Day 34, Post 32: "The outdoors is what you must pass through in order to get from your apartment into a taxicab", said Fran Lebowitz.
Well, with all due respect to Fran Lebowitz - who deserves it - her comment gets at something I've been thinking about for a long time. Last summer, and again this spring, as I cross the country on a bike, I am acutely aware of the ubiquity, intensity, and sheer volume of traffic on our highways. In rural areas the favored vehicles are wide body trucks, with minivans second, while sedans are less common. Alongside the road and on rougher terrains, 4 wheelers are common. In sandy areas, there are the equivalent dune buggies. And there are a countless variety of RV's, from fully equipped luxury buses to large, expandable homes on 4 wheels with a fifth wheel for stationary parking (known in the west as 5 wheelers). Everyday, when I am passed by a luxury bus (often larger than the largest school bus), I wonder about their square footage (SF). In the 1950's the average home in the US for a family of four was about 950 SF, now it's about 2400 SF. I'm sure the luxury buses are larger than 950 SF. There are 7 billion people in the earth. What will happen if they all try to live in a 2400 SF home? I'm not sure, but I do wonder if we would still have enough farmland to grow crops....
I think the American tendency to supersize everything is a manifestation of how insane - and out of touch with our environment - we have become. When I was passing through Glammis, CA, and the sand dune country east of San Diego, I was struck by the massive number of dune buggies everywhere in sight. On the highway I passed numerous large luxury RV buses, towing wide body pickups with a dune buggies sitting in the bed of the trucks. Rig after rig after rig... and each rig sporting three vehicles - all of which require gas - and all of which require its owner to sit on his butt while driving it.
Most of us spend our day going from the conditioned space of our vehicles to the conditioned space of our workplaces. On a long bicycle ride this is very apparent. It is a very, very rare thing to see someone walking, even in towns. In fact, the only place one sees people walking in any density is in the downtown areas of large cities. But mid-sized or small towns? Forget it. No one walks anywhere. Ever.
So how much time does the average person spend outside now? I'd wager very little. Of course there are occupational exceptions, such as farming, construction, etc. But the majority of us? We spend very little time in outdoor environments. So, not only have we grown soft because we sit to get everywhere, we have also become isolated from our environments because we are actually very rarely fully in them. Instead we are in a hermetically sealed spaces hurling along to something we always think is important enough that we have to go as fast as the law will allow. It's a sickness, really. But not one that we have the slightest desire to change.
After a day of rest, I made my way to Cold Spring, biking through long stretches of the Sam Houston National Forest. Sensational! I have several more days to enjoy more rugged country - Big Thicket National Preserve is also on the way, among other treats... Yet, as much as I've enjoyed Texas, I'm looking forward to bayou country, and eager to get there. You see? Even I'm in a hurry... it's in our DNA...
Check out my road cycling activity on Garmin Connect.
Pic 1, Downtown Richards, TX.
Pic 2, A field of Deer Pea Vetch (so I am told).
Pic 3, Just outside of Richards.
Pic 4, A controlled burn in Sam Houston National Forest.
Pic 5, East Texas Christ.
Pic 6, The small print reveals all.
More to come,