Some of you may wonder if I was being a bit harsh in describing the aggressive and selfish attitude of Spokane drivers when it comes to Sharing the Road. After all, haven’t we all experienced drivers who stop their car, right in the middle of an intersection, to wave a bicycle through?
Sally and I met in Gillette, Wyoming, a dusty, boisterous mining town once called the “Pronghorn Capital of the World”. Given that the entire vicinity has been turned into an open pit coal mine, it seems the Pronghorn capital has moved south to Rawlins. Gillette now touts itself the “Energy Capital of the Nation”.
Gillette was a tough place, though apparently not as tough as Rock Springs. We knew this from the number of people who stated clearly, “We don’t want to become another Rock Springs”, which helped us decide to cross Rock Springs off of our dream vacation destination list.
Anyway, in order to take a break from Gillette, Sally and I used to take day trips to nearby Devils Tower National Monument. Even if you aren’t familiar with northeastern Wyoming, you may have seen Devils Tower in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Devils Tower is the hauntingly beautiful monolith that Richard Dreyfuss replicates out of mashed potatoes.
On our first trip to Devils Tower, the cute little prairie dogs so prevalent at the Monument captivated Sally and me. They were so tame that they would come right up to you and eat out of your hand. They did a lot of this kind of eating; so much so that the Park Service warned that the practice was putting them at risk. Not only were the prairie dogs eating the wrong kinds of food, they were also losing the will to forage for grasses, broadleaf forbs, and the occasional insect. After all, would you rather forage for broadleaf forbs or be handed Cheesy Poofs? Further, as a direct consequence of their eating habits, the Devils Tower prairie dogs had taken on the appearance of soccer balls with feet, a shape not conducive to quick dives into their burrows to escape their numerous natural enemies, including hawks, eagles, ferrets, badgers, foxes, coyotes, and snakes.
Which brings us back to bicycling in Spokane. The seemingly kind drivers who stop in the middle of traffic to wave bikes across the road may think they are being helpful. In fact, they are turning us into the wheeled equivalents of soccer ball shaped prairie dogs just waiting to be picked off by our natural enemies, including Eagles, Talons, Vipers, Cougars, and the Dodge Ram Mega Cab Dually.