This summer after two months quarantining, I decided to drive across country and back. I live in the East Village, don’t own a car, and haven’t taken many road trips. So I had to do research. I called it SOCIAL LONG-DISTANCING. My goal was to drive to California to stay with friends (and to celebrate one of them being a Pulitzer Finalist!) then drive back, seeing national parks on the way. This would be in a rented van with a mattress in the back. I would sleep in the van at campsites (or in Walmart parking lots, they allow it) when I couldn’t sleep at my friends’ places. I had a cooler for food so I didn’t go to any restaurants. I saw Badlands, Zion, Bryce, Arches, Crazy Horse, Yellowstone, Devil’s Tower, Garden of the Gods, stayed at a farm, a ranch, and a gay CAMPground, etc. And visited 18 states. I was researching so many things, before and during trip. Which kind of vehicle, how much it’d cost, where to rent it. What kind of mattress, futon, air … What parks to see. What route to take. How long to leave for visits, for driving. I used the internet. I asked my friends. I called the campsites and Walmart and the national parks. Some weren’t opened now, most were. I asked many questions. I found if I didn’t ask follow ups, things like parks having limited hours would not be mentioned. I asked my friend in Wisconsin about driving to the Badlands as he was a geologic engineer who researched the Badlands. He prepared me well. I found personal interviews the best. It took 8 weeks. I drove 8,000 miles. Best thing I could have done this summer. I saw my friends. I wrote some. I taught on the road. I used the research and stayed very flexible as weather and lockdowns would happen (that meant research too, what weather would be like when I would arrive somewhere). I made it back, last day driving in the storm. And in time for this training!
I like the idea of letting students pursue their own passions. Making research a hobby instead of a chore. I like the idea of having the project be about finding topic, sources and analyzing them, not about writing the paper too. That takes off pressure and lets them learn about researching.