The First 21 Days
Reflections on the first three weeks on the road
This article was originally posted onto the blog section of my website on 2/11/2021.
Date; February 10th, 2021
Place; Chama, New Mexico
The first 21 days of this trip have surely been the most fascinating experience of my life. I often take moments while driving these long distances to try to bring myself back to reality. The event, the actions, that I had been dreaming about doing for so long are finally a reality. Sometimes it feels so surreal that I wonder if I'm in a simulation or living some sort of wacky dream.
For the first few days I was lucky enough to have a layover at my cousins house in late January, where I was able to take some time and explore Dayton. But since leaving Dayton I've been riding solo for the entire trip. I don't mind being alone for these periods of time, I wouldn't have left home if I knew I wouldn't be comfortable. But driving four hour days and scrambling to find National Forest land to camp on or a last minute campground has been the worst struggle for me. The anxiety that comes with finding your next sleeping place is truly the worst. For example, the first night I stayed on National Forest land was outside of a town called Greensboro, Alabama, which is right next to the western half of Talladega National Forest. I got into the campground late and deposited my $6 into the box at the entrance of the park. But there was one problem; spiders. Thousands of spiders were everywhere and on everything. I shined my flashlight into the forest and the emerald specks of spiders glistened on every surface in sight. If you don't know me well enough, I'm a top tier arachnophobe. I've literally fainted at the sight of a spider the size of a nickel. So I decided instead I would drive through the night to Meridian, Mississippi and find a highway side motel. I arrived at the motel way to late at night and found it to be just as repulsive as I anticipated. It was a night of nothing but wild anxiety through an unfamiliar land laden in the darkness of night.
I've been trying to balance my trip between campgrounds, hotels and motels. I often spend up to four nights camping and then one night at a hotel to shower and clean my car out. Living in a 1993 BMW 525i has not been as difficult as I anticipated it to be. I definitely thought about buying a van but it wasn't financially feasible for me. Besides, I wasn't really interested in joining any sort of "van life" movement. Sure the 2.4L straight 6 engine doesn't handle the steep grades too well, but at least it makes it up the mountain at the end of the day.
There are two main things that have probably been most challenging for me so far.
Firstly, the loneliness. No friends, no family, no acquaintances for hundreds of miles. I have no one to harken to for help between Colorado and the Pacific Ocean, which makes the mental situation more stressful as well. I've been trying to spend my time in rural areas, mostly because of my disdain for city driving and traffic (LA is gonna be a blast), but also if anything goes wrong with my car or myself I am most certainly in for a somewhat long and wild ride. Regardless of core survival stuff related to being alone, it’s just tough to not have a friend with you to keep company. It's weird that almost every interaction I have with someone is fleeting and temporary. I've meet some nice people and traded contact info here and there, but a solid 90% of the interactions are all liminal. Although, this solitude and loneliness were a part of the goal of my trip as well. Learning how to enjoy myself and be content with myself. Of course the more stressful the day or situation, the air of solitude and calm is increasingly whittled away.
Secondly, art. My major goal on this trip is to see America and take photos of it. I often find myself waving through periods of artistic inspiration and depression. I'll often go days without backing up my photos and sometimes refuse to look at them or process them after backing them up. In a world of instantaneous everything it's hard not to immediately critique your work up against the endless flow of content from Instagram and other social media networks and websites. I often find myself more satisfied with my work when I take it slow. I like using film for this reason because it forces me to break down every scene and detail further than I would with a digital camera. And film isn't instantaneous, there's a wait and process to reveal your images. I find that I am forced to be happy with what I have taken as opposed to being tormented over what I could have done or changed with my digital camera. This is most definitely a case of how the unlimited volume imbedded in digital technology has changed the artistic landscape from here on out. It also doesn't help that I have a lot of anxiety around sharing my photos and work publicly. This is definitely one of the major hurdles that I'm working on trying to get over.
In the meantime I hope to start writing blog post about the individual places that I've visited. I also hope to start writing blog post about politics here at home and abroad, but that will have to wait as I haven't read a newspaper in like two weeks and I feel as politically conscious as a ground worm.
For the meantime, stay safe and stay healthy.