Virtual Moab – An alternative future

My apocalyptic visions of the future depress many of my friends. Tell the truth and everybody squirms.
When I lived in Moab, of course, my fears that civilization was collapsing around me were more frequent, if not constant.
I  longed for winter and quieter times. But as the economy depends almost exclusively on tourism to pay the bills, even sane and serene Moabites actually look forward to, anticipate, even long for the return of thousands of narcissistic fitness buffs who show up for the annual masochistic rite of Spring, the Half Marathon.
Imagine 1,600 brightly clad runners pushing and shoving their way down Route 128 along 13 miles of asphalt to the finish line and glory at the Moab City Park. A man once called  the race organizers to complain that he could not find a motel room to rent in the entire town of Moab.
“The whole town is booked,” he whined. “What am I going to do?”
“About the best you can hope for,” explained the weary race official, “is a motel room in Green River and commute to town.”
There was a long pause.
“I’m sorry, miss,” he said stiffly. “That won’t do at all.”
I didn’t come to live in tourist mecca. It’s why I fled Moab. I am, in fact, a living anachronism, clinging hopelessly to the past. To a simpler time. To a slower time. I’m screwed.
I’m not completely anti-technology. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with a computer for a decade now.
I know how to push 27 buttons in different combinations to produce the online Zephyr (
I’ve been getting on the internet for more than a decade, the Zephyr has a web site, I once even tried to find True Love on the world wide web. I check the Drudge Report and John Stewart daily, and watch the LiveCams in Perth each morning.   
So, there are certain aspects of this new technology that intrigue me. I am particularly interested in the “virtual reality” concept.
I realize that the system is in its early stages of development, but it may be the answer to my prayers. There will be a time in the future, I hope and pray, when a trip to Moab will be as simple as strapping on a pair of goggles and slipping on a pair of gloves. Imagine, if you will, the Virtual Reality Trip to Moab for the Weekend...
You and your loved ones need to do little more than move the kitchen chairs into the living room for the ride of your life. Engage the system and you’re on your way.
The virtual trip to Moab is a breeze. Your virtual Saab Turbo gets you to Moab in three hours flat. A virtual cop at Soldier Summit makes a futile attempt to pull you over for speeding, but you leave him far behind in a virtual cloud of blue smoke. (Your Saab needs a virtual ring job–great news for the virtual mechanic)
As you make the long descent into the Moab Valley, you see for the first time, Moab’s new virtual tram rising majestically behind the virtual uranium tailings pile, climbing to the top of the Portal.
“What a virtually awesome view,” you say to each other. “This is going to be a great day for some serious virtual biking.”
“Virtually radical,” you all agree.
But first, how about a bite to eat? Unimpressed by all the new virtual fast food chain restaurants that have sprouted like a virtual fungus all over Moab, you head for one of your favorite virtual Moab restaurants, the one that doesn’t even exist anymore---the Dos Amigos Cantina, where you are greeted by the virtual (and versatile) owner of the establishment, Michael J. Marooney.
(Even though Marooney left town a decade ago and now lives in the lap of luxury in Southern California, there’s no reason, in the Virtual World, to deprive you of a unique and unforgettable experience.)
You are pleasantly relieved to find that the Virtual Marooney is just as frightening as the legend he has become.
When he turns to each of you and says, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, or national origin, “Have you ever done it with a virtual fat guy?” before he’s even handed you a know you have a Virtual Reality system that is nothing less than “top of the line.”
Elsewhere, other virtual travelers like yourself are buying virtual goods and services from Moab merchants who are squirreling the money away so they can someday retire to Bull Head City, Nevada.
Virtual real estate developers are selling virtual condo lots like an elephant goes through peanuts to happy second-home happy buyers from across the nation.
Back at the Dos, two hours and too many virtual Margaritas later, you head for the Slickrock bike trail. But when you get to the virtual Sand Flats, you discover that every virtual law enforcement officer in southern Utah is up there as well, heavily armed with enough virtual fire power to turn your virtual reality into a really bad dream.
But upon closer inspection, you discover that your own virtual people, the thousands of virtual party-hearty maniacs that you came here to commune with in the first place, far outnumber the virtual Law.
And so you break out your virtual cases of beer, which you consume in massive quantities until you become so ill you think you’re going to hurl your virtual guts out.
EMTs from the Grand County Search and Rescue Squad discover you and your friends the next morning under your  Saab, where you are hovering near virtual death from virtual alcohol poisoning. Your blood alcohol count is an astounding .37 (virtual). A LifeFlite chopper whisks you away to LDS Hospital in Salt Lake, where you make a slow but complete recovery from your virtual brush with death.
About now it’s time to take off the goggles. And all you can say is: Wow! What a weekend getaway! Look at all the fun you had. You out ran a cop, you were sexually harassed at a Moab restaurant, you injected much needed cash into the Moab economy, you ate too much, you partied too long, you trashed the Sand Flats, you peddled your butts off, and you almost died.
Best of all, you never left your living room. Back in Moab,  virtual profits for the weekend hit an all-time high. Meanwhile the coyotes chase the jack rabbits in the empty alfalfa fields south of town in the very space occupied by those lovely fake-adobe, Santa Fe-style virtual condos.
Maybe the future isn’t as grim as I thought it might be.
The virtual future, that is.
Or will there be a difference? Stay tuned.
(Jim Stiles is publisher of the “Canyon Country Zephyr -- Planet Earth Edition” now exclusively online. He is also the author of “Brave New West.” Both can be found at Stiles lives in San Juan County and can be reached at

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