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Archive for March 23rd, 2020

From last Thursday until Monday afternoon I either drove or rode in a car for about 35 hours. The reason for the trip was well worth the effort and the company and conversation were stimulating and substantial. But it did remind me of a time when I could aptly describe the a trip as purgatory.

When I was in college I studied spiders.* Deep into a research project, my major professor realized that she needed some DNA samples in order to verify her hypothesis and realization that she was dealing with two different species of spiders. It was not the field research season- Summer- so she decided to send me on a Kamikaze bus trip to collect samples. 

I took a Trailways bus from Knoxville, TN, to El Paso, TX. Wait, it gets worse. I slept overnight in the Trailways headquarters bus terminal in Dallas, TX. I carried a box of the approximate dimensions of 18″ x 18″ x 36″ tall containing a DeWar flask full of liquid nitrogen. The purpose of this container was to quick freeze collected spiders at my destination, Southwest Research Station (SWRS) in the Chirichahua Mountains of southeast Arizona. I could not flip the Dewar flask on its side since this would lose its contents. Bus drivers wanted to insist that I put it in the undercarriage luggage compartment, but it was too tall to stand upright. Much of the trip it sat upright in a seat beside me, but when the long distance bus became a commuter bus from Memphis to Little Rock and beyond, with standing room only, I had to hold it upright in my lap. Drivers and riders alike must have thought I was carrying a bomb. In every little town across Texas we would stop under a street light where the many insects circled around, waiting for a new driver or passengers to board. In El Paso I had to catch a taxi to the airport in order to rent a car for the remainder of the trip.**

My previous visit to SWRS had been pleasant and un-rushed. This trip was during colder weather at a station without heat, quickly collecting and marking specimens and returning to El Paso for another taxi ride back to the bus terminal and more time aboard a bus. The green of the East never looked so good, the Mississippi River so welcoming, or Knoxville so beloved. I felt as though I had escaped the dark tunnel of purgatory for real life again. I like adventures, even those that are spontaneous, but sometimes one gets more than he bargains for.

*That could be the beginning of many of my stories.

**It was not possible to transport a full Dewar flask on an airline.

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