On the Road to Nowhere
by mike reberg
Craig Wirth's nostalgic KTVX news feature "Centennial Road Tour" and the high price of gasoline recently converged at a synaptic intersection of my brain to form what I thought was a great idea.
With summer in full swing, I'd thought I could save some money and vacation close to home. I'd gather up the family and we'd take our own road tour. And I knew just the place. Inspired by master sloganeer and our current Governor Mike Leavitt, we'd take the "Our Roads, Our Rights" Road Tour.
You may remember that on the eve of the Utah State Republican Convention, the Governor announced a massive taxpayer lawsuit against the federal government. On the capitol steps, in a made-for-evening news moment, he unveiled an oversized road sign that said "Our Roads, Our Rights" and promised rural Republican politicians he would spend upwards of $20 million of our tax dollars to assert Utah's claim to more than 5,000 "roads" in rural Utah.
Thus my "Our Roads, Our Rights Road Tour" brain child. With 5,000 new roads in Utah, I could do as much traveling as I wanted and stay close to home. So I called the governor's office and asked for the "Our Roads, Our Rights" staff person. I told a nice lady on the other end of the line that I wanted some advice on which roads to travel on my vacation.
"He's no longer with us," the helpful receptionist had to admit.
"Really, I thought the governor just announced this 'Our Roads Our Rights' lawsuit. I figured your office would be inundated by requests for travel info."
"We don't get any such requests. Besides, didn't you see what happened to poor Mr. Leavitt at the state convention?" she answered, her tone just slightly less helpful.
Then I remembered. Despite his "Our roads Our Rights" appeal to rural Republicans, who have been angry at him for being too liberal on environmental issues, Governor Mike failed to defeat political neophyte Glenn Davis at the convention, leaving our two-term leader embarrassed and in need of a new slogan.
"You could speak to his "Bring it On" staff person. She's quite new, but very helpful," the receptionist offered.
I was starting to catch on. Giddy with his easy primary victory, I remembered watching Governor Leavitt use a pithy new phrase - "Bring it on" - again and again on primary election night. You could tell he liked saying it.
That Governor Leavitt likes his catch phrases, I thought to myself.
But I have learned long ago not to keep up with the Governor's slogans. Just too many. Besides, I had travel plans to make.
"Can she help me with my travel itinerary?" I asked.
"That's not her area, try the travel council," and the receptionist hung up.
So I called the Utah Travel Council.
"I am planning an Our Roads Our Rights road tour of Utah and I'm looking for information about motels, restaurants, roadside attractions and some maps for the 5,000 roads Governor Leavitt is fighting the feds over?" I asked.
"Sir, I think you have the wrong idea. These roads aren't exactly roads."
"But I heard one county commissioner say these roads are the lifeblood of rural counties," I responded.
"They're more like trails.
"Trails!" I was confused.
"Look, I shouldn't tell you this. I could lose my job, but there's a big conspiracy going on around here. If you want real answers call the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance or one of those other green groups," the travel council employee said in a hushed voice.
So I did.
"I'm really confused," I said to an eco-expert at SUWA. "And I want answers."
"These 'roads' are really old cattle trails and two-tracks that lead nowhere. They're called RS 2477 claims and rural counties and the governor and using them to try and stop wilderness from being designated in Utah," the eco-expert explained.
"But I like wilderness," I told her.
"So do most Americans. But if anti-wilderness politicians in Utah can prove there are roads in these wonderful places, then they can claim these places don't qualify as wilderness."
"No motels, no restaurants and no roadside attractions. I don't think these are roads at all," I said, starting getting angry at the idea of $20 million of our state's tax money being spent to fight wilderness.
"You catch on fast," she responded.
"So this big 'Our Roads Our Rights' hullabaloo is really about stopping wilderness in Utah," I asked.
"That and a ploy to get Leavitt reelected," the eco-expert explained.
I hung up the phone angry with the governor, angry with Utah's anti-wilderness politicians for using my tax dollars to fight something I support. I was angry that our good elected leaders had duped me into believing these "roads" were critical to Utah.
So I thought to myself…to hell with our anti-wilderness politicians and to hell with the high cost of gasoline, and for that matter, to hell with Craig Wirth and his folksy instate road tour. We'll be vacationing out-of-state this year.
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