. I wonder now, why I didn't?
After Bear Creek closes I move over to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. It’s basically a parking lot with electric hookups, but I find the camp hosts charming and the bathrooms and showers an oasis in what so far has been a desert of decent shower facilities. They appear new, obsessively clean, with separate locking rooms for showers, they are heated, unlike Bear Creek, no quarters needed, and the water turns out to actually be hot.
There is lots of green space to walk Freyja - a lush green meadow land-mined in goose poop (but in Colorado you learn to ignore that) and a walking track that fronts the foothills animal shelter, a vending machine with sodas, and a small camp store that offers chips, ice and batteries, each for a $1
I quickly sort out the other rigs into three types - those down on their luck, living out of their motorhomes while working and sending their kids to school, those that are camp hosts - and may fit under the above description, and then those in nicer rigs that are vacationers, or more well to do full-timers. As I do this I recognize my prejudice against reflectix and thrift store curtains blocking interiors from exteriors, dogs tied out, older rigs on balding tires missing hubcaps, and organized debris collecting around steps.
The woman just down from my parking space wears slippers outside, smokes, and yells at her kids. Her face is taut and lined. The boys wear glasses and smile shyly when I pass walking Freyja. One sports dyed red hair, both otherwise blonde and chunky with the softness of youth.
The camp hosts may be in equally dire straits but they have been given a job in return for free rent. It’s their job to maintain the rules and keep the grounds and facilities clean and so I discover I’m more inclined to think charitably towards them - assign them purer motives, whereas to others around me I’m sure they’ll steal my levelers if I leave them when I leave to make a supply run. Part of me knows intellectually I don’t “know” anything about these people but another part is in full survival mode and I am making myself part of this temporary community by being mostly defensive of my own position and that means sizing up threats and potential resources.
One day I make a supply run - to the nearest grocery store - and as I’m packing away my bags a woman swings her car around, rolls down her window and pointing at Juno, my rig, says “I used to own that beast.”
Cheryl as I soon became acquainted with actually did refer to it as the beast. She was the third owner of Juno and sold it years ago to a homeless vet. She was shocked to see it again, esp with NC plates - figured it had long ago gone to the scrapheap. We both were in shock. Denver is a big city. For me it may be more than a coincidence but “providential”. I’ve been having mechanical issues all the way across country that five mechanics and a thousand dollars now in repairs hasn’t fixed. Cheryl tells me there is a second fuel pump - the switch is under the dash. I’d seen the switch but made the assumption it had, at one point, turned on some custom electronics like a CB that had long since been removed.
She also remembers that ‘forward’ is on, and it should always be on. I find the switch off. It possibly has created strain on the mechanical pump (one thing I’ve replaced that made it better, but not fixed), it’s possible that even “on” it doesn’t work, and regardless is going to be expensive to replace as she believes it is actually in the tank. In summation it doesn’t answer questions so much as it adds in a variable that is highly likely connected to my issue.
It is things like this that make me want to look over my shoulder - is there really a higher power putting the puzzle pieces together? I want to believe there is. That this trip and project isn’t utter foolishness but has meaning that I so desperately want to find in my life.
I put in a camp host application - I am both relieved and disappointed when I don’t get a call. I really don’t want to stay the next months in the cold, but I find I want the normalcy of being in one place, setting up a routine- and most of all potentially being part of a community.
Instead I continue to rely on my online community which consists of a classic RV forum - almost all men that have supported and encouraged me throughout the renovation, a blogger’s comment wall, cheap rv living forums and recently another woman I met through the blogger’s comments who also is leaving Asheville to travel out west with her dog and over time we’ve become pen pals and are now looking to meet up to travel together.
The RTR this year is adding several additional days just for a woman’s RTR. I’m excited. On the forums other women are excited too - I’m hearing a lot of interest in community. I’m not the only woman that is doing this that also feels more of a need for connection.
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.