Sunday, May 25, 2014

What Happened to Common Sense?

Welcome to Arizona

I should preface this blog entry by saying that I have dear friends from Arizona and I love my aunt to death who lives in the Phoenix area, but I seriously don't get this state.  The Grand Canyon better be pretty spectacular after what I’ve put up with to get here.

The scenery is amazing in Arizona, if only the roads were just as nice.....

My first impression of Arizona was fabulous.  I crossed the border at Hoover Dam and had some great scenery riding along the Colorado River with all sorts of mountains and canyons around me.  The wind was strong, but not unbearable.  The road was a busy interstate, but it had an okay shoulder, or so it appeared. 

A typical interstate in Arizona where cyclists are permitted and forced to ride due to a lack of altrenate routes

It took a total of about 30 miles to realize that Arizona was not a very cycle friendly state. There are a lot of interstates in Arizona, but few back roads in order to avoid these major arteries.  I had to do a massive detour the second day in Arizona, 100 miles with a strong head wind, just to keep off a section of the interstate that was about 30 miles without a shoulder.  Trucks were hauling down the road going at least 75 mph, and I was getting honked at, even though it is legal for cyclists to ride on the interstate. 


After riding the Arizona roads for a couple of days, I started to doubt the common sense of the average driver on the road after observing some of their road signs.  Take for instance the sign, “Do not enter when flooded.”  Arizona doesn’t get a lot of rain, so I’m sure when it does rain, there are a lot of areas that flood.  Who would think of driving their car through a road that is flooded,….. that just doesn’t make sense, it’s common sense, right? However, just about every section of a road that dips here warns drivers to not enter if flooded.  Obviously there is a story behind these signs,….I don’t dare ask what happened! 

Notice the passing indicators on the road as well, a double whammy: DON'T PASS!

Here is another sign that seems pretty ridiculous, “Hill blocks view.”  Duh!!!! Don’t we all know that when you are going up a hill you can’t see what is on the other side? Common sense tells you that you don’t pass cars going uphill.  In fact, I think it is the second or third question on the driving test when we get our license.  You have zero visibility going up a hill, that is why there isn’t ever a passing lane on an uphill grade.  Is it really necessary to remind drivers that their vision is blocked on a hill? Isn't that just common sense…..?

Another sign here in Arizona that makes me wonder about people’s common sense warns people that hunting is prohibited in a national park.  I saw this sign right after crossing the border into The Grand Canyon National Park.  Wow,….I’d love to see the person who tries to hunt an elk crossing the road in the park! That is like fishing at a fish hatchery, it’s just WRONG- common sense ought to tell you that!

Common sense, especially on an interstate with a 75mph speed limit
With all these signs that reiterate what I consider “common sense” it makes me start to feel a little uncomfortable pedaling on Arizona roads.  I was hoping I would see a sign warning drivers that cyclists share the roads, however, I guess that isn’t common sense, considering that most places in the world don’t allow cyclist on major interstates, let alone an interstate where the speed limit is 75 mph rather than 65mph.  That just seems crazy to me, but in Arizona it is allowed!  The only sign that appears on the interstate is for the cyclists.  It states, “Cyclists must use shoulders”.  Gosh, I’m so glad they reminded me to stay as far over to the right as possible. I was seriously considering taking on the semi truck to try to pass it on the left!

Excuse me, that is my shoulder

Common sense (or the lack of) failed me once again when I was riding in a construction zone.  On my way to the Grand Canyon, a road, I remind you that millions of tourists take each year, I found myself in the middle of a 20-mile section of road construction on the interstate.  The construction alternated between the left and right lane, meaning that at different intervals, one lane was closed while the other was open.  Yes, they had signs posted warning drivers of the closures and to reduce their speed, but wouldn’t you know they were right in the middle of the shoulder of the road…..the shoulder where I was suppose to be riding?!?  It isn’t easy to dodge a huge posted road sign in the middle of a meter and a half shoulder when cars are whizzing by on your left at 75 mph.  Again, I was outraged. I saw a police in the median with his window down and expressed my frustration. I put my right hand up in the air and shouted, “This is ridiculous!  This is suicide!”  I wasn’t trying to get his attention, rather just venting my frustration.  To my surprise he came driving up next to me to let me know he was going to escort me through the worst parts of the construction for 5 miles.  Boy was I lucky!  If they are going to make cyclists use an interstate even under road construction, then a police escort through is the best use of tax payer’s money to make sure we are safe!  Thank you!

There goes my police escort.  I wish I could have thanked him in person

The sign that really blew me away were the ones that clarified the law here in Arizona (which isn’t common sense) that reminds people where they are and aren’t allowed to carry firearms.  My second day in Arizona I stopped the cashier in the middle of a sentence when my eyes made contact with his pistol. It was in a holster on his hip fully loaded.  I had never seen an ordinary person carrying a weapon around openly in my life, so I asked him if it was real.  “Of course it is!” he replied, as if it was common sense!  I was in shock, disbelief, disgusted, scared......Then he showed me the sign.  His establishment openly stated that firearms were permitted. 

I just can't get over the makes me mad

I didn’t share my opinion about this firearm law until the next day when I arrived at a gas station for my afternoon break.  I plopped myself down at the counter of an A & W Root Beer to enjoy a cold drink. Two guys next to me started asking me about my trip and I told them I was shocked to learn about the gun law in Arizona.  Boy, was this a mistake!  I explained to them my experience the day before at the convenience store and they responded by saying, “Yeah, in places like California I guess you can’t do that!”....Well hello,….Isn’t it common sense to expect that ordinary people don’t carry firearms?  “Why do you need to carry a loaded firearm?” I asked out load, not necessarily expecting an answer.  The lady behind the counter piped up and boldly stated, “Everyone ought to carry a gun!”

This sign was on the door of a restaurant.  I'm used to seeing "No shirts, no shoes, no service!",  not this!

“Excuse me?” I gasped in disbelief. “What did you just say?”  She repeated the same statement again, only this time she added, “The world would be a better place if everyone carried a gun!” I probably should have kept my mouth shut, but I couldn’t resist; I was appalled.  I couldn’t refrain from sharing my opinion now that I had heard hers! After all, people talk to me about random and crazy stuff all the time and give me their opinions so I figured I was entitled to state my opinion on the gun topic.  Call me innocent, but I think it is common sense to have a little faith in humankind and trust others.  If people think they need to carry a gun around to protect themselves, there is a fundamental problem,…one that is rooted in the education system (or lack of) and the morals and beliefs of a society.  People are lacking basic values and beliefs that are established over time with education.  Carrying a gun as a form of self-protection is a band-aid or “quick fix” to a larger problem. The real problem lies deeply rooted in the culture.  People need to be educated on how to treat and respect others and interact with the world around them.  I guess my opinion was a bit too radical for the people at A & W Root Beer (although, again, it seems like common sense to me) because that was the end of our conversation.  After stating my opinion on guns, I got that alone time I was craving, because no one talked to me from then on out!

It’s interesting to me that what seems like common sense to one person is far from rational thinking for another, or so I’m learning here in Arizona!  It’s scary and sad really…..Scary, because the same people that lack common sense are allowed to carry a firearm, not to mention they pass me all day long on the roads driving.  I hope I don’t frustrate them to the point they pull out their gun.  Maybe there should be a sign that says, “Please don’t use your gun while driving”.  I don’t want to loose faith in the people, but it makes me sad to know that carrying a firearm makes people more secure and that it has become a valid and real solution to problems in life.  Common sense tells me, something isn’t right here! 

1 comment:

  1. Oh man, you know I have to comment on the Arizona post! I have to laugh at the "do not enter when flooded" signs because even despite the signs every time there are flash floods the news stations always carry stories about some idiot that tried to drive through a flooded section of road and got stuck. I think they passed some law about if that happens to you then you are liable for all the costs involved for the fire and police rescue instead of using tax payers money. And the gun thing really is scary. We bought a gun not too long before we moved because that is what everyone else was doing and you wouldn't want to be the only one with out a gun if something were to happen, it's just a screwed up mentality. I have absolutely loved the sense of safety and security here in New Zealand, even the cops don't carry guns! It gives me anxiety just thinking of going back to that. But I hope you can find the beauty and good in the state as well, safe travels!