Wednesday, August 27, 2008

fire in Salt Lake

Miles into the desert from the Mote Exit in Nevada.

More dirt bag camping! Follow some dirt off an exit in the middle of nowhere and keep driving till the road gets smaller and rougher. Go till you think for the fourth time, “Just pull over and set up the freaking tent!”. And I do, checking the ground for level, cactus, cow shit, (well dried, no problem.) I spaz around a little too much trying to get the tent up before all the light bleeds out of the horizon. My water bag has been sitting on the dashboard all the way across the salt flats and is piping hot. I place it on the top of the car, pull out the driver’s side floor mat and put it under my feet and have luxurious hot shower. I get out the guitar and serenade the stars. Finally the few bug that are out here find me and I retreat to the tent.

This morning I woke up and started driving. HIghway six wiggles it’s way down a canyon before depositing me on interstate fifteen. At the opening of the canyon I was surprised to see eight monstrous wind turbines, their long white blades shone brilliant in the now revealed morning sun. For us paraglider pilots their position made immediate sense. They would capture both the evening’s draining winds and the days building winds. Smart! Nice to see something smart. I am perturbed by the idea of an energy crisis. There’s a oil crisis for sure but energy, being neither created or destroyed just changing form, is in the same relative state it always has been. It’s more the pure sloth of not taking advantage of what’s available and the problem that a few people are getting crazy rich by keeping us trapped in the oil age, that has put us in the position that we are in now.

All right enough of that. (It’s buying this expensive gas that’s keeping me ranting.)

As I got onto I-15 and headed towards Salt Lake City I could see the smoke from a large fire beyond the Point of The Mountain.

The Point, as it is known is a famous paragliding site. It is a unique geological phenomena because it is a ridge of mountains that cross a valley. Usually what ever routed out the valley in the first place would remove any perpendicular features to that valley. What this does for the paragliding is that the cold air that flows down the valley every morning flows over the point, making good flying. In the evening the heated air flows up the other side of the point. On a good day you can fly one side in the morning, take a long lunch and fly the other side in the afternoon.

As I get closer to Salt Lake City I see billboards for the Mormon movies. The Mormons make movies about the book of Mormon and show them at the theaters. My favorite was “Polygamy, our Heritage.” I kid you not. This always gets me thinking. I am reminded that Salt Lake City was originally a separate city state that then joined the United States. Salt Lake has a unique history and remains a unique place for it. I keep thinking one of these days I’m going to watch one of these movies just to see what they are all about.

The hiway took me around the point and I could now see the fire blazing up Lone Peak. The smoke had a orange tint to it and now reach up beyond cloud base where the smoke became bright white as the moisture within it started forming a huge cloud. I stopped by the Paragliding shop, Cloud Nine. Everyone was out back taking pictures of the fire. I heard the owner Steve, talking on the phone with someone, “No, you can’t fly today...” (Paraglider pilots can have such one track minds!) I saw the big multi engine slurry bomber plane drop a load of red goo over the house at the bottom of the mountain. With the slurry bombers out the airspace would be closed to all paragliding. I got back into the car and drove and drove and... drove. The salt flats went by the mountain came and went. A river was rarity. The heat got up to speed and started baking the land. Dust devils quivered in long, towering columns. Finally the sun slunk off behind some mountain to look for the back side of the horizon, the heat backed off and I found the sign “Mote exit number something, no services.” or dirt back camping here.

The oil age and road tripping

Greetings from one of my favorite dirt bag camping sites. I’ve just crested Soldier pass on Highway six. I pulled off a few miles down the west side on a dirt road of questionable condition. Straddling the massive ruts made by the SUV’s, I drove down to the creek and set up my tent. I always drive to the Monterey clinics. I love the road trip and the dirt bag camping on some disregarded piece of property. But each year there is a shadow growing ever darker on my trips. It’s the sun setting on the internal combustion engine.

My last road trip was the epic Central America trip with American Explorer. At over twelve thousand miles, Monterey’s mere thirteen hundred seems a quick trip to the store for milk. Yet the trip to Central America had two things going for it that this one does not. I’m driving my own car, not the sponsor’s and the credit card that I insert into the gas pump is mine. So, from that looming shadow I was talking about comes this voice, “How much longer can you pull this off?”. I drove pass a station in Glenwood Springs, and there it was, four dollar plus gas. Now I know I’m going into the heart of reckless gas profiteering, California. I saw the grim reaper waving at my car, standing beneath that sign.

On my last Paramotor trip to Utah in November, I remember talking with Bill Lhotta about how when the gas is gone we won’t miss mixing the two stroke oil, or the smell, or the noise. And it made me think that we are all trapped in the oil age. Like a bunch of cavemen dragging our stone clubs around, we are all pushed up the end of a technological canyon that is narrowing. Cars were once powered by many different engines but like a bad businessman that relies on one client to keep his business afloat, there is only one now and that way is a dead end. Just the fact that you need an on board computer to run the thing should be a clue. I know when the cars we have today are gone, I won’t be missing the noise or the stink or that only thirty percent of the energy actually turns the wheels as the rest is wasted or all those endless pieces that need fixing. But if the road trips go away...
But there’s one more thing I’ll miss. It’s a by product of those wasteful engines and that’s the heat, cause there’s nothing like going for a drive on a cold winter’s day, slapping that heat control all the way right, and baking myself.