Learning from tourists


My idea of a perfect vacation is one that does not involve my driving a car, and I managed that on a couple of earlier trips to Oregon with planes, trains, and my daughters' cars -- one lives in Eugene and the other lives in Bend. This time around, starting nearly a fortnight ago, I needed to rent a car at the Eugene airport so we could visit the coast near Florence and get from Eugene to Bend and back.

On those excursions, I'm pretty sure I made myself one of the more unpopular drivers in the Beaver State. I was a tourist, driving slowly to savor the scenery. I wanted to gaze at those jagged volcanic peaks, clumpy lava flows, immense trees, thundering waterfalls, seaside cliffs. and scores of other spectacles that are rare or non-existent in my high-desert valley in Colorado.

Many other motorists, however, were Oregon residents just trying to get from here to there to go about their daily business. I could sense their impatience whenever I glanced at a rear-view mirror. When I could, I pulled over to let them by, but that certainly did not happen often enough to please them.

I knew just how they felt, since I live in an area where my mundane travels often take me on Colorado's scenic byways. Often I've wanted to holler "Look, I know Mt. Elbert is the highest peak in all 3,000 miles of Rocky Mountains, but just how long do you Kansans need to idle along while staring at it instead of the highway? I'm meeting somebody for lunch in Leadville, and I'd like to get there before dinner time." Or "Hey, Texans, bighorns are just sheep, so get over it and get down the road. I was supposed to be in Cañon City 15 minutes ago."

In other words, I tend to forget that one reason I live where I do is the scenery that attracts people from all over the world: the big peaks on the flanks of our valley, the foaming rapids in the river, the remnant structures from the mining days, the eagles and the muleys and the bighorns.

So instead of swearing at those slowpoke rubber-necking tourists who get in our way, perhaps we should be grateful to them for reminding us of the splendor of what we too often take for granted.

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