90,000 Miles to Me

19,316 Miles • A Bit of Utah and Idaho

As I crossed the state line from Wyoming into Utah, it immediately got windy, hot, and smoky again. There were some beautiful mountain passes, though, that looked like Wyoming south of the Tetons.

I spent about a week in the greater Salt Lake City area getting a few necessary repairs taken care of.

The company that made my house battery replaced the display and USB ports of my battery, which have been glitching.

Ford did a recall repair on the van’s drive shaft.

And Apple made my phone issues worse by upgrading it to the new operating system, but then it wouldn’t sync to my computer without updating that, too, but because there is a new OS coming out in two weeks, they’re no longer making the previous update available and even the store doesn’t have a CD or other manual update available. So I got no help and now cannot sync my photos, and have so little storage on my phone (it is an old 16 GB iPhone 5) that it basically means I can’t take hardly any pictures for the next two weeks. I’m not happy.

In other news, I decided to try a suggestion from the book Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight by Dr. Sharon Heller. She describes at length a type of sensory therapy that I can do myself, at home, called the Wilbarger Protocol. All I need is a brush that is both soft and firm enough to gently stimulate my tactile sense on my skin.

After several calls to local treatment facilities, including two that specialize in sensory issues, so I thought they would have some, I finally found a local OT who knew what I was talking about and would give me a brush. I offered to buy it, but she says she gets them in bulk for cheap and gives them to clients all the time.

The Wilbarger Protocol involves brushing every bit of skin that I can reach and then compressing my joints by jumping, pushing against the wall, squeezing the bones together in my hands and feet, and pushing down on the top of my head. That’s it. It takes about a minute or two. It is supposed to be done every 90 to 120 minutes for as long as I am awake during the day, and I am supposed to commit to doing it for at least two, and preferably three weeks. After that, if it actually does work in lowering my sensitivity to external stimuli—we’ll see, I’m not convinced, but it seems easy enough to try it out—I should do it once or twice a day as needed to help me calm down.

With my errands done in northern Utah, I headed up to City of Rocks National Reserve, just across the border in Idaho.

As the summer is turning into fall and schools are back in session, I’m encountering an unforeseen problem. Public pools are closing. Why do I care? I don’t get in the pool, after all (too much water all over my skin). Well, they were great for showers. Public pools are usually cheaper than gyms, more reliable than homeless shelters, and, well, that list started out like it was going to be longer. Showering in cities when you don’t have a paid residence or friend there is hard.

So when I picked out my dispersed campsite just outside of City of Rocks, after a week in the Salt Lake City area, my first order of business was a shower.

Rock climbers come here in droves each summer for the variety of challenges presented by the various rock formations.

The next morning I attended a birding walk that a flyer said would meet at “Parking Lot Rock.” It took me a bit to figure out that this did not mean the huge rock in the visitor center parking lot where the flyer was posted, but was the name of a rock formation at the far end of the park. I got there only a few minutes late and was relieved they hadn’t set off yet. The walk was led by the park’s artist in residence who was doing watercolors there for a few months.

We saw several Townsend’s Solitaires—a small brown bird with a pretty song—a few turkey vultures, white crowned sparrows, red tailed hawks, and two Ferruginous hawks. I’m glad she knew what they were, because I had no idea.

I want to know how the rock breaks up into these wedge shapes. That’s cool!

Afterwards, I drove through the entire park (it’s not that big) looking at the various rock formations and climbing on a few of them, including the one at the top of this page, named “The Window.”

According to the video at the visitor center, the oddly shaped rocks were formed when magma pushed up into the crust without going through to the surface, then slowly cooled in the crust to form granite. Over millions of years, the surface landscape eroded away, exposing and then weathering the granite formations.

There are so many of these large rocks, jutting up in strange shapes, that it looks like a city with the buildings made of stone.

This area also has historical significance as one of the places where it is still possible to see wagon wheel ruts in the ground more than a century after the last covered wagon rumbled through here.

Between 1843 and 1882, one quarter million emigrants in wagon trains passed through here on the California, Oregon, and Mormon Trails. That’s more than the population of Boise until 2017.

Some of the emigrants left behind signatures on the rocks, written in axle grease.

Just like modern day visitors, the emigrants in covered wagons marveled at the strange rocks and often made camp here and explored the scenery. The unique character of the area made it a major milestone on the wagon trains.

As I left the park, I tried to imagine what it would have been like to plough through this rough landscape with a covered wagon suspended on wheels made of wood and iron. It’s hard enough to drive through here on the current dirt roads, it would have been awful with no roads, barely a trail, or to be the ones to blaze the first trail. Even walking beside the wagons would have been rough.

For this trip at least, Idaho was little more than a way to get to Oregon to visit a friend. However, a little northwest of the rock city was one other bit of history that I wanted to see while in Idaho.

From 1942 to 1945, over 13,000 Americans of Japanese heritage were interred just outside of Minidoka, Idaho, at the Minidoka Japanese Internment Center. These American citizens were uprooted from their homes and imprisoned by their own government, a tragic reaction to war hysteria and prejudice.

At the entrance to the camp stood a prominent list of names, the Honor Roll, of Japanese Americans who were relocated to Minidoka and yet chose to enlist in the U.S. Army and fight for this country.

The camp was disassembled quickly after the war, but a few acres are beginning to be restored as a monument to the imprisonment that never should have happened.

What is there now is a single reconstructed guard tower, a small house that serves as a visitor center, the Honor Roll sign, and quite a few interpretive signs around the outlines of buildings long gone, lining dirt paths that have long since been unused, helping the visitor to visualize what it might have been like to be stuck on this dusty, windy, barren land for three years, wondering what was happening to their families, their homes, their businesses, and afraid of what might happen next.

The text is copied below:

“During three years of incarceration the internees transformed hundreds of high desert acres into viable agricultural lands. On December 17, 1944 the government lifted the West Coast exclusion orders and announced that the camps would close within the year. Most internees were eager to return home and start rebuilding their lives, though a few refused to leave. They felt that since the government had uprooted them from their homes it owed them a place to stay. They were forcibly removed, and the camp officially closed October 28, 1945.”

“The public lands were soon subdivided into small farmsteads. Land lotteries were held in 1947, 1949, and 1950, giving first preference to World War II veterans. Japanese American veterans and former Minidoka internees did not participate in the lotteries. Farmstead properties averaged 90 acres in size. The new farmers were schooled in agricultural practices and started working their land. Farming remains the primary use of the former relocation center lands today.”

“In addition to the land, farmsteaders were given two camp barracks buildings and one smaller building. The buildings were moved to the new homesteads and used as houses and farm buildings.”

“Camp surplus tools, sewing machines, rubber boots, blankets, and furniture were among the many items awarded to the new farmsteaders.”

“Internees leaving Minidoka were given train fare and $25 per person. Most returned to their home areas on the Pacific Coast.”

I’m not sure exactly what I want to say about this. I want to express my outrage at the blanket assumption that anyone who came from or descended from a current enemy is automatically an enemy, too. I want to vent my anger at the injustice of locking up those of Japanese origin, even while those of German origin, like my family, were largely left alone, because we were White like good little Americans.* I want to cry for the people who lost lives and families and homes and businesses that they had worked hard for, because someone in some far-away office made a decision. I want to scream at how easily it is possible for a human being to look at another human being and see an object instead of a kindred spirit.

I still don’t know what I want to say about this. What do you want to say? What do you want to do? I think what I want to do first is to find someone to hug, for no other reason than to reaffirm my belief that other people feel like me.

Because prejudice isn’t personal. And that’s the problem with it, really. Because if it were personal, genuinely personal, it would mean that the other actually knows you—and hates or fears you for who you are. But prejudice is not about knowing the other, it is about assuming things not known. Personal discrimination would be an improvement. 

Not sure if that makes any sense.

I camped a few more nights in national forests outside of Boise before entering Oregon, looking forward to visiting my friend.

*I’m not discounting that there was discrimination of those of German origin, my family experienced it firsthand, but it didn’t result in mass imprisonment.