It’s just after 5 a.m. on a Monday in November. Fischer, a 31-year-old construction worker, has to get from his home on the outskirts of Rapid City, South Dakota, to Fort Collins, Colorado — some 350 miles away — and he has to get there by noon. He’s wearing a Kangol hat, jeans, a T-shirt and, for warmth, a hoodie and a jacket. Outside, it’s in the teens and only going to get colder.
The first stop is his mother’s modular home in Hermosa, just south of the city, where he will change cars. In the distance, the lights of Rapid City are mostly dark or blinking like strings of busted Christmas tree lights. The road is covered in snow, and Fischer can’t see a thing. He fingers his patchy beard and talks at double speed. “I don’t even know where the left lane is,” he says. “I’m just going to assume it’s somewhere right in this area and just go for it.”
The streets in town are empty, and the only noise is the truck’s wheels parting the slush. Some of the traffic signals have been turned off, and Fischer is impatient with the few that are operating. Anxiety is his natural resting state. “Is this light ever going to turn green, or are we stuck here forever?” he says at one intersection.
While he waits, the Kmart across the street sparks a memory. Fischer used to shoot up heroin in the parking lot. “This is all my old stomping grounds,” he says half in awe, half in anger at his former self. “I used to drive up and down this road a thousand times a night.”
Toby Fischer lets his 20-year-old truck warm up in the dark. Frost has stuck to the windows — “like concrete,” he says. The ice melts slowly, revealing cracks that span the length of the windshield. He shifts into reverse, and the truck skids over a slick patch before the tires grip the road again. Fischer lights a cigarette and rolls down the window.