Travels with Charlie


By Richard Eber

It has been several years since our last road trip from Northern California to Pocatello Idaho; where my wife’s family resides.  This trip was special because we were picking up Charlie, a baby Lab-Australian Herding dog mix, to grace our household. 

Even though it has been awhile since we drove this 700 mile trek, very little has changed along the way.  Road signs promising riches to be found in Nevada casinos seem to still be in a time warp. Chicken fried steak served with instant potatoes and gravy remains the $5.99 Special at diners. With Cannabis Dispensaries being more numerous on our route than clean toilets, I guess this can be viewed as a sign of progress.

One thing noticeable was the quality of roads in California versus Nevada and Idaho. To put it bluntly, California’s highways suck. Pot holes and torn payment abounds in the Golden State. These horrible conditions make signs indicating arrival inside California’s borders unnecessary.

In addition to the shoddy condition of roads, on well traveled routes such as US99 and Interstate 5, there are still only two lanes in each direction except near metropolitan areas. It’s hard to say why. While California has more traffic than adjoining States, its fuel cost us almost a buck more per gallon than our close neighbors.  Theoretically, there should be enough funding to keep up our highways to meet the needs of today’s motorists.

But then we come to realization none of these other places are financing Bullet Trains to nowhere, subsidizing expensive seldom used mass transit systems, or appeasing labor unions with astronomical prevailing wage packages.  I am also fairly certain that Governors in these other States are not diverting funds to pay for Sanctuary Cities or subsidizing health insurance premiums for undocumented residents.

It is also not a revelation to know school children in Idaho have been receiving in person education at school since last August.  Just the opposite is true in California where remote learning from home can charitably called a major failure. Under the leadership of The California Teachers Association less than one in three of high school students meets the national average in math and English proficiency. During the last year this gap has widened as many low income and single parent households have struggled to keep up using the remote learning process. It is believed that when low achievement students become adults, their ability to make a good trying will be impaired by their lack of skills in the three R’s.

Meanwhile in Idaho, despite almost $ 3,000 less being spent per pupil, education proficiency is much higher than in California. According to a survey made by US News, the Potato State is 24th in academic excellence to California’s dismal 44th place standing.  True Idaho has less diversity than California. At the same time cancel culture is not a part of their educational curriculum. LOL.

What would you prefer; academic achievement or expertise understanding the depths of racism and the importance of diversity in our society? The last time I checked such skills do not pay for even one baloney sandwich, except if food stamps are involved.

When it comes to housing costs, the price of new homes in Idaho are about half of that in California.  Outside of land prices, the permitting process for construction is not all that expensive, complicated, and time consuming in Idaho.  In rural areas CEQUA and multiple environmental impact reports (EIR) are not required in great detail.  With these relaxed rules, it does not look like the world is coming to an end for them.

There is even more disparity between California and Idaho when it comes to crime rates.  According to statistics provided by the FBI California ranks 24th while Idaho is the 6th safest place to live.  This gap is likely higher with most felonies committed in Sanctuary Cities in California not being prosecuted while shop lifting has been largely decriminalized for under $1000.00 of merchandise stolen.

Comparing the crime rates between Boise and Los Angeles, the results are a joke.  In addition with the population of Idaho, having one of the highest number of firearms ownership per person in the country, there are few homicides with so many 2nd Amendment proponents around.

Another consideration to be taken into account is state taxes of all sorts.  Sales taxes average 3.5% less in Idaho. On property the assessment in Idaho averages 6.29% per $100,000 compared to 8.68% in California.  When valuation of property is added on, the disparity is even greater.

Even a pack of cigarettes cost about three bucks less a pack in Idaho!

Income taxes are about the same for low income folks in both States with California having much higher levies for wealthier folks. After all of these figures are taken into account it would appear the quality of life is much higher, especially for families in Idaho compared to California.  This does not mean Potato World is the best place for everyone to live these days.

There is no doubt California is far ahead to its neighbor in such areas as economic opportunity, weather, quality of restaurants, entertainment etc…  In short Idaho for city dwellers such myself is a bit boring. Indicative is when my wife first introduced me to her family a nephew asked, “What’s your favorite magazine Uncle Rich, Field And Stream or Guns and Ammo?” At that moment I realized that being one of the good old boys would never be my destiny.

But that doesn’t mean I should not enjoy visiting this place where the Snake River meanders throughout the State supplying enough H2O  to allow residents to live their lives without fear of water rationing to be imposed. As a bonus I was able to be able to find Charlie, who follows me around with devotion seldom found anywhere.  As a bonus Charlie, unlike my late beloved  beagle Pikelz,, doesn’t run away  to hunt for rabbits at every opportunity.  I guess Charlie’s upbringing in Blackfoot brought him the obedience that cannot be found  in California or living with me.

When our journey came to an end,  I was happy to return to my digs in Concord. Even with absorbent  taxes, rampant illiteracy, high crime, and an astronomical cost of living , I still love this place.

 Sorry Thomas Wolfe.  I could come home again.

Richard Eber studied journalism at the University of Oregon. He writes about politics, culture, education restaurants, and was former city and sports editor of UCSB Daily. Richard is president of Amerasa Rapid Transit, a specialized freight forwarder.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.

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