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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Of Thee I Sing

Excuse the pause, I've just returned from a thirteen day long driving odyssey across seven states in the US Midwest,
including visits to a ridiculous number of national parks:
  • Craters of the Moon, ID
  • Yellowstone, WY
  • Grand Teton, WY
  • Flaming Gorge, WY/UT
  • Dinosaur, UT/CO
  • Mesa Verde, CO
  • Arches, UT
  • Canyonlands, UT
  • Capitol Reef, UT
  • Bryce, UT
  • Zion, UT
During such a trip a person can come to appreciate a few things besides new and unfamiliar brands of jerky and beer.

You can't look out the window on such a trip and not be struck by the distinguishing characteristics of each locale's geology, nor their similarities. You see layers of stone everywhere - though their color, texture, and thickness are everywhere unique. Once you appreciate the eons of winters and summers trapped in each layer of rock, that whole families of life that have come and gone within those layers, you can appreciate the utter insignificance of yourself, your petty concerns, your family, your entire race and virtually everything you find familiar in the contemporary world. Written in the rock are ages of ice, greenhouse, and brimstone. Earth's thin biosphere and geology have transformed so completely on so many occasions over the course of the their history that it boggles the mind. And Earth is but one insignificant planet in but one insignificant galaxy in but one insignificant universe amongst the uncountably infinite parallel multiverses. Beyond that the reckoning gets a bit metaphysical.

Park roads are always slow, but with everything there is to gawk at it hardly matters. On the vast regions of nothingness between waypoints however I found myself thanking Congressional Republicans at least once a day for the 65-75mph (100-120kph) speed limits. For all the Democrat demagoguery concerning the imminent Right-Wing Police State the most significant change in the last few decades police-wise is not that your phone might be tapped or your medical records made public. It's that you can travel at a comfortably high speed on the highway without the stress of constantly looking over your shoulder for Smokey. The risk a generally law-abiding driver would be oppressed by The Man was significantly higher back when a Democrat-controlled Congress imposed an absurdly low national speed limit of 55mph. Yet another unintended consequence of an ultimately insufficient sacrifice in the name of the leftist cause to Save the Environment. I wish We the People were more capable of learning from such experience so We might see the wisdom of decriminalizing a few other victimless crimes.

On such a trip, or any driving in unfamiliar surroundings, a bleeding edge built-in navigation system really helps. Every rental car should have one. A key component is GPS. Invented and maintained by the US military, GPS's usefulness to the global public is rarely noted or acknowledged. In fact US enemies assume the system is somehow rigged to put them at disadvantage, because that's what they would do if they had built it. Their paranoia drives them to replace or destroy GPS. The jihadis actually embrace and exploit GPS, but they exploit our jets and ammonium nitrate too. On the upside of the asymmetric warfare equation GPS technology helps our Rods From God more effectively take out jihadis, and it helps Joe Sixpack's vacation and commerce. Such a deal!

Travelling at high speed across the vast open areas used to mean regularly scanning the AM/FM radio for news or entertainment. Allah forbid you seek a particular show. XM mostly fixes that. As long as you have line of sight to the sky you get the same smorgesbord of music and news no matter where you are. Yes the selection is broader than it is deep, but it's far better than even a big city's AM/FM variety. The homogenized and proprietary nature of satellite radio scares the crap out of some people. I'm not one of them.

Theodore Roosevelt was a great and visionary president who figured prominently in the founding or expansion of many of the parks we visited. A hundred years ago he championed the conservation of these national treasures. Current and future visitors owe a great debt to TR and the others who have set these places aside for us to enjoy and appreciate. Considering the sheer entertainment value, compared to say a Disney vacation, the admission fee for US national parks is far too low. The rationale may be that the government must subsidize parks and keep fees low so that the poor won't be excluded. It's not working. They appear to be excluding themselves. But there are a large number of foreigners. This is delightful in the spirit of diversity but it's not nearly as profitable for the nation as it could be. As long as people will travel far and wide to trample US parks their fees ought to cover all upkeep. In fact it should produce a tidy profit. Not only would this boost government revenues, it would make it harder to shut down parks the next time there's a budget standoff. Maybe.

Wonderful July 4th fireworks at Bryce topped off the trip. God bless America. Of thee I sing.


Blogger flippityflopitty said...

I pay taxes to buy the land, pay taxes to maintain it, now you want to charge admission (thereby excluding the poor who my taxes help pay for)? A pox on you!

Become a gold member and join the National Parks program, give charitable $$$ and support legislation to protect the parks (and thereby dont complain about the taxes).

Sounds like it was a grand experience. Its that experience that TR had and why he set it aside. Its why we really need to support the system's longevity, if not for us - for our grandchildren (30-40 years from now).

Next time an environmental wacko starts railing about habitat destruction, acid rain, over development, strip mining, deforestation - take a deep breath and take a look at what he is jabbering about. There are gems like those worldwide that are at risk of being lost.

Big Sky country... Im going to pine over that for awhile.

7/17/2006 06:20:00 PM  

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