Visiting the United States is grand

A couple of Fridays ago, we backed the car out of the driveway and pointed it south-by-southwest and again were reminded that we live in a remarkable place and in a remarkable time.

A couple of Fridays ago, we backed the car out of the driveway and pointed it south-by-southwest and again were reminded that we live in a remarkable place and in a remarkable time.

In the course of a day’s drive, we left the West of David Thompson and crossed the path of W.C. Van Horne. Before our tank was empty, we were in the West of Jerry Potts and Col. Sam MacLeod.

By nightfall, we had crossed the paths of Lewis, Clarke, and Sacajawea; of Sitting Bull and Chief Joseph; and a modest sketch artist and occasional poet by the name of Russell.

Out in the sagebrush country of Idaho, once the haunt of legendary outlaws like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, we bedded down in a town built along a canyon carved by the cataclysmic drainage of an inland sea left behind by melting glaciers.

Some people have a hard time with the notion of a 5,000-km road trip being a “vacation.” For me, that much pavement is like communion.

Time spent on highways in the American West can be rejuvenating, if you can excuse the intense two hours it takes to traverse the Salt Lake City urban region, north to south. The interstates, and some notable two-lane highways, are the embodiment of modern, high-speed motoring.

It’s not without glitches, though. On our last two trips, I was almost willing to declare that “left-lane banditry” was nearly dead, at least out West.

Alas, not the case. I don’t know if it is an Obama-related phenomenon or what, but I was astounded by the number of motorists who insisted on making faster traffic pass them on the right.

Of the 1,800 km we travelled on I-15, at least 1,300 of those were at speeds in excess of 85 miles per hour (137 km/h), consistent with the traffic flow.

Unfortunately, some drivers feel that if they’re going the speed limit, then it’s perfectly acceptable to squat in the fast lane, forcing faster traffic past on the right. Not only is this rude, it’s downright dangerous.

For the record, posted limits on western interstates are as high as 129 km/h in rural areas, and 105 inside urban regions.

Many two-lane highways are also posted at 75 mph (121 km/h).

From Las Vegas to Idaho Falls on our homeward trip, the traffic burden was no different than any given day on Hwy 2; yet, the officially accepted speed limit appeared to be well in excess of 135 km/h.

Why we cling to our archaic speed limits left over from the 1970s is beyond me.

The American West is criss-crossed by historic byways, such as the Pony Express Trail, and in some places, the land still bears the marks left by wagon wheels of settlers looking for a better life in California and Oregon.

Hurtling across Utah’s deserts at speeds and in comfort not even remotely imaginable in 1846, it’s hard not to be haunted by the ghosts of the tragic Donner Party.

While it’s hard to tell from the fawning admiration most news outlets are heaping on the “The One,” there is a rapidly growing cynicism amongst Americans about their new president.

I can personally attest that at least two Las Vegas residents of an African-American persuasion are part of that growing body of concern over the actions of the new White House administration.

In a related vein, 20 states have either passed or are proposing bills that assert state’s rights under the Tenth Amendment and the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

These actions are direct results of the massive spending by the U.S. federal government over the last 12 months, and have been accelerated by the deliberate encroachments on state’s rights that the Obama administration is attempting to undertake.

We used a long day of our vacation to fulfil a lifelong dream of visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

I took a special moment, on a bluff some 1,500 metres above the Colorado River, to just soak in all the glory. There may be no better place to commune with God than Navajo Point, and so I used that moment to thank God for all the good things.

One of the things he was thanked for was a wife who is perfectly willing to drive for five hours across the desert, just to spend five more viewing the canyon.

On a sunny Good Friday, we pointed our car north-by-northeast, and headed for home, rejuvenated and invigorated, and an itchy typing finger.

We have some fun ahead of us.

Bill Greenwood is a local freelance columnist.

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