Like driving on the Moon and Mars

Considering the trouble I had getting through the gutbuster of a breakfast that is Denny’s Lumberjack Slam, I was amazed at seeing some old geezers at the next table do the same. Obviously, they had a wasteline to match, quite unlike mine. But still, making your way through a stack of pancakes, a pile of hashbrowns, a couple of poached eggs, a honeyed and grilled slab of ham, some strips of bacon and a bunch of linked sausages isn’t something you should be doing every morning, in my opinion.

The breakfast did give me a good start for the long drive I was in for. I’m headed over to Denver to catch the last bit of the Democratic convention and it’s still well over a day’s drive, especially considering the strict speed limits over here. And it’s not like it’s easy to break them either. That I found out when I was subjected to a typical ‘California Stop’, when a Calfornia cop pulled me over for not coming to a complete stand-still.

Mind you, it was 1:00am, the roads were well-lit, I was able to see all three other roads coming in to the crossing and I had slowed to no more than 5 mph as I rolled up to the stopping line. Seeing no traffic whatsoever and rolling so slow I could just slam the brakes and stop on a dime, I considered my job done and started to accellerate. Only to find I was being ‘chased’ by some copy trying to fill his quota. It took quite a bit of smoothtalking to get this man to throw the ticket he was writing away, but I managed to convince him I was utterly unaware of the correct interpretation of this very foreign traffic situation. Truth be told, it was the last stop sign I ran. It’s more work looking over your shoulder at every single one than it is to actually stop, even if it’s completely pointless to do so.

I did notice that not just most, but almost all drivers in California, New Mexico, Arizone and Colorado sofar seem to abide by the rules, more so than I’m used to in Europe, the Netherlands in particular. Sure, some people ‘speed’ but that’s in the order of going 70 where the limit is 65 on 10-mile straights. I haven’t seen anyone j-walk, run a red light, ignore a stop sign, speed seriously or break any other rule for that matter. As a result, the traffic is relatively peaceful although the US has its fair share of poor motorists, as does any country. My main annoyance on US roads is people changing lanes without checking their blind spot. The ‘stay with your lane’ principle works very well too, especially since the entire infrastructure seems to be built around it, so you hardly ever have to change lanes once you’ve selected the right one.

While driving, I’m listening in on local radio stations. Apart from on air sermons trying to convert me or offer ‘interesting’ alternative explanations of bible passages, I’m also getting a lot of local and small news. Something that was fun to see develop was something I first heard in a gas station. The customer in front of me was telling the teller about a 9-year old kind in Kansas no longer being allowed to pitch, because he was pitching 40mph balls, scaring the other kids away. Later that day, the news showed up on some local radio station. That evening, I noticed the news appear on local TV. Then, the next day it was air on National Public Radio and that evening, national TV was reporting on how the news was now being reported abroad as well and the kid getting invitations from talk shows.

In other news, cheerleaders in Arizona may no longer be allowed to come to school in their cheerleading uniforms, since their skirts are too short and are rumoured to be distracting the boys… This follows the outlawing of playing tag and playing dodge ball, since these games were also deemed too dangerous to be played on the school yard. I am not kidding you, something is seriously wrong with these people. Generally though, parenting seems to be pretty tight over here. Whenever I see Dutch parents attempting to get their kids to behave, I tend to get annoyed at the lack of discipline and the overall lousy parenting they seem to be displaying. Over here though, parents aren’t ashamed to continuously correct their kids in public and I’ve seen several occassions of strangers straightening out other people’s kids that somehow break the rules of normal conduct.

Before getting into my current motel in the Four Corners area, I stopped over at a Navajo Indian Casino, which was interesting though somewhat disconcerting. All along the way I had seen what seems to be the only serious business these people are involved in: hand-crafting jewelry and selling it by the roadside. All other ‘proud Navajo’ seemed to be either walking along the road drunk, or sitting around doing nothing. Granted, there are a few Navajo-run shops, inns and gas stations but none of them look very inviting. The only really succesful business they are running are these casino’s, but to my surprise this was mostly filled with truckers and Navajo’s themselves. As a people, I wouldn’t give them more than a few more decades before completely disappearing at this rate.

I asked someone selling the jewelry at the roadside if their competition amongst themselves wasn’t hurting business, but she told me it was pretty much the only thing she knew how to do and it was probably the same for the others. Some of their kids do go away and get a proper education, but apparently they don’t come back and sharen the wealth. It’s a sad state of affairs.

Anyway, off to Denver…

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Jaap van der Velde

I live and breathe software, love games and spent many a vacation touring Europe on my motorcycle. Currently diving, riding, hopefully flying and gaining perspective around Oz.

2 thoughts on “Like driving on the Moon and Mars”

  1. fyi we have red light camera in states wouldnt surprise me if some enterprising small town had a stop sign one installed somewhere

    funny thing is my 1st moving violation was for a similiar near stop out of my high school parking lot

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