This last trip west was, unfortunately, cut short by about 3 days. We arrived back in NY last Tuesday instead of last Friday. Why? Basically because of my nose and eyes. The early Spring, which affected most of the lower 48, triggered a huge amount of pollen – even in the desert southwest. It made allergy sufferers out of people who had never before experienced this particular misery. And for people like me – who used to dread the onset of Spring when our symptoms were “active” – the misery returned. My allergy problems had been dormant for a number of years. This year, they came back. In the freaking desert, no less.
It got bad enough that we decided to head home. No point in spending a lot more money if my nose and eyes were acting like fountains and the over-the-counter stuff wasn’t working. To do that, I had to alter the itinerary. The quickest way, I knew, was to turn northeast (from I-40) onto I-44 near Oklahoma City. I-44 runs northeast through Oklahoma and Missouri and eventually gets you to I-70. It was much quicker and shorter than our original route (which kept us on the somewhat more scenic I-40).
The only problem with I-44 is that it’s a toll road in Oklahoma. Now, I don’t mind toll roads. They’re often better roads with less truck traffic. And they avoid major cities (usually). So off we went. And then we hit the first “toll booth”. About 10 miles down the road. Exact change only, the sign said, if you didn’t have a “Pike Pass”. Well crap, who from NY is going to have a damned Pike Pass? Or who from any other state, for that matter.
How much did we need? $1.15. An odd amount, I thought. But we managed to come up with it, throw it into the receptacle, and continued on.
I’ll bet you can’t guess what happened next. Ten miles or so later, we hit another one. We needed another $1.15 – in exact change. Well, we didn’t have $1.15 in “exact change” anymore. So we had to go through a different lane where you could insert anything from a $1.00 bill to a $20.00 bill to get the “exact change”. In all honesty, I think it was a sobriety test. Getting a $1 bill into that teeny tiny slot – a slot that you could barely see – required tremendous concentration. And the slight breeze that was blowing made it even worse. But I finally got the stupid machine to take my buck. And it spit back 20 nickels. My immediate thought was: What if I’d only had a twenty? Would it have given me 400 nickels?
Not to mention that a line was forming behind me. Some of whom were in large campers. How in hell, I wondered, were those guys even going to reach the slot? Their windows were too high. Would they have to get out of their vehicles and do it standing up? What would happen if traffic got really heavy? Like during rush hour or something? How long would the line get?
All for $1.15. Which Oklahoma lunatic thought up that amount? Why only “exact change”? I’m not a fan of New York’s beauracracy, but they at least seem to know how to handle a toll road. It costs an arm and a leg, but the process itself seems to work. You get on the NY State Thruway, drive to wherever you want to go, exit the Thruway, and pay (an attendant, if you don’t have a pass) the amount that you owe for the distance you’ve traveled. Simple. None of this stopping every 10 miles or so to pay some partial amount.
Oklahoma’s “system”, by the way, also seems to encourage not paying at all. Since there are no attendants and no gates, you could simply drive straight through. Which a fair number of people did as I sat there fighting with the teeny tiny slot. An alarm went off, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone. Although further up the road we saw cops waiting for the non-payers. The alarm would go off, a cop would come out of hiding, and the short chase was on. Seems to me that there are better things a police force could be doing than “nailing” people who couldn’t find the patience to deal with that stupid machine.
Today’s image, though, represents a different kind of nuttiness. This balanced rock sits below a portion of the Vermillion Cliffs, not far from Lee’s Ferry. There are hundreds of boulders like this one in the area, fallen from the cliffs thousands of years ago, and now eroding to create the “balanced” look.
If you look closely, you’ll see shoes lying on top of this particular rock. Must be some kind of sporting event, I guess. While not part of any national park, this area is controlled by the BLM, so it’s not exactly private property. In any case, I’d love to know what the rules of the game are. Maybe it’s a version of horseshoes or something. Who knows. But when I got home, I checked to see if I could find other images of this rock on the web. The answer, of course, was yes. None of which had the shoes. So either this is a relatively new “game”, or everybody’s doing a little photoshopping.
I’d vote for the latter.