The following are some of my observations that I have come to recognize as being distinct differences between the two states.
First and foremost is the driving differences. OH. MY. HECK. (see, I am a Utahn now. The lingo has become a part of me) The one thing that I feared most about my great move to the land of Utah, was driving in it. Yup, scared the living daylights out of me.
The Utes seem to have their own driving laws that they alone, only know of. Tourists and visitors beware. Who knew that every time I was to approach any turning lane it would become a race to be the one to enter the lane first! I swear every time I am driving I can hear the commentators of NASCAR announcing every play by play, if you will. If you have not entered the turning lane at least a mile before the stoplight or turn, you might as well keep moving. You lost your chance.
Another Utah driver phenomenon is the mere fact that instead of preparing to enter the lane that leads to an exit on the free way a mile or two before approaching it, they will risk life and limb to cross 4 busy lanes of traffic at high speed to make their exit. The Utes also seem to have difficulties staying in one lane. Speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down. They are incapable of casually driving behind some one. It must be in their DNA. My husband is the King of Guilty when it comes to this very driving maneuver. (imagine me using my "mocking" voice now) Oh no! We can let someone pass us on the free way! Oh no! We must not drive behind someone! We must pass them and not let them pass us! Many glares and eye rolls have been flashed at him, due these crazy driving habits.
It's these crazy road antics that causes me to take the "back roads" instead of the free way.
And then there is the "Utah Merge". Help me Rhonda!!! I have one question to ask, "What's the hurry Utes?" Left hand turns are evil in this state. I try to avoid them at all times. I will travel 5 miles up the road to avoid them. Let me tell ya, it's scary when you are driving along, minding your own business... then there it is!!! Some one puts the pedal to medal and whips their vehicle into the center of the road, into the turning lane. My reflexes can't help but swerve my car away from them. And then instead of stopping, looking in their mirrors, signaling, and merging into traffic when the coast is clear, they instead continue driving in the middle of the turning lane. They look at you with shear determination to pass you then cut you off, which causes me to slam on my breaks and cause whiplash damage to my precious children's necks. A cuss word or two, may have slipped out of my mouth during these certain experiences.
Wyoming drivers, however, are not that perfect either. When ever I go home I am amazed at how slow they drive, but they seem to make an exception to drive at top speeds when they are driving in a blizzard, on steep ice covered mountain passes, with a million foot drop on either side of the road. They aren't worried. They have their studded tires on and their 4 wheel drive pickups! And that leads me to another observation... everyone in Wyoming owns a truck. I believe it's a Wyoming law.
I hate to admit it, but one of the most difficult things to get use to, when I moved to Utah, was buckling up all of the time. Yup, some Wyoming-ites apparently aren't too concerned about being catapulted through the front of their windshields. Oh I would buckle up if I happened to be traveling long distances on a highway and such, but in town...not so much. When you only encounter 3 other drivers on a road and they are only traveling 15 MPH, I just didn't see the reason to put on a seat belt. Now, I don't even drive to my mailbox with out my seat belt on! Having kids will do that to a person.
When it comes to exiting a highly attended function, such as a high school football game, graduation, or a concert, something odd happens to the collected Wyoming-ite brains. They become mentally incompetent and will try to exit the parking lot all at the same time. Which then results in a massive traffic jam, of sorts. I must give "props" to the Utes. They will take turns when leaving a parking lot full of fellow drivers.
How much do you want to bet this mess of drivers are from Wyoming?
I must say that driving in Utah is an acquired skill. One that even encounters breaking certain road laws. Back home I would have never, ever passed someone on their right hand side, while traffic came to a stop. Wyoming-ites wait. The only time they would ever perform this maneuver is if there happened to be a cow jam in the middle of the road. But for the most part, we just slowly nudge the cows, or sheep in some instances, with our big 'ol trucks. And if they don't move, we run them over. I kid! I kid!
Fourteen years later, and I would have to honestly say that my driving skills have improved. And I have to give much of the credit to living in Utah. I've become a little more bold, practice defensive driving religiously, and am more comfortable driving in high traffic areas. Oh heavens, you should have seen me when I first moved here! You could often find me pulled over to the side of the road, laying in the fetal position and sucking my thumb in my driver's seat. Okay, maybe not so much. Now, my mom wouldn't say my driving skills have improved. Whenever she comes to visit, she white knuckles it the entire drive. Then there is my dad, who was also born and raised in Utah. All I can say is, Yikes.
So as I end today's post, I have a little word of advice for my fellow Ute drivers...
Drive safely. And when you happen to come upon a vehicle with that familiar license plate with the bucking horse and cowboy, be kind. We don't have much experience driving in the big cities.
Did you know that the number/s on the very left of the Wyoming license plate is the number of the county from which the owner of the vehicle is from? My husband thinks that is pretty cool and will ask, "where are they from?" whenever we see a Wyoming-ite's plates. So if you see "county 10", tip your hat at them tell them "howdy!" from Jen.
*A little history lesson. It has been said that the bucking bronco on the Wyoming license plate was named "Steamboat" . He was a world champion bronco, from 1901 to 1914, that would not let anyone ride him. The rider was supposedly a champion rider, named Jerome "Stub" Farlow. "Stub" was from my neck of the woods, Lander Wyoming!
Yee haw! Ride-em cowboy!
Stay tuned for further crazy installments of Wyoming vs. Utah!