We ran a really great editorial in last week’s newspaper calling for the legalization of marijuana, which I felt was a very brave proposition

The sun pokes through a hole in the rain clouds hovering over the mountains in western Utah. Below: Riding through the mountains in a light rain.

The sun pokes through a hole in the rain clouds hovering over the mountains in western Utah. Below: Riding through the mountains in a light rain.

 

put forth by the Times’ owners in that many rural communities like ours aren’t especially warm to the idea of legalization.

Through the years I’ve read hundreds of dissertations for and against the legalization of weed and I was even once commissioned to write a ballot argument in support of a medical marijuana dispensary in a small, isolated California town, so I’ve heard just about every argument you can imagine, both pro and con. What impressed me most mountainsthough about the opinion piece we ran, which was written by Thomas Mitchell, a guy who seems to have a very innate sense of wisdom when writing about rural Nevada issues, was the paragraph where he stated that it wasn’t because of the economic benefits to the state that we should vote to legalize pot, “…but rather because it is a matter of basic liberty.”

As a grown adult, I don’t think it’s any other grown adult’s business what I ingest or don’t ingest — as long as I’m not endangering anyone or messing with someone else’s “liberty.”

Which brings me to the point of this week’s ride to Delta, Utah, some 87 miles east of the Nevada border and about a 300 mile round trip ride from Ely. Why did I decide to ride to Delta? Because I was inspired by Mitchell’s editorial.

No, I wasn’t galvanized to fire up a joint and get high, but rather to exercise another basic liberty I’ve been denied in Nevada; the right to ride without a helmet.

While the grown adults in Utah feel they have the right to control another grown adult’s alcohol content and consumption, and they’re probably never going to allow a grown adult to smoke marijuana for recreational purposes, they haven’t yet succumbed to the urging of lobbyists demanding that a grown man wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle.

I’ve never liked helmets and as a kid in California in the 1970s, there were no helmet laws and I rode thousands of miles along the beautiful highways of the state, enjoying my freedom. But then the state implemented a helmet law and my life was forever changed.

I don’t remember that they had half helmets back then when the law was first implemented in the early ‘80s, just full face helmets that blocked your ears from hearing anything going on around you, which to me, actually made riding more dangerous.

Now, of course, we can expect California to pass a helmet law; in fact it’s surprising they haven’t passed a law requiring bikers to wear seat belts, which I’m sure they’ll one day do as soon as they figure out how to do it.

But Nevada? Come on now.

The politicians will give you all kinds of reasons and excuses for the law, such as safety, emergency room costs and so forth, pulling “facts and figures” not out from under their “helmets” but some other place their heads are stuck under. Truth is though, in Michigan, which a year or two back rescinded their helmet law, statistics showed that half of the bikers who wore helmets and crashed died and half that didn’t wear helmets died. There was no difference in the results.

So why do we have helmet laws? In my opinion, as someone who has covered government most of my life, its because the helmet industry has handsomely paid off our state legislators, keeping those campaign contributions pouring in and ensuring that riding without a helmet remains illegal.

So that’s why I decided to ride to Utah this week — as a protest to blue laws that inhibit my liberty. As usual, the ride to the border was gorgeous; rolling hills, forests and wide, expansive verdant valleys. And, as has become custom, I stopped at the Border Inn to grab a draft Ruby Mountain Porter at the only bar I know that sells the it on tap. But, hungry as I was, I refused to eat there, wanting instead to spend my money in Utah as a demonstration against Nevada’s helmet law. While I know that the $15-20 I would have spent hurt the Border Inn more than the state of Nevada, it was the principle of the whole thing. It was about liberty.

I pulled onto the Utah side of the border sign, packed my helmet away, and began my adventure. It was flat and boring for maybe 20 miles or so, the speed limit only 65 when it should have been 75 or 80, or 100, but that’s a complaint for another story. Eventually you hit a mountain pass with some beautiful, gigantic mountains. The speed limit through most of there is 35 and it was great to putt through those hills at that speed, allowing me to breathe in the freedom. Once out of the mountains though, it’s flat and barren again all the way to Delta.

As I rode out of the mountains the road became wet and I realized I had just missed a rainstorm. The air was stale and the humidity was nasty. The desert landscape was very uninteresting as well, except for the gargantuan mountains that rose up far away in the distance. This part of Utah isn’t like the pictures you see of Utah in the travel magazines, it’s mostly flat and empty; it’s a road you just want to hurry up and get through to your destination, even if you are on a bike.

When you arrive in Hinckley though, the land turns a bright emerald green, with large, down-home country farms, some filled with weathered barns, antique junked cars, trucks and farming equipment, all meshed together, giving you a feel of the history of the area and the people who have inhabited it for the last hundred years, though these lands have been inhabited for thousands of years.

Delta is a gorgeous little burgh as well, with a spic-and-span clean main street with small shops and parks lining the main highway. I stopped and ate some Mexican food but though thirsty, didn’t grab a beer anywhere, settling for a diet coke instead.

The ride back was better than the ride over, though I’m not sure why. I got behind a truck that was jamming across the country side and so I made good time through most of the flats before I approached the mountains again and started to stop to take pictures.

There were big, black rain clouds in the distance where I was headed, and while they made for great photographs from afar, I eventually caught up to them and was pounded with needle like drops that stung my face and especially my lower lip. Just when the rain got its worse I hit the 35 mph pass, which lessened the sting and started to make the journey through the mountains fun again. It was beautiful, the weather had cooled as it was nearing late afternoon, and the scenery was both majestic and magnificent.

I made it back to the Border Inn by 6 p.m. as the sun was beginning to drop but remained high enough so that it wasn’t in my eyes. I had my ritual Porter, put my stupid helmet back on, then made the ride the entire distance back to Ely without stopping, my rear getting quite sore those last 20 miles or so.

It was a beautiful trip, though a long one, and I was able to experience many new sensations. But what was the best feeling of the trip was the freedom of riding on my own terms, free of the restrictions that come from wearing attire that some “nanny” in Carson City determined I must wear.

Marty Bachman is editor of the Ely Times and an avid biker. He can be reached at elytimes.marty@gmail.com or 760-550-3943.