It may nearly be too late; it seems as though I am surrounded, and Elena may be lost already. These are the most unlikely foes. In every shape and size and color imaginable, they have been hot on our heels for weeks now. Nothing can be done. I think they smell my fear, for wherever I go there seem to be millions just waiting for me to sit down so they can crawl up my shorts and bite my butt. How could our great nation let this ant situation get so out of control?
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It feels like we have been on the road a lifetime. A lifetime of gas stations and nights without showers. A lifetime of going 30 mph up hills and jumping into any and all bodies of water we encounter. A lifetime of being the bizarre “free, pop-up museum from the future” outside of ice cream shops and Walmarts and theaters and house parties. A lifetime of evolving and dissolving, of making friends and leaving them, of fixing the museum, of fixing the bus, and of fixing lunch before we do anything else.
We’ve sailed on the TIMESHIP from Louisiana, through Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. We’ve been burned, frozen, and set out to dry and on top of all of that, we’ve opened the museum to an estimated 800 people. It is our hope that within that number there may be some small amount of people who are making changes in their hometowns. But of course, we are not there to see, we do not get to bear witness to the change. We think of ourselves as mere seed-planters who leave the arduous task of germination to each their own.
From Austin, Texas to New Mexico we encountered sun blasted roads (oh and that beautiful respite at Lynne’s ranch) that stretched on and on through dusty desert where oil rigs dipped their heads into the ground. Like rusting cows endlessly chewing the black cud of the earth. It was there, again in line, that we realized we were not strangers in this place--a school bus amongst white pickups--we too were on the conveyor belt that carried us through the oil fields out and beyond, tethered to the world of trade and commerce, moving and shaking.
We’ve had our fair share of problems in these conservative localities, with people who won’t give us the time of day--let alone get on our school bus--or with pipe-fitters who’s first words upon exiting the bus were “so you hate pipelines.” But it may surprise you dear reader to hear that our favorite stop so far has been been Big Spring, TX: epicenter of oil-country. We were prepared for a rough night, but were surprised when after an hour, people stopped running from us, and instead ran towards us. We had wonderful conversations with pipeline workers who were there for the job and knew first hand the dangers we spoke of. We cried with Mexican mothers whose children translated for her. We were challenged and we were thanked for coming to their town as if the eyes of the world don’t turn much on Big Spring.
Really, and perhaps most surprisingly, we feel that our fair share of problems has been with liberals. One woman in Colorado Springs, who Emma perhaps pushed too far, came running off the bus saying she didn’t want to think about those things. Her generation had done its part, and now it was time for the younger generation to take up the reins.
Since Santa Fe, NM the state of America has become more and more apparent, meaning frightening and appalling. It was in Santa Fe that we found used needles littering the park. It was there that we were warned about a nearby small town. Be careful where you camp, they said, there are lots of people on drugs out there, could be dangerous. And later, we passed through town after town that appeared alive from the freeway where all one can see are the bright lights of the fast food restaurants. But a short drive down the road and you see boarded up buildings paint peeling, windows dark. In Colorado Springs you can’t find a bathroom to use because no business wants “the public”. Instead the real and live Colorado Springs that flow through town are littered with human waste of all kinds.
But then there are towns that are making it. In Carlsbad, NM we were told that just a little more than a year ago the population of the town was around 27,000 but recently it has swollen to near 75,000 due to the oil boom in the area. So people are moving and they are moved, going where the jobs go. What does the future hold for small town America? Will it “dry up”, as locals say--like a lake or a pond or a river: once deep and lush, now gasping for a drink? Will economic centers shift like weather patterns do, blessing some areas with fertility and others with drought?
Boulder, CO where we've been posted since Monday, has been good to us. But of course, if Big Spring is the epicenter of oil country, Boulder is the epicenter of solar country. And so we’ll be off again soon enough to the land of Trump--the lands beyond the cities that is--the sea of trucks, and the great pool of conversation that keeps surprising us at every turn.