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Friday on the road

Sometimes when you travel the backroads, you end up at the Bates Motel. Other times, for a pittance in some old tumbledown place, you get blazing-fast wifi, a no-charge stay for your dog, and a picture window through which you can watch the sun set over mountains. Not bad.

Then some woman (apparently in charge of rousing the members of a work crew) knocks on your door at 4:32 a.m. Apologizes. And comes back 10 minutes later and does it again. This time with no apology. Just turns and walks off when she sees you’re not the person she wants. (Have I mentioned how much I hate traveling?)

I also have to take back what I said the other day about Utah having the biggest stretch of empty in the lower 48 (Okay, K.W., Alaska’s got the rest of ’em beat). Yesterday I traveled less than 400 miles, but that included two stretches of mind-bending emptiness, each more than 100 miles (the longest 120 miles) without so much as a gas station. Nothin’ but sagebrush.

I dunno. Some of you guys can say you love this stuff. But as a woman traveling alone in a 10-year-old vehicle, I find this landscape absolutely scarifying. I keep running “what if I break down” scenarios through my head; none of them are pretty, and the two boxes of emergency gear in the back don’t lighten my mood.

When not inspiring thoughts of abandonment, this landscape is mind-numbingly dull. Thank heavens for Ethel Merman. A remastered CD of the original Broadway recording of “Gypsy” has been stuck in my car’s player for months, and Mermanic song-belting is better than Red Bull for staying awake. The ebullient goofiness of “Have an Eggroll, Mr. Goldstone” is good for about 50 miles, all by itself.

Okay, back on the road in a few minutes. But in the meantime, here’s some stuff I found via that rocket-fast wifi:


  1. Matt
    Matt May 14, 2010 7:02 am

    Why would I want to find a cure for restlessness? One way or another, it has been the driving force for mankind to improve themselves since time began. I have no desire to be content with my lot in life.

    The slow-motion mess in Italy, was incredible! Looks a lot like our economy, headed down hill and all we can do it get out of it’s way.

  2. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal May 14, 2010 1:52 pm

    That write-up on “The Paradox of Choice” sounded very familiar to me, then I figured out why: link

  3. Ellendra
    Ellendra May 14, 2010 8:53 pm

    I find it interesting the part about “freedom” being defined as self-sufficiency. Something to think about. I’ve often wondered if the reason career welfare recipients were almost always angry has something to do with the part of the human soul that craves something to strive for.

  4. Pat
    Pat May 15, 2010 12:51 am

    I, too, thought “The Paradox of Choice” sounded familiar. I hadn’t seen the video (I have now), but had read reviews of, and a couple of longish excerpts from, the book.

    And I’ve noticed this phenomenon re choice in the grocery store as well; offered too many choices, I’ll occasionally say, “To hell with it, I don’t have time for this” and walk away without anything, rather than try something new or spend time looking for exactly the product/brand I wanted.

    Neither the website nor Schwartz takes into account the individual’s ability to override and/or reject choices; they assume that products, other people and/or circumstances are in charge of one’s life, not the individual himself.

    And in fact, that’s what often seems to happen. But, rather than “choices” per se, I suspect it’s *increased multi-tasking* that overloads the individual to the point that he doesn’t want to make a choice, or doesn’t have time to process the choices, at that moment. When busy-ness, stress, and/or lack of information interfere with choice-making, then it becomes easier to “let George do it,” or simply not to make a choice at all.

    Not saying this is the correct attitude, but it may help explain why inaction and lack of responsibility are more popular these days.

    And it may help explain why increasingly over the past 150 years, we’ve relegated our responsibilities to others (such as government). I doubt that humans — or any form of life — are really “designed” to multi-task. We operate more efficiently as a printer — lining up jobs one after the other, taking them in order of priority, or in order of given tasks, rather than running them at the same time. While we may be ABLE to multi-task (sometimes), it’s counter-productive and we’re not very efficient at it. And I think the stress of it often gets in the way of determining our priorities.

  5. naturegirl
    naturegirl May 16, 2010 5:30 pm

    I am one of those “who love this stuff” and also a single woman. Exploring the empty roads either alone or (some time ago) with 2 small kids. It taught all 3 of us some lessons in surviving, independence, and inner strengths.

    Haven’t done it lately, or with an older vehicle, though. And I’m pretty sure it’s not as easy as it use to be, given the strange world now a days. But the rewards of accomplishing it and those sunsets over the mountains makes it all worthwhile.

  6. Norm Van Broekhoven
    Norm Van Broekhoven May 21, 2010 10:07 pm


    Great video on ” this astounding, slow-motion mess in Italy”. If in your readings you haven’t yet sorted out what was going on here, contact me and I’ll put together a short description. The mechanisms at work are complex but not difficult.

    Hint. Do a search on these terms on geological web sites:
    Mass Wasting or Mass Movement
    Slope Failure
    Angle of repose
    Slump Block
    Liquefaction (its not just for earthquakes)
    and from high school physics, static friction and sliding friction

  7. Claire
    Claire May 22, 2010 7:20 am

    Thank you, Norm. Spoken like a true scientist. I’m interested in geology, myself. But I was also wondering about some specifics of this particular landslide, which I couldn’t find. E.g. what triggered it? Were people killed? Had there been warning signs? Does the area have a history of landslides? How much of the town did it destroy? (Videos taken from other angles make it clear that the extent of the slide was even worse than shown here.)

    I did find an article or two about an Italian landslide derailing a train and killing 11 people, but it wasn’t clear whether that was the same landslide, and the articles were maddeningly vague on how it happened (in fact, they simply didn’t address the question).

    Like the tragedy of the Vaiont Dam, the geology is fascinating, but the human story even moreso.

    Now that some time has passed, I may do just as you suggest — look on some scientific sites to see if there’s been some analysis published that includes both kinds of details.

    Thanks again.

    UPDATE: Best I’ve found so far:

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