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Old 10-02-2014, 10:22 AM   #1
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Ignoring the Gov Shutdown and National parks

Awesome writeup here.
If you find yourself standing before a federal judge, the last thing you want is to feel your attorney go stiff beside you. His Honor looked at the paperwork in front of him and paused. His eyes shot over his rimless glasses and landed first on me, then my attorney, who could not have performed a more perfect interpretation of 2x12 plank if we had entered into a life-and-death game of charades. It was inspired.

“Mr. Bowman, I’m trying to understand why your alleged offense occurred on one day and your citations were written almost two weeks later.”

Ah. That.

Rangers don’t take kindly to publicly mocking the government shutdown by riding a motorcycle through a closed national park. That’s especially true when you write a piece about it. I’d netted three citations for my efforts, including traveling the wrong way on a one-way road, ignoring a public closure, and operating a motor vehicle off of designated trails.

The three yellow slips of paper that showed up in the mail two weeks later succinctly summed up one brilliant afternoon in the park last October. Combined, these were good for up to 18 months of incarceration or $15,000 in fines. To make matters more endearing, the offenses occurred on federal land, which meant each was a genuine misdemeanor, the kind that go in the box under “HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CONVICTED OF A MISDEMEANOR” on job applications and unpleasant conversations with in-laws.

“Oh, I see. It says here you wrote an article for titled, ‘A 250cc middle finger to the government shutdown.’”

That’s the one.

The adorable court reporter looked up from her typing and flashed me a sly smile. Her blue eyes were bright with the look fathers pray they’ll never see their daughter give a boy dumb enough to ride a motorcycle and wind up in court over it. Laughs sprung up around the courtroom, my attorney loosened up, and for a moment, I thought the judge might even crack a grin. That was optimistic on my part.

Instead, he asked if I understood the deal before me. When the citations first showed up, my lawyer wanted to enter a not guilty plea, but doing so felt like a lie. I broke into the park to prove a point about the idiocy of the shutdown, and I wrote about the experience to remind people how truly special our public lands are. Instead of pleading guilty, my lawyer managed the impossible by negotiating a deal: swap my fines and time for 40 hours of community service in the park. When I told the judge I understood, I was out the door, deal in hand. A month later, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and hauled myself an hour east to do my time.

Everyone should have to deep clean a public toilet at least once, just to get a first-hand feel for how horrible humanity is as a species. When I arrived at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, I had no idea what my supervisor had in store. Long days breaking rock? Trail maintenance? Battling poison ivy and copperheads? Nope. My 40 hours would be spent helping out with the maintenance crew at the most popular visitor center in the park.

That meant cleaning the un-air-conditioned public toilets twice a day for five days straight, among other charming tasks. Walking into the women’s side for the first time was like stepping onto the scene of some bizarre natural disaster. It was if a small tornado had frolicked from stall to stall, flinging ribbons of toilet paper at the walls with vicious intent as it went.

It was, in a word, astonishing.

This wasn’t my first brush with janitorial work. My grandfather was a font of quiet lessons, and among those was the notion that there’s always work for a man who’s willing to do it. That idea carried me through a long line of high school jobs that required intimate knowledge of the care and use of a toilet brush. If I’m honest, the community service was refreshing. Get a task, complete the task, move on.

Each day started with a solid hour of vacuuming, sucking up the pebbles, gum wrappers, and lint visitors tracked into the gift shop and theater, followed by trash duty and the first round of bathroom cleaning. Then came a break, followed by cleaning the park headquarters. I dusted. I cleaned glass. I took out trash. I polished brass handrails.

It all gave me plenty of time to contemplate the transaction I’d entered into. I had swapped 40 hours of my life, plus 10 hours of commuting, for two perfect hours in a park I’ve loved all my life. I kept waiting for the scales to tip, for the realization to dawn on me that clearly this wasn’t worth it, that it wasn’t an equitable trade, and I’d never do it again so long as I lived. It never happened. The truth is, it was worth it.

Last week, I headed back up to Cades Cove for the first time since my community service. A friend and I took the legal way, winding the 24 miles through the park, then following the loop around to the back side where the eight-mile dirt road to Route 129 begins. It was hard not to feel a little jaded. We spent the first half of the day slinking around the cars and trucks in the Cove where they dawdled. A driver in an F-350 from Michigan laid on the horn as I rode past for no other reason than I was moving and he wasn’t. I understood his frustration.

It’s what made that afternoon last year so perfect. The cool air on my neck, the crunch of the first of autumn’s fallen leaves on the gravel. They’re memories I unfold often. I trace their lines when I need them most. I was more alone in the Cove then than anyone had been since before the Cherokee called it their own. It was my park as I always hope it will be and it so rarely is.
Just the same way you are tortured by common sense, I am tortured as to why you have none.
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Old 10-02-2014, 10:59 AM   #2
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That's awesome Thanks for posting.
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Old 10-02-2014, 11:05 AM   #3
what R you lookin' at?
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Cliff notes?
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Old 10-02-2014, 11:10 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by RACER X View Post
Cliff notes?
some dude went into a closed park, wrote and article, got fined and took a plea to clean toilets at the park instead of the fine.

and for some reason I can't figure out, is really happy about how it somehow shows that the shutdown was absurd.
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Old 10-02-2014, 11:13 AM   #5
Hook 'em!
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Originally Posted by bumblebee View Post
"I lack skillz"
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Old 10-02-2014, 11:47 AM   #6
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I remember this. He rode in a national park during the government shut down last year.
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Old 10-02-2014, 01:04 PM   #7
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title of his article is priceless. haha
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Old 10-02-2014, 01:17 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Photographer View Post
title of his article is priceless. haha
Great Article. He, me, you and every other tax paying citizen pays for that park. Access should not be denied at least entry and exploring. Facilities and services could be closed down but being public land how can they restrict access? Bullshit and glad this guy did what he did and wrote about it.

Its sad we have come to this. Calling out the children of the 60's. Why do I feel like more things like this are going to become the norm because of the enhanced (nice way of putting) government control that has taken place since 9/11.

Also, any children of the depression? Growing up in the 50's and 60's (I know I read a book, but I love history and real politics are left out to protect the guilty) did the Federal Govt start doing the same after Pearl Harbor / WWII? It almost seems we go in a circle time after time. Just this time it seems the peoples rights are being trampled on more than any other time in History.
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Old 10-02-2014, 03:11 PM   #9
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I could see how riding through a huge deserted park could be great but not 40 hours of crapper cleaning great.
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Old 10-02-2014, 04:16 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by RACER X View Post
Cliff notes?
, just read the . Not even worth the time to ask, otherwise.

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Old 10-02-2014, 05:02 PM   #11
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Didn't he record it too? I remember seeing a few videos
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Old 10-02-2014, 05:13 PM   #12
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Old 10-02-2014, 08:14 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by 826 View Post
Reading may help you with spelling in your thread titles.
Originally Posted by Azylum
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