I was wrong about my route passing by the cliff dwellings, instead it apparently passes by what is supposed to be one of the world's largest open-pit mines. I expect to be awed.
As part of my general effort here to see and better-understand America, I have to say that I like the maturity that I'm seeing in its alternative culture. To put it frankly, in comparison to what I've seen of the original hippie culture, there seems to be a newfound emphasis on practical results and real-world benefit.
I've been thinking a lot about that conversation I had yesterday with that young couple about the prevalence of crystal meth in small-town America. What I find myself coming back to are all the public service announcements I've seen over the years which seem to imply that of course WE'RE pure, it's instead the bad people "out there" who are responsible for our drug problem. We blame Mexico for the fact that we smoke pot. We blame South America for the fact that we do blow. We blame our nasty, godless big cities for designer drugs. And for a while we were even blaming Al Qaeda. But now, let's imagine that all drug exports from all outside sources were instantly shut down: in crystal meth, what we'd still have is a drug made from ingredients that can be purchased in small towns, can be easily made in someone's home, and the manufacturer/dealer is probably someone who went to the same small town high school. In short, nobody "out there" is responsible for this: it's everyday Americans responsible for this on both the supply side and the demand side, all flowing from one inescapable fact - that people wanna get high. I hate to sound so resigned about this, but maybe the best that can be hoped for is for the next easily-manufacturable drug that comes along to be one that at least isn't so hard on the body.
This hasn't gotten the press it deserves, but the decisions by Harvard and now Stanford to make their tuition affordable to anyone who is good enough to get in (even allowing children of middle-class parents to attend AND graduate without debilitating debt) has been much on my mind. As I've ridden through big cities and tiny towns ones, Hispanic communities and reservations, I've begun to form an impression: that once fluency in English is obtained, it's economic status, much more so than race or gender, which dictates what your experience of life in America is going to be like.