Friday, April 29, 2011

An Open Letter to Utah Drivers

This is a letter I wrote to the UHP:

Dear Utah Highway Patrol,

I am writing to express my displeasure with the drivers in Utah. I know this is a generalization and not all Utah drivers are like this but I have spent 30+ years driving in Utah and I have detected a pattern.

This morning two incidences on my 5 mile trip to work again reminded me of this pattern. The first involves getting on the freeway. I was behind several cars entering the freeway at 40 mph. I signed left to enter and sped up. The middle lane was clear for a while and no one was in the left lane. The driver in the right lane sped up to try and prevent me from entering (he or she was at least 3 car lengths away from me). When they got up to me they hit their horn. They could have easily moved left to avoid the whole mess.

The second incident involved merging from one freeway to another. The car ahead of me was in the far left lane. He or she was travelling in the left lane for about a mile. I was behind them in order to pass another car in the middle lane. I had to merge right after I passed the car ahead to get to the other freeway on ramp. I signaled. As I entered the center lane the car in front of me put on their signal and tried to merge right. I was less than a car length from them. They kept coming until they realized I wasn’t going to let them in and after I passed them they got behind me and put on their high beams.

Both of these incidences should not have happened if the other drivers were used to driving in traffic and could anticipate other car’s movements.

I call this “self-involved” driving. I believe the driver is only thinking about their needs on the road and either doesn’t see the other drivers, doesn’t consider them when moving from lane to lane or doesn’t care. They are where they are and they have a right to be there.

It is just common courtesy to try and make the flow of traffic as reasonable as possible for as many people as possible. We all have to share the road and we can do a lot to improve safety if we would just think about someone other than ourselves. With increased traffic in our area this will only get worse.

I find myself so frustrated by this “self-involved” driving that I take on the same attitude just so I can get where I am going. This is counter-productive and sometimes dangerous. I am also concerned it will be seen as “aggressive” driving, the target of a recent UHP campaign, when I am just trying to get away from poor driving habits.

I encourage UHP to put more emphasis into your “share the road” campaign with respect to other drivers. Train people to look out for others, anticipate their moves and work with them rather than against them. UHP should also have an enforcement campaign to ticket those drivers who make unsafe maneuvers in order to maintain their place or not yield the road. I think UHP was successful with this in part with the “move left” campaign for stopped patrol cars on the right side of the road.

UHP officers have a very dangerous and thankless job. I appreciate your work every day. I offer this insight to help, not to complain.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mineral Bottom Road Revisited

On our trip to save a German (see my last post) we rode down the Mineral Bottom Road.  It is completely repaired and as good as it was before the washout, if not better.

Grand County has done a wonderful job of getting this road back up and operational in time for the spring tourist season.  They have also put in diversion canals at the top of the canyon and cement pads along the road where they believe water could run in heavy rains. 

It is possible to get a 2 wheel drive car down the road but I wouldn't advise it.  You can't go any further than the bottom of the switchbacks in a 2WD and in anything but ideal conditions this road will still provide challenges to the un-initiated. 


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Saving a German

Last weekend we were in Canyonlands.  We had a permit to camp at one of the campsites along the White Rim trail.  The White Rim is a 100 mile long 4x4 road isloated from civilization that is popular with mountain bikers.  Once in you are on your own.

We camped at Murphy Hogback.  That is 50 miles in, just halfway.  At 8:00 pm, just as we are about to retire, we hear a voice.  "Can you help me?".

Usually this area has some traffic at this time of year.  The weather is typically spectacular, not to hot, not too cold and usually sunny.  This weekend it was forcast for a rainy, dreary onslaught of several storms.  In addition the US government threatened to close the Park on Friday night - budget cuts.

Friday's weather turned out a lot better than we expected.  The storms went north and we didn't get much rain, just a sprinkle or so.  On our way in on the White Rim we commented on how few people we saw.  At our camp area there were 3 other sites, all empty.  There was no one else around for at least 20 or 30 miles, most likely 50 or so.

The voice belonged to a German tourist who rented a mountain bike in Moab and wanted to bike the White Rim.  He was alone, out of water and very lightly clothed.  The temperature was predicted to be 27 degrees F that night.  He wanted to know the fastest way to get out of the White Rim.  We told him it was the way he came in, 50 miles of rough road. 

You know that look you see in people's eyes when they realize they are in much deeper than they expected?  He had that exact look.  We didn't have spare sleeping provisions but we did have some food, water and a blanket we shared with him.  He slept in the outhouse - his name was Klaus so we called it the Klaus house.  It wasn't very pleasent but it kept him warm.  In the morning we fed him a hot breakfast and sent him back on his way.  He was very greatful to find us.

The trouble with the vast country that is Canyonlands National Park is that first time visitors can't appreciate it's enormity.  It is the wild.  It will swallow you up if you aren't prepared.  I guess that is part of the reason I like going there. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Unlimited Runs Update

My Dad had a great response to the "unlimited runs" comments last weekend.

We were coaching kids baseball (7 and 8 year olds) and the other coaches were assertive.  The league rule is each team can score only 5 runs each inning even if the other team doesn't have 3 runs.  This team was up 20 to nothing.  Before the last inning the other coach announces "remember, we get unlimited runs in the last inning".

Dad said I should have responded "How about I give you 100 runs now and we go home?".  No wonder I have such a sarcastic sense of humor.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Snow in April

It snowed yesterday.  We got about 6 inches. 

The strange thing was that the power was out for more than 12 hours.  At first it was cool.  I liked the quiet without the heater blasting.  We snuggled under the covers and didn't get up until about 11 am. 

Then it got weird.  We didn't know what to do.  I kept looking for things to do without power.  I finally ended up reading the whole Sunday paper. 

We kept calling RMP.  They kept saying, in a recorded message, that they knew about the outage and we would have our power on in a couple of hours.  Finally I went through to the complaint voice message and inserted our address.  They recorded it and said they were working on it.  I was uncharacteristically patient with the person less voice on the other end.  After all, it was Sunday and we had nowhere we needed to be.

Just as we decided to leave for dinner out, after I had struggled getting the garage door open and closed manually, we noticed the outside lights were on.  The power had finally been restored.  Of course I attribute the ultimate power restoration to my persistent phone calls. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Unlimited Runs

I help my son coach my grandson's baseball team.  These kids are 7-8 years old and they are just learning the game of baseball.  This is the first year they are hitting a ball pitched to them and they are still figuring out what to do once they hit the ball.  Its a lot of fun to coach them and watch them learn baseball.

Yesterday we had our second game.  The first game was an exercise in learning the rules and having fun.  The kids cheered each other on and there was a lot of forgiveness when the kids on either team didn't know the rules.

The second game was totally different.  The coach on the opposing team was yelling at the kids.  He was a stickler for the rules (only three strikes and you are out - most of our kids went out on strikes) and he played a very aggressive brand of baseball, teaching his kids to run until they either reached home plate or had to stop because our kids had run in the ball. 

One of the rules is that the inning ends if one team scores 5 runs in that inning.  This is to prevent a coach running up the score on kids who are just learning. 

We were behind about 20 to nothing as the last inning approached.  Their kids hit well and took advantage of every opportunity to score.  Our kids hung in there as Jeff and I kept encouraging them to have fun and not worry about the score. 

As the other team got ready to bat for the last inning their coach announced "remember, we get unlimited runs in the last inning".  Like they needed it.  What a tool. 

We found out that the other team was made up of 10 all-stars from last year.  I guess they needed to play some beginners to get their confidence up before they faced someone who would not be so easy on them. The players weren't mean spirited, they were just 8 year olds having fun.  It was the Douche Lord (that's Maddy's word) coaches who took the game way too seriously. 

After the game Jeff went to put the equipment back and he talked to the opposing team's coach.  Jeff was being positive and said something like "it's all in fun".  The coach shot back "you need to push them, they like it".  It's tough when your ego is wrapped up in an event so much that you loose sight of the real purpose - the kids. 

I want to take on the saying "remember we get unlimited runs in the last inning" as my mantra.  Not in the way their coach meant it, but as a reminder that we shouldn't take life too seriously and that we should focus on what matters.