It was the day after Thanksgiving and I was sitting in Indio California at the annual Cabazon Indio Powwow. Sounds of the different tribes’ chants echoed throughout the auditorium as children ran throughout the halls, every single one of them dressed to the nines in their powwow outfits, each one having carefully chosen the regalia they wore with pride. The tribal elders stood along the edge of the room, watching over the younger generations. Looking stern from a distance, you could see thin smiles grow on their faces as they watched their progeny carry on the traditions of their ancestors.
I sat there trying to take in the immense beauty of it all, as waves of neon colors danced across the room, all connected in a pulsing rhythm created by the beating of drums. It was as if the waves in an ocean were reverberating over and over again until the drums stopped. A few minutes later it would all start again. Thoughts began to flood my mind about the dedication that it has taken for these people to preserve their culture. As hard as I tried to be empathetic, it seemed impossible. The power that came from these people’s beliefs was real though. I could feel it.
Later that evening I sat in my car editing pictures and trying to decide where my voyage would take me next. I had visited 47 out of the 48 contiguous states and the only one that was left was North Dakota. As I looked at the map, I couldn’t understand why there weren’t any superchargers in the state. It seemed so strange to me that a whole state had been left out of the loop (authors note: as of writing, one supercharger has opened in Fargo and 3 superchargers are listed “Under Construction” in the state). All the while, I couldn’t stop thinking about the American Indians. Images of the Standing Rock Tribe getting blasted with fire hoses started to fill my mind as I remembered that the reservation was in North Dakota. “Big Oil,” I found myself saying out loud, “they are the reason there are no chargers”.
But what really happened at Standing Rock? All I really knew was that there were two pipelines (DAPL and Keystone XL) that were being built in the Dakotas a couple years ago, the American Indians protested, and the police intervened. On top of everything, this was all the way back in 2016. What had happened since then? Immediately, I was bitten by the curiosity bug and started to dig in. To my horror, the first search returned stories about an oil spill that was going on as I searched. How had I not heard about this? Apparently, 500,000 gallons of tar-sand oil was leaking out of the Keystone XL Pipeline and with winter tightening its grip, the clean-up timeline was a big question mark. Why was no-one talking about this? At that moment, I decided I would head to North Dakota the next morning.
After hours of driving through the canyons of Utah, and reaching the snowy hills of South Dakota, I had reached my last supercharger and I was ready to set off into the belly of the beast. My goal was to get up into Bismarck, but a cold front that had just come in was going to seriously upset my battery. 265 miles through rough roads would already push my battery, but the added cold might get me stranded.
This was no time to be worried though, I had dedicated myself to “pushing the charging network to its limits” and that’s exactly what I was going to do.
As I passed over the border, I entered the Standing Rock reservation. The sheer desolate beauty amazed me. Mile upon mile passed with nothing but flat fields and the random trailer in the distance. An endless blanket of fog came over the land as I wondered what it would be like to live out here. The roads were dirt, and the businesses were absent. It seemed as if life had all but left. Suddenly, I saw a massive trench and “Road Closed” sign. There wasn’t another soul within miles so I stopped dead in the middle of the road. Blocking traffic was the least of my concerns. Luckily, I had one bar of service and could attempt to find a new route. To my surprise, there was a destination charger on the reservation! I would have to go pretty far out of my way to get to it, but it was my only choice. I cringed as the navigation started to route me there. It said I didn’t have enough battery to get there, arriving with -3%.
Out there the roads are rugged enough to question whether they were meant for cars at all. I couldn’t drive above 20mph, the heat and music were off to conserve energy, and silence became a friend—right beside me in this vast open nothingness. I was getting to that charger. After a few miles I saw the arrival estimate start to click up. -2%. A massive truck blew its horn as it rushed past my turtle’s pace. -1%. I reached a paved road and decided I could be a little cocky and set the cruise to 45mph. 0%. I was going to make it, but I wasn’t quite out of hot water until I plugged in.
I pulled into the lot with 4% left and smiled as I plugged in. No matter how many times I go through these anxiety inducing situations, they never get old. The adrenaline runs through your blood, fueling your every move and pushing you to new highs – like being lost on a hike, wondering if you’re ever going to make it back. I went inside to wait while I charged, welcomed by the cling clang of slot machines ringing throughout my ears. As I waited, all I could do was think about what the week would bring.
Last Supercharger Used Before North Dakota
302 E 5th St, Murdo, SD 57559
Standing Rock Level 2 Charger
7932 ND-24, Fort Yates, ND 58538
Ready for Pt 2? Find it here!