Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada

I have a six hour drive ahead of me today as I head west out of Moab on I70 to Ely Nevada. The first two hours are sheer joy. Red cliffs are all around, traffic moves well, and the morning is cool. I drive with the windows down, singing along with my music and wondering why I get to lead such a fun life.

Of course, this doesn’t last.

Everything changes shortly after I turn on to state highway 50. As I descend out of the mountains, the temperature rises 20 degrees and the scenery turns to endless scraggly sage. I enter one of the weirdest stretches of road I have ever traveled upon.

I grew up in Western Kansas and most people consider it pretty desolate there, but it is an overpopulated mass of humanity compared to this part of western Utah. For long stretches, I do not see another car or a building of any kind. I have no phone service. The sun blares down and I go to AC.

I pat my dashboard. Not a good place to breakdown, I whisper to my trusty FJ Cruiser. Fortunately, she understands and agrees.

Then I hit the road construction. Or rather, the road construction signs. They insist I slow down to 35 mph, so of course I do. I creep along looking for either people or machinery. Neither appears. The asphalt looks new, and some stretches are missing a center line, but that’s the only sign of roadwork. I let my speed creep back up. If going 35 mph feels slow on a normal highway, it feels like sitting still out here.

I’m just about back up to 65 mph when I see another sign. This one wants me to go 45. Okay, I play along. Again, no workers, no machinery, no other cars going my direction and only a rare one going the other way. I feel silly driving 45. After a while, I creep back up again.

This goes on four or five more times, with each lowered speed limit slightly different, and never a sign saying it is okay to resume normal speed. It has ceased to be amusing when I begin to round the crest of a small hill and notice the top of a vehicle off the right. Surely not, I think. But just in case, I slow down to 40 mph.

Yup. It’s a big ol’ sheriff’s truck, setting smack dab in the absolute middle of nowhere hidden by the only hill for miles. As I go by, he steps out of the vehicle and points something at me, a speed detection device I assume. By then I’m doing 34 mph and giving him the finger in my head.

Doesn’t this man have anything better to do?

No, he doesn’t. Before long I notice him at a distance in my rear view mirror. I slow down. He slows down. I speed up. He speeds up. I’m contemplating all sorts of crazy reactions when Rule 11 solidifies in my mind.

Avoid unnecessary trouble. Just avoid it.

Is trouble ever necessary? Yes, I tell myself. There are fights that need to be fought, causes that should be championed. But … doing something stupid because of one lone sheriff determined to collect a fine is not a cause worth messing up a perfectly fine day for.

It’s about twenty miles to the Nevada border. I can do this. I slow down to 40 mph and creep along. A mile from the border, he pulls a u-turn and heads back into Utah to find someone else to pick on.

Just inside Nevada there is this wonderful little establishment surrounded by miles of nothing, selling gas and a offering a dim room full of singing, blinking slot machines. I use the restroom and consider playing a machine as a thank you for the facilities, then opt for treating myself to a ginger ale instead.

“Have a nice day,” the young man chirps.

“I will. I’m so glad to have made it to Nevada.”

He nods like he understands and I think maybe he does. It could be the sort of thing he hears from half a dozen or so people every day ….

My travels end well with a nice meal in Ely at a place called Cell Block Steakhouse. Each table is it’s own little jail cell. Cute, huh? Maybe not so much so after the day I had. Yet, it could have ended far worse.

Seeking a song for the day, my mind went straight to this, my favorite song ever  about a man trying to avoid trouble. It makes me laugh every time I hear it, and I especially like this recent live version.

 

 

 

Potty Room Politics

I used to live in Texas, and every so often my politicians would say or do something so bad that I didn’t know whether to laugh or move out of state. Often it was Texas representative Louie Gohmert, who managed such classics as his assertion that having gays serve openly in the military would make the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorism because gay soldiers would act like the ancient Greeks and bring their lovers to the front lines to “give them massages before they go into battle.” Yes, he really said that.

I eventually moved here, though not because of Congressman Louie. When I got here, North Carolina was a far less embarrassing state, or so I thought. But not long after, we became known as the state of the infamous bathroom bill, HB2. Great. Friends from around the country started to forward me the jokes.

Surely you have heard of this law. It was passed about a year ago, and it requires all humans in NC to use the public restroom designated for the gender of their birth. The claim, which few people really believed, was that HB2 was an attempt to protect women from assault. Now, assaulting women in public bathrooms has always been both wrong and illegal, in North Carolina and everywhere else. Men dressing up like women and going into the woman’s powder room to do so, however, has not been a problem, in North Carolina or anywhere else.

According to a CNN affiliate website

CNN reached out to 20 law enforcement agencies in states with anti-discrimination policies covering gender identity. None who answered reported any bathroom assaults after the policies took effect.

Then there is the sheer ludicrousness of expecting everyone to walk around with a copy of their birth certificate, which they can then show to who? Some hall monitor guarding every restroom door in the state? Everyone admits that the enforcement part of HB2 always was a little tricky.

So what is it’s purpose?

Well, the humans who were born male and now identify as female and wish to use the female restroom are transgender humans, either somewhere in the process of transitioning to female, or already female. Either way, they are quite uncomfortable and conspicuous in the men’s room, and also at some risk. They just want to be able to pee without any kind of an incident. I’ve heard that many hold back on drinking water and other liquids so they won’t have to go the bathroom and face this problem. Humans born female and who now identify as a male face a similar problem in using the women’s restroom.

And pretty much everyone in North Carolina knows this.

The infamous HB2 was designed to make life more difficult for transgender people because some lawmakers in North Carolina are uncomfortable with them, as are some of their constituents. As an added bonus, the law contains others parts which also make it legal to discriminate in other ways against members of the LGBT community.

The intent of the law was so obvious that is has resulted in several boycotts that have cost North Carolina both money and prestige; the most notable has been from the NCAA regarding its much loved tournament games in a state that reveres college basketball. Today’s attempt by House Minority Leader Darren Jackson to get HB2 repealed coincided what many believe is the deadline for the NCAA’s decision of where to award championship events through 2022.

But do our legislators reflect the wishes of the people? According to a Reuters report of a Public Religion Research Institute poll, America is as fiercely divided on this topic as it is on so many others, with a slight majority (53%) favoring tolerance, a large minority (39%) fighting to go back to a less tolerant time, and a small swath (10%) who either don’t know or don’t care. A poll taken by WRAL News of just North Carolinians shows virtually the same results. (50%, 38%, 12%)

I’m still trying to figure out how you have no opinion on this subject.

What I do understand is that a state in which more people want to repeal HB2 than want to keep it, our legislators voted 74-44 to not talk about it, in spite of the potential losses to our state.

Do you know who your state representative is? How about your state senator? Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know of either of mine. It turns our that they probably live near you. You may do your grocery shopping at the same place. They certainly have a local staffer who will take phone calls from you and note down your opinion.

Internet search engines provide countless ways to find out who these folks are, but I think one of the easiest to use is at the Common Cause website. Typing in your address will yield the names, phone numbers and websites of every elected official who votes on your behalf.

Did you think that the stuff they work on doesn’t really matter to you? I used to think that, too.