Pedaling to Palisade

When you’re pedaling around in a new place, it can be hard to avoid recalling something Ernest Hemingway wrote about bicycling.

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.

Ernest Hemingway, White, William, ed (1967). By-Line, Ernest Hemingway: Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades by Ernest Hemingway. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. p. 364.

In our case, the place is not entirely new, but pedaling our way from Grand Junction to Palisade for coffee on Saturday morning revealed more than our multiple drives in recent years to vineyards and wine tastings.

For any of the hill-shy among us, the route we took involved none of the sweaty climbing Hemingway had in mind. One slight, short incline – barely a bump in the road – got our attention on the way to Palisade and we didn’t even notice it on the way home later. 

Contours or no contours, exploring a place by bicycle gives you a chance to see and feel your new environment up close, with time to absorb some of the truth about it.

We rode the scenic river trail from near Corn Lake to where it intersects with D 1/2 Road, then turned north onto a quiet 33 1/2 Road, then east on E 1/4 Road, then north, then east a few more times until we were almost 10 miles from home in front of the pleasant Slice O Life Bakery for pastries and coffee.

Don’t get me started on how the roads are named around here. I may get used to it, but I don’t really care when I’m on a bicycle. You discover that you don’t have to remember to go either east or west on North, then take a right or left on 34 3/10 Road (or was it 36 1/4?), then angle northeast on Front to where it merges with G and the name changes.

You can stay on the trail until it ends at a bend in the road, keep the Book Cliffs in front of you until you’ve crossed the canal, then take the next right at the old red-trimmed house on the corner.

The Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway signs are helpful, too.

Pedal on.

B.J.

New sense of place

The ancient mesa to the east is grand indeed.

The cliffs and canyons to the west are monumental.

Sandstone mountains to the north recall dusty memories of books on a shelf.

The river behind us drops slowly toward a sea it will never reach.

And we marvel at the fortune that brought us here.

And we open ourselves to whatever is next.

A new chapter: Going farther west

Considering the politics involved in drawing up congressional districts – aka CDs – and how those districts shift over time, it can be hard for a body to land in one that feels like the right place.

We lived in conservative districts at times in our Iowa days and in majority Democratic Party districts at others. We left in 2010 well into, if not exactly because of, the state’s headlong decline into governance by mindlessness, pettiness and ignorance.

When we escaped to Colorado, we landed in Fort Collins for a while before moving to a little piece of Boulder County that somehow ended up in the 4th CD. We endured “representation” by Cory Gardner for a while until he went on to a dismal single-term career in the U.S. Senate, and now we’ve coped with being ignored by Rep. Ken Buck since 2014.

Boebert and Buck posing with a deadly weapon.

May her first term be her last.

Our recent decision to abandon the busy, expensive Front Range for the more affordable but scenic far Western Slope was not at all political. The natural evolution of careers getting closer to retirement, a realization that I can work from anywhere with reliable broadband, and our granddaughter’s move from New Jersey to Salt Lake City (along with her parents and other grandparents, of course) made it inevitable. We will be much closer after years of too far apart.

The one thing to which we’re not looking forward in this latest new chapter is becoming denizens of Colorado’s massive and misguided 3rd CD, which is far too short on Democrats.

Gardner to Buck to Boebert. May her first term be her last.

We’ve been told a number of times that we’ll need to buy guns and ammo to live over there. Funny, in a dark humor sort of way, but it’s probably not a good idea to assume anyone is not already heavily armed. Because how would you know for sure?

I will say that my first purchase in Grand Junction after we close on the new house is more likely to be a new mountain bike than a deadly weapon.

Pedal on, my friends.

B.J.

Ute Canyon, Colorado National Monument

Do you care what 14 Trump voters think?

My first thought when I saw the headline just below was to ask why the New York Times and other media keep probing Trumpist brains as if they hide some great secret we must expose. You might call that intellectual curiosity, something the voters quoted in the article hide well if they have any at all.

What 14 Trump Voters Think About George Floyd’s Legacy

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Time and time again, what these articles and opinion pieces reveal is a disturbing lack of empathy in the hearts and souls of the voters and poor judgment by the writers and editors who give voice to their shallow views of the world.

The voters’ responses show a distinctive selfishness and a clear inability to empathize or think very deeply about how others experience the world. They spout the usual right-wing talking points and blame the media and even social media for division and discord while forgetting that people much like them spread hate and lies through media and social media alike.

I’d like to see someone ask Trump voters – if they feel the need to ask those voters anything ever again – if they know what empathy is and why it is a good thing. If they don’t know, show them a definition.

Carry on.

B.J.

Sanity check? Find a better term

The topic of inclusive language grabbed my attention again yesterday when I caught part of a Slack channel exchange about something done as a “sanity check.”

Anyone close to the world of coding and computer science has likely heard the term or even used it without any idea of what effect it can have on others.

Image by Lorenzo Cafaro from Pixabay

It’s not my place to tell anyone what words to use or not to use, but as a writer and editor I do value clarity and effective language right along with empathy. I wrote something about why inclusive language matters back in January.

Beyond altruistic considerations, less than thoughtful word selection can prevent some of your readers or listeners from getting and understanding your message. Those of us who have experienced mental illness, either our own or through the struggles of loved ones and friends, might see something you don’t when you’re doing a sanity check.

One might flash back to the memory of a cousin who suffered from schizophrenia for years until she was beaten to death with a shovel by her schizophrenic roomie.

Another might remember checking a sister into a hospital in such a deep depression that she thought about taking her own life, or remember a young man who did just that.

Choose your words carefully if you want everyone to hear them. Alternatives are easy to find.

Check your language.

B.J.