Todays ride is not long but Cedar City is at 6,000 feet and we have a 4,500’ climb to Cedar Breaks National Monument. The morning is sunny, clear, and perfect and the climb is only about 25 miles. Daniel has the SAG today and Hardy rides the Cannondale 6-13. I’m on the T-1 and Ralph has his Quattro Assi. We always bring the bikes into the hotel room--A bike trip without bikes would just be too much of a downer... We are looking forward to the resort at Ruby’s Inn in Bryce Canyon. We can just feel the change of scenery looking at the mountains just East of our hotel. Nevada has been prettier than expected but we are looking forward to the upcoming 5 national parks. We decided NOT to drive down to Zion for a quick tour. It would take most of the morning and put us into Bryce Canyon late. We will have no lack of scenery where we are going.....
I can report that the climb to Cedar Breaks is steep but not too taxing. The real issue is the road with no shoulders. This is a busy road. Plenty of RV’s, trucks and trailers on a two lane road. The shoulder is about 3 inches right of the painted line. There is no where to go if the RV’s can’t get in the other lane..... Ralph has tried to get me to use a mirror but I prefer the Zen approach--what you don’t know won’t hurt you until it does. Neither Ralph or I are lane militants. I realize bikes are not particularly fast uphill and though I feel morally superior riding a bike I don’t assume the cars behind me enjoy going 9 MPH. I move over into the gravel if I hear them having to brake and let them go by. We did not see any other riders on this climb. We have not seen many bicyclists at all. Quite a few in Sacramento and a lone cyclist in Nevada but otherwise we must be moving when others are resting or vice versa. The woods and WATER are a pleasant change. You don’t see any water in Nevada. Great Basin National Park has a glacier and as you get higher there is a sublime alpine feel but the runoff seems to disappear before it gets to Baker. As you enter W Utah it’s pretty bleak. Better than the Bonneville Salt flats there is actually a large irrigation area by Minersville. There’s way too much space though and not enough content. I like the cliffs and trees even though it is uphill. The pictures show one of many rest stops on the way up.
Cedar Breaks has a helpful ranger that hears us talking about other National Parks we have visited. She says that if we have receipts she can total everything we have spent and get us a years pass for $80. All of these national parks are about $20 each and we have been in Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Yosemite, Great Basin, and now Cedar Breaks. We have at least 5 more we plan to visit. I could find the brochures but not the receipts. I figure the government could use the money and its going to a good cause. The more money spent on parks and the less on banks, the better in my mind.. Cedar Breaks is kind of a mini-Bryce and Zion. It is good to see BEFORE these parks. We check out the three overlooks. It’s now downhill to Panguitch but we stop for lunch at an overlook over Panguitch Lake. BURGER BARN. It is so fine to burn 6000 calories a day so you can eat whatever fat laden menu presents itself. Place was crowded and extremely slow. Everybody became great friends waiting for their food. Looked like a lot of new developments going in around the lake. We didn’t check out any prices because everywhere is more expensive than Alabama. By Panguitch it was getting pretty hot. After downing a 32 oz Gatorade I asked to use the bathroom but it was for employees only. It might be the only time I had to piss on the road like some tour rider. Panguitch to the turn for Bryce Canyon has a very nice emergency lane for riding and traffic is not a problem. We started into the Red Rock Canyon with the sun behind us. Late afternoon through the Red Canyon is amazing. Its very slightly uphill but the western sun lights up the red rocks making a gorgeous 5-10 mile ride. We took the bike path parallel to the road. The final run into Bryce we had another tailwind. The boys came by but we didn’t recognize the car! They had gone exploring for a remote campground and were completely covered in dust. Ruby’s Inn is just off the road into Bryce and there is nothing else around. The “resort” would be more accurately called a large two story motel complex but the rooms were gargantuan with great A/C. We ate steaks in the cowboy round-up room.
BIG PROBLEMS - EVER THUS
Let me be brief: The world has too many people for the amount of justice I would like to see and the kind of world I would like to live in. I am not interested in solving that problem though, the Four Horsemen will.... Overpopulation does not have a policy prescription without right living that encourages ecological stewardship and social justice. And who am I to talk with 3 children? Population problems described by Malthus and re-iterated by Paul Ehrlich (and others) in the 60’s are now the underlying causes of social unrest. Of course, we had wars when there were only 250 million people in the whole world and undoubtedly would still have conflict even if we could reduce current population to 2 or 3 billion. More people expand cultural possibilities but seem to magnify the dangers of war, disease, and famine. If we were like ants or bees in a hive, we would all be doing our genetically “assigned” necessary work. The more the merrier as the pope might say. But we each have our own conception of the good life that is symbiotic with some but unfortunately zero sum with others. We glorify individuality. Celebrity is now an offshoot of that, but we cannot all be celebrities. Even 15 minutes of fame is not possible for everyone. Can we all be successes? Yes, if we get the definition right. No, if it means a crib like an NBA star and a Gulfstream at everyone’s beck and call. “Justice for all” is a demand for rough equality. Each individual commands a “place” simply by being born. Show up and the ‘rights’ of humanity are yours. If we deny that, our "rights" are denied. Is there a legitimate preference for us rather than them? Or are all our loyalties multifaceted and cross-cutting? America had a dream that included everybody. It was to be a multicultural, substantially just, gradually richer, representative democracy. It considered itself a freedom loving bunch of money grubbers that would work their way to Nirvana. It now has a Purpose problem and 4 interrelated problems I call IEEE! as in a roller coaster headed down. They are Immigration, Environment, Energy, and Economy.
The immigration/refugee problem is a subset of the population problem. A lot of people don’t live in benign locales. Calcutta, Bangladesh, Shenzen, Borneo, Nigeria, Iraq. Should they all come here? Let us ask: Who is an American and how is it decided that someone can become a participant in the American project? Our immigration system has been broken a long time. Leaders have been unable to fix it because of self serving ideals and practical realities that benefit important constituencies. Even more Mexicans would move here for a better life if the border were open and we had free movement of Labor. How many Chinese would like to come to America? What kind of American would they like us to become? How many Iraqis would prefer Detroit to Baghdad? How many culture projects are already teeming in a multitude of cities? It is not a racial question, it is a purpose question--what sort of society are we trying to build together? Do we in fact have a common project or are we an unintended diversity project? We may have a common desire for the opportunities of the Good Life but do we have a sacrificial project above and beyond what's in it for our group? I think we need a LOT more attention to what the society needs to prosper than an assumption that more of everyone is better. A country that cannot manage the borders, determine who in fact can consider themselves a member of the group, cannot aspire to Civilization. The rules of citizenship should be clear and enforced and as generous as possible. We are not just a nation of immigrants. We are the world’s oldest democratic experiment and we had better start supporting our idea of citizenship. Illegal immigration is frustrating main street Americans more than any other issue. It suggests a government that they have elected and employed that does not care about the simple justice of supporting the right of being American versus the right of being human.
The Economy is dead in the water and about to get a LOT worse. The government is riding a tiger and the fed is pushing on a string. Globalism and interdependence have increased the overall wealth but 1) increased the overall vulnerability of the society and 2) skewed the income distribution, favoring the rich. We are subject to surprising dislocations and change is more rapid than is comfortable. A society needs a modest amount of change. Slow change and slow growth would be optimal. We have rapid change and it distorts the lessons of the past, making cultural memory more irrelevant. Slow change makes adjusting easier. New opportunities are created but old standards die slowly. Our current economy is “wide open” for creating wealth. Anything goes to make a buck. Financialization created Edward Jones retirement counselors and mortgage originators but there have been 1,000’s of production jobs obliterated. Barreling into the future, we do not produce, we borrow and consume. The consumption creates the service jobs but these are like agricultural jobs of old, not very well paid. You know what I would like? A mea culpa from our leaders who empowered the banksters and a promise to clean up the mess they made together. Perhaps somebody should go apologize to Ross Perot for making fun of his giant sucking sound comment. It was true. Clinton’s sin may have been pandering to everyone, not the blue dress. Somebody should have pointed out that thievery and granting poor people unlimited credit is not an economic system. Is it really fair to say Wall Street Exec’s given Congress’ stupidity and venality, did NOTHING wrong? Where are the prosecutions? Where the wholesale political resignations? Somebody should be honorable enough to say it was me and now we need to go THERE. Like Moses, point the way home and LEAD. All our recent leaders have benefited from corruption and it is arguable to me that they should be prosecuted for what they knew and when they knew it. I'm talking Bush,Rubin,Dimon all the way to Dodd, Frank, Obama. They have all benefited from criminality they would prefer not to discuss. The consumption also creates the
Environmental impact. We have trashed the natural world. We do not live organically or sustainably. We are all exploiters. My city is not as beautiful as it could be. Our style of life is not refined, it is busy, stressed and ugly. We can do a lot better. The more we produce and consume the worse the impact on the environment. How are we going to live sustainably? If we all get richer, we’ll have more human things and fewer natural things. It is the natural things that are our true treasurers. What if the next big screen TV killed the last tiger or polar bear? Species are going extinct rapidly, pollution is increasing, and our native patrimony is disappearing. I would like fewer coffee shops and more butterflies. Preserving the natural world is opposed to exploiting the resources for material gain. We need to go to repair mode for the planet and yet there are 3.2 billion people living on $2 a day! If you can read this you need to live on less. Can we aim for LESS? What is success if not more. That is the economy - environment conundrum. More production--less Nature. We are yet clueless about this balance. It is not about recycling or ridesharing. It is a massive reduction of demand for unsustainable production, that eventually becomes garbage floating somewhere off northern Hawaii or buried in my state of Alabama.
Energy is the last problem. Cheap energy has been like a magic genie doing massive amounts of careless work for free. We all have 10 slaves hidden in our daily energy consumption. If we had to heat and light our houses, oh the wood we would have to chop. How many times could we go to town per day? How far from work would we live? Energy is hidden in every hamburger from MacDonald’s and as the cost of energy gets more expensive it will require a different method of living. We must change.
I do not think we are capable of reflective or proactive change however. Thirty years ago I thought we could change but we have busied ourselves with delusions. When the currency implodes we will be just like Zimbabwe, picking up wind blown corn kernels off the road and dodging militias like a shopper in Mogadishu. Gangland USA. I believe Haiti is showing the way to the future. It’s an interesting mental experiment, how do you save the unsalvageable? Perhaps a return to the land, a migration out of festering slums--People on the land, caring about their land will give us jobs, food, and a whole lot less money. I prefer the Bill McKibben localism, the Wendell Berry carefulness more than the Jetson futurists. I wonder how the genetic researchers are going to work while the unemployed are amusing themselves with 2nd amendment firearms.....
A SHORT HISTORY OF FUTILITY
Humility is considered a virtue but I have had a problem being constrained to a comfortable belief in my own irrelevance. I should be good for something! I’m just a dentist in Alabama and not much of a leader at all. I am an average parent and husband. I am not very courageous or more than moderately helpful and charitable. I have had the best of everything: childhood, education, health, and opportunities. I believe -First, Do no harm. Second, Don't fix what isn't broken. Our society is broken but many don't know it and so it persists bumbling destructively in foreign entanglements and drifting toward even greater unequality with the loss of the middle class.
I may be a prophet. I don’t mean I hear voices or “promptings” I only mean that I “see” where life is trending and I would like everyone to get to a safe, contributory place in a decent society. I would like to participate in a Grand Civilization but the demands for justice are overwhelming in the here and now and I cannot shut out all the cries in order to pursue a Grand Plan of my own choosing. I remain a watcher, an observer, a journalist and not an activist.
In the 70’s I was an activist. Times were as unpredictable then as today and my future needed ‘a direction’. I worked in Washington, DC for the Overseas Development Council--an organization dedicated to improving the lives of the world’s poorest billion people by the Year 2000. We failed and the irony is that ODC went out of business in 2000 with the election of George Bush. America was set to pursue a different direction, using our military to build democracy and fight terrorism.
We had a different dream in 1976 on our bicentennial. We had a secular hope that we could construct a more equitable world structure that would deliver a better life to everyone in the world. This improvement would reduce birth rates, increase per capita incomes and make our homey little planet more livable and less violent. After 3 years of working in the field of development economics, the contradictions of our dream became clearer to me. The rich would continue to get richer unless they somehow desired to become poorer and the poor would get poorer, constrained by Nature and limited opportunities to breed themselves into further hopelessness. I was caught in a professional dilemma: one wants to do well in ones chosen field but the demands of success in your own culture impact on how to deliver “success” to others. The more you give up, the more power the powerless have, and they demand more! All in the name of equality. Christian charity has the same contradiction: the more you do the more dependent the client becomes. Ultimately, you give away your superiority or have it taken from you and then it is someone else’s determination what will be done. The lack of confidence in our own Western civilization project has led to declining birthrates in a majority of European nations. We bought the overpopulation mantra but poor countries and Muslim countries did not and they are now young and ideological and revolutionary and stand to inherit Europe in 20 years. and America? Who knows....whither America?