Garrett (garote) wrote,
Garrett
garote

Cross-Country Trip Day 2 : Wed Aug 15

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By the time I was packed up to leave in the morning, everyone but the maintenance man had vamoosed. He took a break from his job of raking the gravel around the parking lot (I don't know what for) to head inside and help me dump a pile of ice in my cooler. I'm pretty sure that a fair amount of it melted just between the office and the car. It was hot out!

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That is one long-ass road. I bet it took a lot of work to lay it down. And someone had to go along in a truck, with a bucket of tar, and paint over all those cracks, when they appeared years later. I get to just cruuuiise over it all, while Ennio Morricone plays in the background!

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When you need a new building, why not use the materials at hand?

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Makes me thirsty just looking at it!

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I love the spooky atmosphere of abandoned structures. Must appeal to some primitive part of my psyche. This shot avoids most of the creative - and profane - graffiti coating most of the walls.

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This is a sign advertising a portion of the tree behind it. You've totally gotta stop in and purchase some of this tree.

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Another self-portrait. I'm hamming it up, since the gadgets I'm using are new and exciting. Wooo!

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This is Jonas. I passed by him as he was cycling west, and my conscience - and sense of adventure - forced me to turn around and offer him a drink. He was pleased for both the water and the conversation - long-haul cycling through the desert can get pretty lonely sometimes.

But long-haul cycling is also totally awesome. Check out his blog post for that day. Before running in to me, he rode alongside a herd of wild horses! And after that, he rode through a sandstorm!! Adventure on the open road. Seeing him made me want to start planning my next big ride. But I was already in the middle of a drive, so ... onward!

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I got to watch some dust storms grinding their way across the desert. Neat stuff.

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It got up to a breezy 109 degrees outside, according to the car. Time to stop and take more photos!

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This looks like a good spot!

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Enjoying the dry heat, and groovin' on my playlist, as I set up the camera for another panorama.

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This is the tripod and camera mount, without the camera inside. It only takes a few minutes to calibrate the thing, and if you can remember what your settings were between shots (which I'm not bothering to do) it doesn't need calibration at all.

IMG_140420120815 Panorama

This is the 360-degree panorama, laid out on a rectangle. You can also view it as an interactive Quicktime object, by clicking this link. Click and drag the pointer around to pan, and use the shift and control keys on the right-hand side of your keyboard to zoom in and out. Pretty dang awesome!

(To make the panorama work on most computers, I've scaled the detail down. The original photo is over 25 thousand pixels wide! The Quicktime object was rendered at about one fifth of that resolution.)

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While waiting for the panorama to finish, I saw this neat plant growing nearby. It's a Cholla cactus; also known as "jumping cactus" or "teddybear cactus". (Shout-outs to Erika for doing the research on this!)

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As I was packing up, a few cattle decided to mosey across the road, because ... why not!

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While I definitely believe that bicycling is the best way to really see the territory you're passing through, I have to admit, I still saw some pretty amazing stuff just looking through the windshield of Reno the Honda CRV...

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This is the sort of stuff you get if you just wave the camera out the window while driving through southern Utah.

I drove until night fell, and I ended up in Kanab, Utah. I checked into the motel, taking note of the large array of books stacked on a table in the foyer. They were all The Book Of Mormon, translated into different languages.

Once my stuff was unpacked and I'd rested for a while, I drove around Kanab, looking for the BLM office I would need to visit at 8:30am the next day to apply for a permit to hike The Wave. I found it on the edge of town, and when I saw the burger joint across the street I realized I was hungry, so I went in to purchase the first of what would prove to be many low-grade meals during this road trip.

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Turns out the burger joint sells my soft taco. That sounds very questionable!

After placing my order, I sat down at one of the tables. Someone had left a business card on it. It was a garish advertisement for some online video, filled with hype about how great the video was but explaining nothing of the content. "Two million views in two months!" it boasted. "Heh," I thought, "I've seen videos of cats falling off tables, with more views than that, and in a shorter time."

Curious, I loaded the site on my phone, but stopped the page from loading before the video could begin, and read the comments instead. Yep, it was an anti-abortion infomercial. Fundamentalist trojan-horse media tactics. How banal.

Still waiting, I looked at a poster on the wall, consisting of a crude world map with a bunch of labeled photographs of young men stapled around it in a ring. The labels identified the young men as "missionaries" who had traveled abroad for a short while and then returned. They all had different last names and came from all over the state, yet as I swept my gaze clockwise around the headshots, over and over, I was struck by how genetically similar they all looked. They all had some clear trace of that prototypical "white guy" Mormon in their faces.

I felt deeply disturbed by this, for some reason. None of the men were ugly - well, okay, maybe a few were on the border - but none of them were what I would call handsome either. Almost all of them appeared to be overweight.

My order arrived, and as I stood up to get it, I looked around the restaurant. A half-dozen young men were seated in the booths, ranging from 15 to 30 in age. A little electric charge of horror went through me as I realized they all had traces of that same facial structure. I had not been expecting it; I hadn't even noticed it.

Now on the one hand, I don't know why this creeped me out so much. I know that if I went on a drive across South Korea, for example, I would expect most of the people I encounter to match my vague idea of "Korean". If I went on a bike ride around Scotland I would expect the locals to look vaguely Scottish.

But on the other hand... Until now, I never realized that there was an ethnic subgroup of Americans that was centered around this particular appearance. I knew there were Mormons, and I knew they were all quite exclusively "white people" due to the ugly racist history of the church, but I didn't think I could actually make a decent stab at identifying them on sight. Being confronted with this unexpectedly in some random burger joint that I had only moments ago considered to be no more or less American, or ethnically diverse, than any other place ... that was understandably startling.

I should have known something was amiss when I set up the laptop in the motel room and opened youtube to search up some video tours of The Wave, and observed that the site had parsed my IP address and recognized I was in Utah, and was serving me, in order, a propaganda video endorsing Mitt Romney, a music video from Taylor Swift, a video making fun of Joe Biden, and two more Taylor Swift videos.

Actually I should have known earlier than that, when I saw the Mitt Romney bumper sticker on the cab of a beat up truck on the freeway in the late afternoon. No wait, even earlier, when I stopped for gas, and picked up a newspaper with a half-page photo of Mitt Romney's VP selection - hell, I don't even remember his name, who cares, really - and a gushing headline "VP pick energizes crowds". (I read a few sentences in and discovered that this crowd was at a local High School, and was about 2,000 people in total.)

At some point, back in Nevada, I drove through the looking glass. Now I am in that bizarro United States, the one that the international community derides, the one that lives in a perpetual, unrelenting state of gay panic from birth to death, the one that is more concerned with the "rights" of zygotes and gun owners than the rights of full-grown women. Yes, the people are friendly, at least to someone looking like me. Yes, they work hard; they have good qualities; there are progressive people mixed in with them; there are examples of their politics living back home in my own part of the country ... I know all that.

But it still creeps me out, seeing all those eerie faces lined up in a circle, around a poster ebulliently praising their efforts to "spread the gospel".

(As an aside, a little over a week later, I will attend church with my sister and her husband, and will paradoxically feel none of that eerie "through the looking glass" feeling. Probably because the pastor said things that I had heard many times before, and was generally focused on inclusivity and acceptance.)
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