Monday, June 2, 2008

Day 11 - The Golden Sugar Coated Spike

This afternoon, under the bluest sky, we visited Golden Spike National Park located in Promontory, Utah. The area is remote and largely uninhabited high country that over the great Salt Lake and resides just northwest of Ogden. 139 years ago this was the place the final spike of the Transcontinental Railroad was driven in, the Golden Spike. The place where the East met the West. A fitting place for us to stop on a cross-country trip.

Outside of being at the finishing point of one of America's seemingly impossible engineering feats, what intrigued me most was learning about some of the other less publicized truths that accompanied this daunting venture. Like how a sizable portion of the workforce was hardworking Chinese immigrants who faced extreme prejudice. Or how the projects completion meant the eventual decimation of the many herds of wild buffalo across the plains, and that in turn contributed to the displacement of the Native Americans that called those plains home. These things were but small footnotes within the park, dangerously close to being forgotten.

As we sat and ate lunch on the old railroad grade that sat docile before a grand panorama of Salt Lake and its surrounding mountains, I pondered how not only do I love to eat, but also the idea that you cannot drive across this beautiful country and hope to fully understand who it is and all the wonderful things it has to offer without acknowledging the times we have made mistakes, often at the fatal expense of a great many people. As evident in old Promontory, Utah, or present day New Orleans, the errors in our ways are interlaced within our landscape nearly as much as the triumphs, and if you ignore the first you are only seeing the abridged and sugar coated visage of what is really out there amidst the trails we walk and the roads we drive. If you ignore the first our voices become that much more muffled, and the places we're headed that much more unclear.

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