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Here is yet another curious fact about A.L. Westgard’s Tales of a Pathfinder, the book he published in 1920 to recount his experiences motoring across country in search of new highway routes.┬áHe rarely seems to encounter a horse and buggy (or a train, but we’ll leave that for another post).

This is curious because, supposedly, horses were the main method of transportation before the internal combustion engine came along. And Westgard was traveling mostly on existing trails, so somebody–or ┬ásome horse–must have been using them.

Buggies disappeared by the 1920s. Fringe stayed with us for another half-century.

When Westgard does finally encounter a horse, the poor animal is, of course, on death’s door. Westgard et al are winding their way up and through the Cascades in Washington state when they come upon this tableau:

an old man who was endeavoring to coax an emaciated old horse to exert another ounce of effort in attempting to drag a dilapidated buggy up the trail. The bony structure of the horse was so evident under its gray and mangy skin that he appeared more like a skeleton of a horse than one of flesh and blood.

Lest you wonder about what the horse was pulling, Westgard goes on:

The buggy was held together with generous applications and sundry bandages of baling wire. All in all, the whole outfit–man, horse and buggy–was about as nearly played out as any outfit I had ever seen in all my travels.

The man was apparently hoping to strike it rich in Canada (in case you thought he was hunting for cheaper prescription drugs). But instead, he served as a visible sign marking the end of the road for one technology and the birth of another.

Fittingly, the chapter ends not on a lament for the passing of the horse-and-buggy crowd, but on Westgard’s description of how the Snoqualmie Pass through the Cascades was eventually paved.

 

 

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Here’s a summary of the trucker convoy and its impact on our nation’s capital. Not quite the million-trucker march that might have made a difference (photo credit to the Washington Post)…

Here they come, DC…Imagine the traffic congestion this truck convoy will cause around Washington, where the roads are normally smooth sailing on a weekday morning…Yup. This should get people’s attention.

If truckers really think government should intervene in this case, why have they fought the government when it tries require cleaner engines, cleaner fuel and cleaner air? Someone, somewhere is benefiting from high diesel prices, and I bet they can afford some pretty sharp lobbyists.

I’m sympathetic to the trucking industry’s fuel-induced pain. But if I had to place a bet, I would put my money on nothing much happening at all. A true, long-term solution is likely to induce further pain, or pain in some other area of the body politic.

The problem is our myopia. The US is used to being — has been for nearly 20 years — the sole superpower and chief consumer of natural resources. The ride’s over, but we are so enamored of our recent size and strength, we fail to see beyond our borders, that other countries are getting bigger, if not yet stronger.

Failing any other solution, we can always fall back on the free market: if something costs more, buy less of it. Oh, but we need trucks to haul things a long distance. Fair enough. Here’s another tip from the free market: if it costs a lot to haul something a long way, make it closer to home.

Maybe truckers undermined by high diesel prices can start growing rice. We may need it.

Here’s news of a planned truck convoy next Monday to DC…It’s leaving at 5am from a restaurant in Lebanon County, east of Harrisburg. It’s great to see someone take a stand against high gas prices, but as I’ve said before, I don’t see it making a big difference.

If gas prices really really upset people, they would base their votes on it in this election. But we are fairly well schooled to think that our votes, our politics, make no impact on the economy. This survey seems to confirm that. Until people decide otherwise – or buy smaller cars en masse – they will be nothing more than a nuisance to oil companies and oil-producing nations.