Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mike Broke His Vow Again--Venturing into Another Red State! Idaho--Part 1

When Bush Sr. stole his second election, Mike vowed that he would never again visit a red state. Alas, that vow was too lightly made. It's not usually too difficult for him to honor, except when the only flight to the UK has to go through Texas, necessitating a layover...or when his American relatives live in Florida and we decide to attend his cousin's son's wedding and meet up with his mum there.

I made plans to visit our Boise office last week, and because (1) the boys are out of school, and (2) some good friends of ours moved to the Boise area last fall, I asked Mike whether he wanted to drive there with me. It was the longest car journey we've yet taken with our kids--about 7-1/2 hours with stops--and we survived!

In spite of its red state status, we enjoyed our time in and around Boise. I know a fair number of liberals who live in Idaho (my friends and many coworkers included), so all hope is not lost!

Here are our most glaring observations about Idaho:

1. There is no helmet law for adults--for bikes OR motorcycles. Our children were shocked to see people racing down the freeway on motorcycles without wearing helmets. I found it quite alarming, too, given the fact that I saw the aftermath of a horrific motorcycle accident when I was on a family road trip as a child, and I know of several coworkers who have been injured on motorcycles (one last month). As soon as we were 1 mile away from crossing back into Oregon, we saw a road sign that said "Helmets Required." Apparently the anti-helmet activists in Idaho maintain that helmets are dangerous, and that requiring them is unconstitutional. Children on motorcycles are required to wear helmets until the age of 18.

One night when we were having dinner in lovely, lively downtown Boise, we saw a number of parents who had their small children either sitting in bike seats or hauled behind them in bike trailers, and the children were not wearing helmets either. Scary! Idaho has no law requiring bicyclists--adults or children--to wear helmets. I was surprised to discover that Oregon is more the exception than the rule, in spite of the fact that statistics clearly prove that helmets save lives. Idaho is one of 29 states without a bicycle helmet law (Oregon requires helmets for bicyclists under age 15; however, the majority of Oregon bicycling adults appear to wear helmets). According to information from the Idaho Department of Transportation, 27% of bicyclists older than 35 wear helmets, and only 14% of bicyclists under 35 wear helmets.

2. Bumper stickers must be an Oregon (or coastal?) thing. We noticed people looking askance at the back of our car. Our friend Shelia, who recently moved to Boise, was relieved when she drove into the parking lot of the Boise Unitarian-Universalist Church, because she discovered that her car was not the only one with bumper stickers!

3. The line between church and state is blurrier in "God's Country." When Shelia and I were driving through Nampa, Idaho, we saw a huge banner for the God and Country Festival. Here is one of the declared goals of the festival:

"Dedicate a significant portion of the program to emphasizee, particularly to young people, the precepts on which our country was founded: Individual rights, belief in God, a representative form of government guided by an assemblage of laws created by elected individuals, sanctity of human life, and all other rights outlined in the Constitution and its supporting documents."
Shelia described attending a car race earlier last week, when before the Pledge of Allegiance, the audience was urged to bow its head in prayer. Toto, we're not in Oregon any longer!
Next up: photos from our four fun days in Idaho catching up with our blue friends living in a red state!

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