Observations from the road

April 26th, 201111:52 am @ Jay Palter

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I’ve just returned from a month-long relocation of life to the Californian desert. I know, it sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And it was.

Since we were away so long, I opted to drive so that we could have the vehicle and not have to rent one. And also so we could load it up with stuff – mostly bicycles – that contributed enormously to our wonderful time (well, mine anyway).

Driving was a 6500 km adventure – including the driving we did while down there. There’s a lot of time to think while driving, but writing while driving is generally frowned upon. So here are some observations from the road.

  • Why is the road from Calgary to Edmonton called Deerfoot Trail, but the road from Edmonton to Calgary is called Calgary Trail. They both go through Red Deer. If Edmontonians need another reason to fuel the conspiracy theory, this one is staring them in the face. Let’s change Calgary Trail to Airdrie Trail.
  • There’s something about driving into Canada that just feels like home. The Customs agents smile. The roads seems nicer – in better condition and better signage. It’s almost as if you can feel the better social safety net that exists here. It’s weird, but real. That’s why I’ll always live here and only visit the US.
  • The US is a lovely place to visit. The people can be friendly. The physical geography is stunningly beautiful. And they sure know hoe to do luxury down there. But everywhere I look, outside of these positive factors, I see disintegration, decrepitude, and deterioration. I see exploitation, I see garbage, I see rampant industrialization – but rust-belt industrialization. America looks and feels like it’s in decline. Still a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
  • California is seriously hurting economically. Even in the heart of Palm Springs luxury, we encountered homeless people, panhandlers, and garbage pickers. Entire retail malls were shuttered and storefronts were out of business everywhere. Many houses for sale and rent.
  • Be it March or April, you’re going to encounter weather somewhere if you’re driving 2800 km over 2 or three days. For instance, when crossing the continental divide (elevation 6700 feet) at the border of Montana and Idaho, I drove through white-out conditions going down and a much lighter sleet storm returning.
  • There is virtually no mobile coverage in rural Montana and Idaho, so don’t count on it. Even if you’re driving on the interstate.
  • Utah is a lovely state, very diverse in its geography from the snowy peaks of the north to canyonlands of the south.
  • Vegas is un-effing-believable. It really is the epitome of the 21st century America – and that’s not really a compliment.
  • Driving big rigs for a living must be very difficult on the body. Spending hours on end in seated position causes all kinds of aches and pains and stresses on the body. And speaking of stresses, I cannot imagine how stressful it much be to drive those big rigs through the treacherous mountain passes in less than ideal road conditions. Whatever freedom comes with that kind of lifestyle – there’s a physical cost, for sure.

Here are some shots from the driver’s seat of the drive back from Palm Springs to Edmonton, started on Sunday April 24 and completed on Monday April 25, 2011.

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