Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ride to Ophir

Brad, Mike, Quin & Theresa, Jared and I meet at the Chevron near Lehi, none of them have been to Ophir, so that's where we ride off to.
Parking the bikes at the old school house in Ophir, those guys are looking at their GPSs trying to find Ophir....
Ophir is a tiny town south of Tooele. Someone has put in a lot of time and money to spruce it up and add some really neat things to see. There is a mock up of the old town, and some mining type displays.

A double outhouse, the one on the bottom is for the miners, the one on the top is for the supervisors....
We stopped and chatted at one point, I told the group about my recent troubles at work, they seemed very understanding.
Or not.....

Some colors at Ophir.

See the pole with the funny looking thing on top of it? They are all over Tooele county, I've always wondered what they were and now I know. It is a loud speaker, while we were there it came alive and tested the Tooele County emergency warning system. Wow that thing was loud! You can also see some of the mock town buildings.
The school bell.
The line up. L t0 R, Brad, Mike, Jared, Me, Quin, Theresa.

Mike and the Monster, his Kaw 2000. Can you say "Raw Power"?

After Ophir, Brad, Quin and Theresa have to get back to town, Mike, Jared and I decide to go down the road aways to another old ghost town, Mercur. This is what we find, a gate across the road. Oh well.

Riding back to SR 73

At SR 73 we split up, Jared and Mike go south to Happy Valley, I go north to Grantsville, and snap some pics along the way.

I stop and visit one of my favorite biker buddies; Ryker the biker! His Do-rag says; Keep on Riding! Ryker invites me in for a HUGE helping of his Mothers delicious spagetti!
I have a hard time saying good bye to 'the Biker and his parents so I have to ride the 40 miles home in the dark starry night.
And it IS a dark and starry starry night, but I have plenty of hope left inside so when I see a traffic pull off I stop to reflect on the beautiful day I have just enjoyed.
Nice friends, nice roads, nice bikes, all in all, a nice day!
A few days later, Ryker the biker comes over to my house to help me with some chores..

Life IS good!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Principals without Principles

"There is however, a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue"
- Edmund Burke

Are your principles for sale? At one time mine absolutely were not, now however I'm less certain. I stood for my principles and discovered it can be financially costly, emotionally draining, and an ultimately crushing experience.

I drive a school bus, well; at least I used to drive a school bus. This is an occupation I enjoyed for over 25 years. The last sentence you just read was written completely without guile, and without tongue in cheek. I really did love my job. There are very few days in my 25 plus years as a contract employee that I didn't enjoy rising well before the sun to go and transport "my kids" to their respective schools. It was very seldom that I felt I was going to "work" rather I was going to do something I enjoyed.

I take pleasure in driving; I especially enjoy and take pride in driving skillfully, and safely. Sometimes I would feel guilty for receiving pay to do a task I was so thoroughly fond of, and as for my employer, well...I felt my employer was exceptional. Oh sure, they didn't pay enough the most universal complaint, in the world, but I think they treated me fairly throughout the years. However one must note that I had not given them any reason for mistreatment. I had zero write ups in 25 years. I was punctual, kept my bus clean, took exceptional care of the children I transported, and during all those years I never had, not even one, a chargeable accident. I owned, and still own the very rare, perfect driving record. My personnel record and driving record were equally spotless.

Then in one day, no actually a single moment - a finger snap really, the honeymoon was over. As I relate the rest of my story I will make an effort to keep the bitterness out of my words.

Let me tell you what happened on October 19, 2010, my last day as a schoolbus driver. My routes completed for the morning, I was driving the bus to my house for a lunch break when I noticed a white pickup in front of me, as traffic slowed for a red light, I was able to read the bumper sticker on the tailgate of the truck. It was extremely vulgar in both language, and the premise of its message.

This sticker should have offended every decent person that saw it, and I'm certain many people did see it as the driver traveled on this busy road through town. I'm reminded, as I type this part of my story, of a line from the book War and Peace "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing". "Nothing" had been happening while this truck drove through town on a heavily traveled four lane road.

Shortly after I noticed the sticker we came to a traffic light, as we slowed I noticed a corner of the sticker peeling up. In a moment of impulsiveness, fueled by disgust and frustration, as traffic stopped for the red light; I set the brake, exited the bus, removed the sticker, and re-entered the bus throwing the sticker in my garbage can.

The other driver apparently wasn't quite sure how to respond. His bumper sticker tried to portray the image of virility, manliness, the ultimate of masculinity, however, his actions and demeanor showed something quite different. As he exited his truck all I could see was a confused, scared, timid boy who wanted desperately to be a man. He looked as if he wanted the courage to walk back and confront me, but that courage escaped him completely. The real reason he placed the sticker on his truck in the first place became vividly clear to me at that moment.

His response was limited to; getting out of his truck looking confused and scared, and getting back into his truck. That should be the end of the story, but sadly it is not. When I had the opportunity I turned down a side road, and away from the confrontation. I scrapped the idea of going home electing instead to go to my next school and 'calm down' there while waiting for the school dismissal time.

What I didn't know was that after I ended the incident by separating myself from the other vehicle, the pickup driver drove to a parking lot where he stopped, called the police telling them I had chased him into that lot (in a school bus....), threatened him with a pipe, and "the bus driver turned around and left when he saw I was on my phone."

To make a long story longer, my dispatcher contacted me and requested that I pull over at my current location and wait, which I did. The West Valley Police came (five cars), investigated, and cited me with a "Class C Misdemeanor, Disorderly Conduct". The officers also told me it was that person's right to display the sticker.

That afternoon my supervisor contacted me to relay that I was on paid administrative leave until further notice. My fate would now lie in the hands of the top three men who run the school district.

This incident has two sides that need to be addressed;
1 - The civil side, the criminal charges against me.
2 - The job side, the actions my employer would take.

I sought and paid for advice from two attorneys regarding the pertinent issues on both sides. It was at this point when I began to learn two truths;
1 - That in the eyes of the world, being honest is NOT always the best policy.
2 - When dealing with cowards, being "right" is worthless.

I mentioned before that my fate was now in the hands of the men who run the school district. I wasn't worried; I had been told by those in the know that the three men deciding my fate were "good men" who had common sense. I had also been told that all three men agreed with the concept of my action, they were as disgusted by the sticker as I was. Even though I didn't know any of these three personally, through my experience with the district I came to understand they were highly educated. I had heard or read their messages of commitment, duty, loyalty, and honesty in speeches or written communications to employees. I had received a letter from one of them a mere 6 months earlier commending my "...25 years of dedicated service to Granite School District" which "..represents considerable levels of personal commitment..." etc etc.

These are men who as former principals had espoused integrity, 'leading by example', and who are mindful of leaving the proper legacy for the students we serve.

These same men fired me.

My 25 years of employment ended because I removed a publicly displayed vulgar bumper sticker.

They told me they had completed a thorough investigation. That is total B.S. Their "investigation" was to simply read the other persons police report and take what he said as fact. Another part of their "investigation" was that I had "put in writing" the statement that I "would do it again".

I'm puzzled as to where that came from. The only thing I can think of is that the first few days after the incident I had received a lot of contact from fellow employees via face book, emails, and phone calls. Apparently during one of those contacts I made or wrote the statement that, "I would do it again". I'm not certain why I would say that, or what context it was said in, or what question preceded that statement, but I would later come to regret it, as that person, whoever it is, must have taken that information and reported it to the personnel responsible for the investigation (thank you Dear Friend, whoever you are). During my later meetings with district reps they would not tell me where that statement came from, or allow me to retract the statement, if in fact I did make it. I guess they figured it was written in granite....get it? Written in granite, granite school district... Oh well, never mind.

After appealing for job reinstatement and being denied I then requested that my "termination" status be changed to "retirement". The district, in light of my 25 years of service, graciously allowed me that privilege. How wonderfully decent of them.

So the job side of this incident was finished since I was termed. Now I had the civil matter to deal with.

Even though the school district has its own police department and its own attorney to conduct their "investigation", my attorney and I were able to discover two things that the district could not or didn't care to find.
1 - A surveillance tape that proved unequivocally that the other person's story was false.
2 - My "class c misdemeanor" was classified by the city of West Valley as an "infraction" which is equal in severity to, say... a parking ticket.

When I went to court, December 7 no less, the Judge heard my story and evidence with incredulousness as to why I was even there, and said, "Dismissed". No record, no booking, nothing, a non incident.

And so my debt to society was paid. For a "parking ticket" type violation that was dismissed in court, I was terminated, or forced to retire from a job that I enjoyed for over a quarter of a century.

The legacy of the three men who termed me will be forever etched in my mind.

To conclude:
I would like to thank some people who made this speed bump in my life bearable:
  • the friends who visited, called, or sent cards with supporting words, if I named them I know I would miss someone, I'm amazed at how much their words lifted me up in a difficult time.
  • My defense attorney, Earl Xaiz (Zice). Every year Earl receives top honors from his peers, he truly is a "Super Attorney". Normally I could not have afforded Earl's services, but he got on my bandwagon and saved the day. I can't say enough good things about Earl; his legacy is also etched in my mind.
  • Judge Stoney who saw the truth, and was man enough to stand by it.
  • Finally and most of all Beverly, she is incredible.

And finally (no really) as for my supposed quote, "I would do it again." Well, would I? Nope. At least not in the same way I did it last time. If I see another vulgarity I will call the police, and when they tell me it is that person's right to express themselves, I will correct them, citing;

Utah code 10-8-50. "Lewd behavior"

(f) using obscene or profane language in a place or under circumstances which could cause a breach of the peace or good order of the city.

And if I need to, I will relate to the good officer what I was told at the start of this incident; 'that they are not paid to write the laws, but they are paid to enforce them.'

And finally, finally to you, if you read this entire story, you deserve a round of applause. :-)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A cold ride to a dark place.

Saturday Dec. 11 Will and I decide to take advantage of the absence of snow on the roads and go for a ride.

South of West Valley City about 120 miles is the town of Delta. Near Delta is the WW II era "Topaz Internment Camp" This is a dark page of U.S. history, an Executive Order (#9066) issued on March 27, 1942 caused 120,000 people of Asian decent, about 75,000 of which were American citizens, to be uprooted from their homes, jobs, and in many cases families and sent to "Relocation Camps". This was done without trial or hearing completely ignoring the rights of those 120,000 people.

About 8,000 of those people ended up in Topaz, Utah.

So that is our destination for the day; on the way there we see some folks unloading this machine ...maybe to do some skeet shooting?

It was a COLD ride, especially as we neared Eureka. Climbing the road to Eureka we could feel the temperature dropping fast. I think it had to be 20 degrees cooler in Eureka, than it was in Elberta!

Yes, the glare on the road is ice...

The town of Eureka has a population of approx 800. Elevation is 6430.
The very cute lady in the gas station/store tells us temperatures are usually at least 10 degrees cooler at all times during the year than the other towns in the area. They have some shops there that one of these days I need to take the time to look at. As we rode thru Saturday I noticed a new gun store...
Eureka was part of the "Tintic Mining District" and was known for silver and gold mines.
Lots of old historic buildings there as well; under the canopy is the Porter Rockwell cabin. Porter Rockwell was known as Joseph Smith's bodyguard.

Town hall.
Quaint old church, I didn't check what denomination it was.

We continue to ride south on US highway 6 until we turn west on SR 174 which takes us past the Intermountian Power Plant. The IPP went into operation in 1986 and serves about 36 communities including some in California and Nevada. That tall stack is 701 feet tall.

Views of IPP as we approach.

And as we are riding away from it.

We covered lots of dirt roads to get to the Topaz Camp. They were temptingly smooth, long, and sparsly populated; but we obeyed all speed limits. Sort of...

The Topaz Internment camp. The newer white signs are apparently an Eagle Scout Project and were placed recently.

Will the Thrill.
We couldn't figure out what the structures in the background were for.

Closer looks.

Lots of artifacts laying around.

Topaz consisted of 42 gridded blocks surrounded by barbed wire, and guards.
Someone's residence. They seemed to be the local experts on Topaz, and had a lot of info spread around their home; but we didn't see any live bodies while we were there.
The "American" flag is not an official one, note the insert in the center of the flag. However I feel it still should be treated with proper respect; it's not the flag that committed the atrocities of Executive Order #9066

Replicas of camp buildings I think...

Sense of humor... :)

There was a large mailbox near the "sentry" that has pamphlets in it that detailed a lot of information about life at the camp.

The official memorial...hard to find but worth the effort. It is straight west of the actual camp.

You can see the cement foundation of the hospital.

Pretty hard to imagine treating people the way our government did these innocent Asians during this era. Yes, America was outraged by the attack on Pearl Harbor, but cooler minds should have prevailed. I can only imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the liberal media and handwringing dems had anyone suggested we put U.S. muslims in camps after 9-11.

Sorry for the rant. 270 miles of COLD riding and we were done. You have to take what you can get in the winter.. Thanks to Will The Thrill for prodding me out the door!