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All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Jack Torrance in Stephen King's "The Shining."
"How many divisions has the pope?"Josef Stalin
On the road: Bike shows and bombshells
By Patrick O'Grady
Dog Mountain, CO
AGLES ON HIGHWAY." Signs such as these do not bring comfort to a Gaelic agnostic piloting a Shintomobile through Mormon country under a Muslim crescent moon. Eagles by night and dust devils by day, dozens of them at a whack, miniature tornados of wind, sand and sun-bleached garbage. With so much white trash whirling about as I motor through Utah and Nevada en route to Truckee, California, I keep one eye peeled for burning bushes that jabber about queers, abortionists and the ACLU.
Visions like these are only to be expected after an overdose of pre-apocalyptic theology over the past couple of weeks. They constitute yet another argument for unplugging your TV, pitching the fucker off the deck, and shooting great big holes into it until the voices stop, especially the one belonging to Aaron Brown on CNN, a veteran of Seattle's KING-TV who seems like a nice enough guy but probably needs to give the bong a rest for a few weeks, at least during business hours.
On second thought, you may want to save the ammo. Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims alike are talking jihad, and we all know that God fights on the side of the heaviest artillery.
It's A Bird, It's A ... Nope, It's A Bird. There are not a lot of contrails cross-hatching the sky as I roll westward toward Truckee for a few days of mountain biking before the annual Interbike trade show. The airlines are too busy laying off working stiffs and figuring out how to spend that $15 billion federal bailout to put many half-empty aircraft full of nervous drinkers and plainclothes cops into the sky.
But I have plenty of company on the ground. A rest area I know off Interstate 70 in Utah, which normally hosts a car or two of snoozing tourists, is packed with 18-wheelers, sedans and SUVs. I sip a couple of Bass Ales from the cooler and contemplate trying to sleep, but the rest area sounds like pit row at a Nascar event, so I continue up the interstate a few more miles, taking Highway 50 through Salina to a state campsite four miles off the highway and up into the trees. I awaken to red oaks and a trickling creek instead of idling Peterbilts.
Even the self-proclaimed Loneliest Road in America, U.S. Highway 50, has more than its share of ground traffic. This is a road you can ordinarily do half drunk on cruise control, slipping B.B. King and Los Lobos discs into and out of the CD player, but today it's thronged with giant RVs towing jeeps, bike-racked SUVs and windblown Californians with the top down and one foot through the firewall.
Stop In The Name Of ... Road Repair. We all have to slow down, and occasionally stop, for the usual scattering of road-resurfacing projects. At one single-lane section east of Austin, as a line of traffic waits for the pilot vehicle to shepherd us past the fresh goo, I chat with a sunbaked flag woman from Oregon who's spent much of the past year living in her Jeep and doing odd jobs like this. Not much work back home these days, she says; happily, her cat is a good traveler.
Not much work in Austin, either, according to a guy working in the local bike-slash-coffee shop. If you're not working for the county or the school board, you're probably retired or moving elsewhere, he says. And as far as Nevada's big cities go, he adds, forget about itthe Sept. 11 terrorist assaults left Las Vegas looking like something out of "The Stand," and he wonders whether Reno, which has had trouble keeping major air carriers, might be in danger of losing its airport. He'll be taking his next trip by car.
And why not? Friends have chided me for my dislike of flying, but I don't see many of them queueing up for tickets lately. This is why we're giving that multibillion-dollar pat on the back to the airline industry, which had been on track to lose something like $2 billion before Sept. 11. I expect that hotels, restaurants, car-rental agencies and related industries will not get much more than a shrug of the federal shoulders, with palms held up and out: Hey, what can I tell you? That's business.
Well, I didn't like the airlines' business much before this happened, and I like it even less now. So I'll stick to my Toyota, even though I'm going to have to put an oil change, a clutch and a timing belt into it shortly. Its seats are more comfortable than a 737's, nobody gives me a cavity search before I board, and I can arrive mere seconds before my scheduled departure time.
And perhaps best of all, while there's an armed psycho at the controls, it's only me.
- This column is exclusive to the DogSite.
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