Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

2,009 miles

That's how far my family has driven in the last 10 days, as part of a vacation to Utah and back.

This is the first road trip I've taken with my kids, and despite their frequent whines ("When are we going to get there?"), there's something about a road trip that gives you a perspective you just don't get by flying.

It's been so long since I've been through northeast Oregon, I had forgotten about the area's beauty. On the way home, we stopped at a rest stop somewhere near LaGrande and I saw a sign for a scenic overlook nearby, so I coaxed the wife into taking a short detour. Believe me when I say that a Toyota Camry is not a good vehicle for off-road use -- but when we got to the end of that bumpy, potholed, mud-puddled road, we saw this:

I used Photoshop to turn three photos into a composite, so you could see the panorama, including the wildflowers fluttering in the breeze, but it doesn't do the view justice.

I didn't even take the time to photograph the snow-capped peaks of the Blue Mountains. And that's not even talking about a stretch of I-84 south of Pocatello that was surprisingly beautiful. Not to mention the magnificent mountains of the Wasatch Range, including Mount Timpanogos; there's a drive from Park City to Provo along I-40 and Highway 189 that provides some of the prettiest views of that mountain around (if you ignore the construction; my brother said Utah residents joke that there are two seasons in the state: winter and construction).

We stayed in a timeshare in Park City, courtesy of my parents, and spent some time with them exploring the area, including a day at Utah Olympic Park with a ride down the zip line and pairing up with my 7-year-old on the alpine slide. We also had a great time watching the skiers train for their freestyle events by flipping and twisting into a 750,000 gallon splash pool.

In the timeshare, my kids spent their time (as much as we would allow) in the pool, and got to hang out with the cousins they rarely see, so it was a great time for that.

It wasn't that hot there, but at 7,000 feet above sea level, the sun makes its presence known. However, as I looked at all the ski runs just a stone's throw from our door, I thought that would be a fun place to go in the winter (though we couldn't afford to stay there without my parents' generosity).

In addition to the beauty, I developed an appreciation for Idaho and Utah in another respect: their speed limits are 75 mph in the rural areas and 65 in urban areas. As we made the trip in two days with a stop in Boise, the second day was much quicker and much more pleasant than the first day. The Oregon legislature needs to get off its hind-end and catch up with its neighbors. There's no reason, short of some tight turns, why the Columbia Gorge and eastern Oregon (or any other rural area) should be 65 mph.

Spare me the gas mileage argument -- we chose to take our Camry because gets much better mileage than our SUV, but it was our choice what we drove. And we still got 36 mpg on that stretch from Salt Lake City to Boise, which is 75 mph the whole way.

This was the first time in 10 years that I had visited Utah, and the first time that I really paid much attention to the influence of the LDS church (or as they prefer to be called, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

I have to assume that Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, maintains a wide berth around the state of Utah. Otherwise, I think his head would explode. And all those people crying about how the Republicans are supposedly trying to establish a theocracy in America? They would likely run screaming into the hills after a few minutes inside the Utah border.

More than two-thirds of the state's residents are Mormons, and I've read that more than 90 percent of the state legislators are members of the LDS church. Republicans control the state house 56-19, and the state senate 21-8. I suspect there's a fairly sizeable minority of liberals in the state who stay for the recreational opportunities, but I also suspect they don't speak up much.

I'm told that the Utah Pioneer Day Celebration, which is held in late July, rivals the Independence Day Celebration in its size and scope. (Example: "In Utah, Pioneer Day on July 24 outshines the Fourth of July and makes Christmas seem like a blip on the calendar. It marks the day in 1847 when Brigham Young led his Mormon followers into what is now Salt Lake City and declared, 'This is the spot.' ") During this celebration, many businesses and state offices are closed. I think I smell Barry Lynn's brain coming to a boil.

Nowhere was the influence of the church more obvious (other than the frequent appearance of its temples along I-15) than in its liquor laws. Like Oregon, Utah runs its own liquor stores; unlike Oregon, you can't buy anything stronger than 3.2 percent beer in the grocery store. That includes microbrews and wine. On Sunday afternoon, I went up to the little market at our timeshare to get something else, and saw a sign posted over the wine bottles that said no alcohol could be sold that day.

They label their bars as "private clubs," with what in essence is a $4-5 admission charge that lasts three weeks (or you can get an annual membership that costs about $25). If you want a double, you have to order the second shot separately; there's also a rule that you can't have more than one drink in front of you at a time, so I'm not sure how those coincide.

I'm told that some of the laws changed after the 2002 Olympics. However, to get a feel for the church's impact, I read that the state legislature proposed some rule changes to the state's liquor laws several years ago, but the bill sponsor said he was waiting for word from the church. "If they say 'No', it's dead," he said.

After reading that last part, you'd think I spent the whole time looking for a drink, but the truth is that I didn't consume anything alcoholic all week. I just thought it interesting.

So we had a great time. Good to see family. Good to see another part of our beautiful country. Good to be home.


  • At 6/25/2006 8:16 PM, Anonymous HMIL said…

    Having made some of that same trip with my family a few years ago, I can totally relate. We went on to Dallas to visit family, but I really loved seeing places I'd only flown over before.

    Oh ... which day was the best? The second ... or the second? (Your ninth paragraph gave me a giggle.)

  • At 6/25/2006 8:52 PM, Blogger Capitol 3 said…

    Hello sounds like a fun vacation were not over our vacation yet but we had access to a computer on our trip we had been planning this one for a year we stayed two nights at the oregon coast and this week we are staying at silver falls in one of their cabins for two nights
    we are changing our minds on Mary we are not unhappy conservatives or against president Bush at all we support president Bush and the war in iraq.
    though we may change our mind on voting for Mary there is some things we disagree with her on
    and you can check this url link below to see what we are not unhappy conservatives agains't president reagan or bush
    we were going to go with mary for Governor but we do not know if we can now we should have checked the website first. there is just some things we are concerned about that we disagree with on her on it and it is a big issue we are not unhappy or against president Bush!perhaps these people forget the clinton days.
    Gods blessings
    write in ballots are always better anyways or maybe we will vote for Ron saxton after all.

  • At 6/25/2006 8:56 PM, Blogger Ken said…

    HMIL -- so what's your point? Maybe I really didn't like the first day. :-)

    Typo fixed.

    A&T -- I agree with Mary about some of that, but the fact remains that a vote for her (or a write-in) is one that won't go to Saxton, and thus one that will make it more likely that the liberal Gov. Kulongoski will win another term.

  • At 6/26/2006 8:39 PM, Blogger Capitol 3 said…

    Hello ken- That is very True what you said about Mary- we wouldn't want a liberal Governor win!
    Gods blessings


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