Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Day 8- July 7th, 2009 (Bryce Canyon to Escalante, UT)


I’m looking for one glorious sentence.  And one glorious ride.  So I can repeat them whenever I like and then go find another to an even better destination.  This morning we are going to ride into Bryce Canyon National Park and check out all the overlooks.  Then we’ll head on up the road. 
 

We wanted to make sure we saw all the sights in Bryce Canyon so the plan was to ride all the way to the Yovimpa overlook (27+miles) checking out the trailheads and vistas and then having the car come pick us up and drive back to Ruby’s Inn. Our problem then was how far to go?  Like Nevada, there are only a few reasonable places to stop.  The biggest problem on this route is the Colorado R crossing at Hite Recreation Area.  It is is the only stopping place for at least 70 miles each direction.  In short we HAD to stop there. (Well we didn’t HAVE to but I wanted to swim in the Colorado and camp) So where should we stop the night before?  Boulder was 74 miles from Ruby’s Inn with a punishing uphill for the last 18 miles.  Escalante was closer but then the next day would be over 100 miles starting with a brutal uphill.   We thought Escalante made the most sense because we could use the auto transporter to Boulder to start the next day.  Escalante was only 47 miles away, combined with the Bryce National Park ride, we’d do 74 miles.  Great Plan--let’s ride.

Hardy and Daniel camped but were angry that a lousy spot next to an RV cost $35.  Ralph and I stayed at Ruby’s N to do wash, and knit the raveled sleeve of care.  One of our air mattresses had been losing air by morning, so we donated our other air mattress to the boys and slept in a bed.

On September 1, 2007 I am embarrassed to report that I became a “gold bug”.   For a long time liberal like myself, it’s embarrassing. I can’t believe I’ve joined the “frothing at the mouth” crowd.  Gold is just a hunk of metal, usefully rare. Plutocrats are supposed to be the people that like gold. I just want my wife and my savings to be worth something when we need them. I’ m also saddened at how important money is to me.  I thought I was above all those little pecuniary considerations but I am guilty of caring about all those sweet dreams bundled in bank accounts.   Could I blame it on my mother and grandmother?  My grandmother gave me old coins and a blue collectors album for pennies. She carefully marked how much each was worth.  I looked at a lot of pennies and gradually realized I wasn’t finding any that were worth more than a penny.  My mother gave me proof sets for every Christmas and birthday. In inflation adjusted terms they are worth less than what was paid for them. I was a lackadaisical collector from 1962-1964 and then suddenly all the old coins disappeared.  There was no point to being a coin collector.  My books of dimes, quarters, halves were partially filled but now you had to go buy them from some store.  I gave up on the whole enterprise.  I kept getting proof sets from my mom until 2000 when SHE realized the Mint was just another overpriced scam.

But when I realized the world financial system was going to fall apart, here I was chucking contributions into my 401-K and by  the time I needed it in 10 years it would be worth substantially less like those coins.  What company made sense to invest in? What a load of BS this “diversification” mantra is--Everything went down in 2008.  Money market funds were at risk until they were backstopped by the gov’t. These stock mutual funds make it seem as if it is my fault for choosing an inappropriate asset allocation.  They want to know my “risk tolerance” so if they lose my money it’s my own damn fault. Seems to me a bad recession and currency crisis will lay them all low.  Bonds? Toast.  Deflation then inflation or the opposite?  I didn’t know but savers have a huge target on their back and are going to get hosed. That was me and my hard working wife. The only people making money are the people making money (as in leverage).  They are letting society pay the insurance on the risk. Gold seemed to be a selfish choice that did not recycle my savings into loans for my community and fellow citizens. I’d like a local Grameen Bank with a reasonable interest return, not financing for a shopping center conglomerate that would end up in Chapter 11 or a CD at 1%. Remember the story of King Midas? His gold lust was foolish. I felt shallow thinking about gold.  I also didn’t want to be a miser.  Misers are pathetic creatures who count their money and miss the point of life. Money is merely a tool but instead of encouraging excellence it has become perverted.  It’s all that matters.  No money means  No success.  No dreams.

Well.  OK.  I’m guilty.  What’s the solution?  The solution is visualize a local economy and invest your money at home.  Improve your corner of the planet.  The world is flat (interdependent) but it has gone far enough. Its now time to find a local sustainability model. Time to suck the lifeblood out of globalization and give up on mutual interdependence.  Too vulnerable.  It’s not wise to be dependent on people who don’t like you (or you don’t like). Bring your money home.  The sad truth is, before everyone gets rich enough, we will have destroyed the natural world.  Globalization is too complicated.  That said I’m not really interested in returning to the farm or giving up my four day work week BUT what’s got to change is the structure of our economy.  My town is defense industry based.  Good jobs come from Washington.   We need good eco-sustainable jobs. What the heck are they?  There really is a lot that needs doing but I don’t think it’s selling each other garbage at retail and dreaming up new derivatives.  A new localism is going to make us a lot poorer.  Therefore we need a social ethos that admires frugality and sacrifice.  Success is more like the honey a bee produces-Extra for the whole society, not the honey you get to eat. Is Anyone going to work in this society?  With sacrificial leadership - perhaps.  With an “I’m Most Important” mentality, it’s every man for himself--nasty, brutish, and short.  Let us admire farmers, craftsmen, teachers, innovators, scientists and work toward creating social eco-capital--the best life as close to Nature as possible.  If it’s austere, so be it.
 

We left Ruby’s Inn smack into a headwind.  It’s a slight uphill grade to the Park and Visitors center and we were SLOW, even in the paceline.  The traffic is not bad at all but you can’t see anything from the road.  You have to branch off to each of the overlooks.  This entails some elevation challenges, up and down to get to each of the vistas.  Throw in a steady breeze and our plan looked time consuming.  If we all rode to the terminus we’d obviously have to ride back before starting our ride to Escalante.  We’d have already ridden 50 miles in the Park.  So at the half way mark, Ralph rode back to Ruby’s to get the car and met us at Yovimpa point. We clawed our way to the Park terminus. Perhaps we should have realized that the word “canyon” could mean some ups and downs.  When he arrived we were mighty glad to see him although we toyed with the idea of  taking advantage of the tailwind.....We didn’t.  We opted for lunch at the Lodge.  It’s close to the trails and overlooks and seems to be a fantastic place to stay.  We were one of three parties in the large dining hall and had a great lunch.  Load the bikes and head to the main road for our trip to Escalante. 

From the turn at Ruby’s Inn the road heads downhill to Tropic and the views back up into Bryce Canyon are stunning.  It would be better to be riding the other direction because most of the vistas were at 4 to 5 o’clock over your right shoulder.  I love these dusty mesas.  We pass the Dixie Forest but it is not really what I would call a “Dixie” forest.  I don’t see any wildlife moving in the heat of the day.  Presumably there are coyotes but we never see one.  There is so much space.  In the Smokies, the kind of forest I am used to, it is always drippy and you don’t expect to see any animals because they are smart enough to stay 50’ away out of sight behind a tree. 

I loved Westerns as a kid.  TV shows like Bonanza, Rawhide, and Have Gun Will Travel.  Actually being out West though makes me realize that these morality plays were fundamentally flawed.  You would always see good guys and bad guys jump on a horse and ride out of town at a gallop.  Where were they going?  There is nothing to ride a horse to.  When I leave towns on my bike I don’t see any rivers, wells, shade, water of any kind, nothing to graze a horse.  In fact I can often see as far as you could possibly ride on a horse, to say nothing of getting back without water or feed.  One canteen is not enough to go from Ely to Baker or Minersville to Cedar City.  In fact there would be no reason to chase the bad guys because you would KNOW where they were going, the closest water hole.  I understand Conestoga wagons with barrels of water but I don’t see a posse heading out into the desert unless they had a death wish.

I have spent a lifetime as an internationalist.  I took the saying Think globally, act locally to heart.  It strikes me that my dream of better international understanding was naive.  What has happened is that the elite (1%-5%) in all countries share a global ideology at odds with their fellow countrymen.  An Apple executive interacts with the factory owner in Shangai.  Their children go to Penn or Cal-Berkeley and join international conglomerates of entertainment, business, and NGOs. The unemployed, unskilled American is "foreign" to the American business executive at his Davos conference and Arizona golf country club. The Chinese businessman has a house in Vancouver.  When asked, Americans know that the distribution of income is skewed, what they don't realize at all is how incredibly unequal it is.  The richest 1%of the population owns 35% of the assets.  The top 10%--73% of the assets. The top 20% owns 84% of the assets.  The next 20%-owns 11% of the assets leaving 5% for the bottom 60% of the population.  We could say that the interests of the 5% and the middle are not congruent.  American "leaders" appear content to be well rewarded facilitators of the status quo.
     
When I was doing development economics some 35 years ago it was clear that the poor would never catch the rich even with 8% growth rates for the poorest billion and 2% rates for the richest billion.  We did not forecast that far ahead because we knew infinite growth was not possible.  Limits to Growth had given us 50 years to get our house in order and looking back,  we have essentially squandered it.  There is no techno utopia for the future, no Jetson future with robots at our beck and call and all receiving a livable wage.  The future is the shrinking richer and richer and the majority growing poorer. So what did we international think tank busybodies consider was necessary?  Alternative development strategies.  We needed to consider appropriate technology for the level of development in each country.  We, rich countries, needed to embrace our own eco-sustainable models of future growth and assist poor countries to avoid the mistakes of growth that we had made.  The 1960's strategies of import substitution and export led models had a tendency to increase inequality.  The foreign aid we lobbied so hard for was creamed by the elites in poor countries and the big UN projects subsidized business and increased indebtedness that we can now see impoverished even more.  Internationalism today has been co-opted by business as a way to access resources.  And to protect it we have invested heavily in militarism.  The blow-back from selfish policies to establish a world spanning empire will be painful for us "innocent" American Exceptionalists. So globalism is gradually becoming a fetter for citizens in ALL countries. It appears that the game is "pay to play" and fewer are being given the wherewithal.  If everything can be monetized then we are all dependents on the numbers in our bank account and the permissions of our governments to access the "good life".


The road to Escalante passes slot canyons and twisted sandstone piles of rock.  We are looking for a campground a mile or so outside of town and find it tucked next to a cool refreshing lake.  The boys dive in while I take Ralph into town to find an hotel.  We will be back for dinner.

 


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