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Calgary-Vegas in a nutshell

November 13, 2010

I drove to Vegas with my mom last weekend. Why? My parents are staying in Phoenix for a month and a half and my dad got the opportunity to roadtrip down with his buddies. To keep my mom company, and so she didn’t have to split the drive over 3 days, I offered to drive down with her and fly back. Good daughter, right? And, I got to stay in their hotel room for free – and it was a NICE one!

Anyhow, Vegas aside, in each state we passed through, I learned something new. So I thought I’d share a few things that occured to me during the drive.

1. Montana – home of my future cottage: Cascade

I never realized how gorgeous Montana is. I mean, it’s not that far from Calgary, and the mountains do run through it, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise. But one area really captured my heart as we drove through, just south of Cascade, MT. We were trying to cover as much ground as possible but I am now kicking myself for not stopping to take a picture. I have this image in my mind of what it looked like and I cannot find it anywhere on the ‘net. I’ve spent the better part of an hour looking and the picture to the right is the closest (pulled from Google Maps). Just imagine mid-day sun lighting up autumn foliage – it took my breath away. Anyhow, I’ve vowed that in 5 years I will own a cottage down there. But, first, I want to spend some time there, probably next spring. Look for it.

2. Idaho – where all wildlife is game

We were amazed to discover that instead of “Wildlife Crossing” or just a picture of a deer, in Idaho the signs are designated by “Game Crossing.” I wonder why the discrepancy – surely not all wildlife that crosses the road could be hunted legally. We did not come across this in any other state we passed through (a quick search shows that it does show up in Wyoming as well – perhaps regional terminology that is concentrated in only a few select states). Anyhow, whenever I think about those signs, I cannot help but imagine a redneck sitting in the back of his truck on the side of the road, parked next to the sign, gun cocked, just waiting for his game to cross the road. Sorry.

3. Utah – I do not belong (but they do move at my speed)

I was shocked and amused to see the pro-religion/anti-evolutionism signs posted in Utah, specifically in the Salt Lake City area. I’m not naive or ignorant – I know of the laws being passed in some states that declare that evolution cannot be taught in schools; Kansas was one of (if not the) first to pass this law. But such blatant displays on billboards along the highway were a little crass. I respect evolutionary theory, and think that youth should be taught all angles and given the choice to make their own decisions about what is and is not true. I did find the sign heading out of Salt Lake City quite amusing, however. I couldn’t read the whole thing as we went whizzing by, but it asked the question: Are you going to Heaven or Hell? Judging by my response to the previous sign, I think we all know that answer.

Also of interest in Utah – the only state with 80mph signs (intermittently, for short stretches of road). Unfortunately, we were in a decade-old, well-used minivan and 80 was the maximum speed I could get out of it, so I didn’t get to toy with pushing a vehicle 140+ km/hr. I’ll tell you, I was missing my Mazda3 right about then… zoom zoom.

4. Arizona – Breaking stereotypes

I loved this tiny strip of Arizona. It lasted for less than 20 miles, I believe; we traversed across the northwest corner of the state on our way to Nevada. You would never know that you’re in Arizona, though, if you’re thinking “desert”: flat spaces, sand and cactii. No, instead you wind through huge hills (I have trouble calling them mountains considering I live so close to the Rockies), uphill, downhill, flora galore. It’s fabulous. I’ve spent lots of time in the Phoenix area, which has mostly sand and flat spaces with hills off in the distance. This stretch of Arizona could completely change a person’s view of the state.

5. Nevada – Casinos aren’t the only money-maker

There were a tonne of cops pulling people over in Nevada – you definitely did not want to be playing with the speed limit there. I was irked when we passed a little red sports car in our big, white minivan, remarking that he should be taking advantage of the car that probably cost a pretty penny. Once I started to see people pulled over left and right, however, my tune changed. My motto is to make sure there’s at least one vehicle on the road moving faster than me and, thus far, I’ve been spared a speeding ticket for the entire 11 years I’ve been driving (knock on wood) but I did slow to close to the speed limit while in Nevada. And once you enter Vegas, traffic is heavy anyhow, so going faster than the posted limit isn’t an issue.

So, there’s the rundown of my trip. My thoughts?

  • Even though it’s about 20 hours, 5 longer than Calgary-Winnipeg, the scenery is much more spectacular and varied and it felt ten times shorter
  • I had no idea that the terrain within each state was so varied, but I loved watching how the landscape slowly changed throughout the trip. I learned so much about states that I’d never stepped foot in
  • Next time, I’d take an entire week to do it, and stop for lots of pictures. Lots and lots of pictures – my one regret is that we didn’t stop for any
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