When I volunteered to drive on the trip, I had no idea what that meant. I soon learned that the landscape out west is much more spread apart than on the east coast and that driving between cities does not necessarily mean driving on an interstate. I had the unique experience of driving through a bit of wet sand and over some rocky terrain. A coyote, which I did not hit, ran in front of our van, although the bird that slammed into our windshield was not so lucky. I was nowhere close to hitting the motorcycle that was approaching us as we neared board patrol, and we were definitely over the train tracks when were stopped at that red light in Tucson. I want to give myself a pat on the back for diligently observing the speed limits both on and off the reservation and for not hitting anything during my tenure as a driver.
In all seriousness, the experience of driving allowed me to gain an understanding of certain realities I might not otherwise have noticed. For example, thinking about the commute from Tucson to the reservation and out to Ajo helped me to better appreciate the food desert and lack of healthcare access issues endemic to the area. It is not pleasant to imagine suddenly having a health emergency and having to drive at night on roads with no shoulder or street lights, occasional potholes, and animal crossings to the nearest health facility, which might be over an hour away. Similarly, commuting from the reservation to Tucson to buy healthy groceries did not seem realistic because of high gas expenditures and loss of time, especially for low-income residents. I also gained a greater appreciation for the ease with which we crossed the border into Mexico and the well-maintained roads on our way to “Get Wrecked at the Reef” in Puerto Penasco.
On a personal level, I had the experience of thinking a lot about everyone’s safety, especially while driving, and admittedly also thinking that it was kind of cute when everyone fell asleep in the backseat on some of our long commutes. I enjoyed Prof. Markowitz staying awake and keeping me company in the front seat, and very much appreciated Prof. Guse volunteering to wash the vans at the end of the trip when I was super tired. Overall, I feel that I have become more confident in my driving repertoire as a result of this trip. It was my pleasure to be you guys’ chauffeur!