Post for 16 June 2021
The day started very special. I woke up in one of the same campsites I stayed in when cycling the TransAm, in 2018. After that, I cycled around Chester, Illinois for a bit and enjoyed some nostalgia for my first trip though the town with my “Tran Am Fam.” (Fam is short for family.)
Chester is a lovely town. One of its residents invented Popeye, so the town has many sculptures and other bits from the cartoon on display, even a store called Spinach Can Collectables.
I cycled south by the Mississippi River when leaving Chester, which is when things got tough. I chose a small road thinking it would be peaceful. About a mile later, several semi-trucks passed me in both directions. Sometimes, two or three in a row from both directions. The small road had little or no shoulder, so when semi-trucks passed at the same spot I cycled on, I had to get off the road and into the ditch. The ditch was also small, so it didn’t give much distance from the trucks, but staying on the road would have been asking for a semi-truck or it’s wake to knock me over.
Many of the semi-truck drivers made some effort to give me a little room, by wandering into the other lane, but that usually wasn’t an option since the road was so narrow, especially when other trucks were coming from the other direction. One driver was less patient. That driver honked his loud semi-truck horn while passing me.
At first, I thought it was an anomaly that so many semi-trucks would pass in both directions, but they kept coming. Once or twice while standing in the ditch, I considered turning around, cycling back to Chester, and cycling on the other side of the River. Making that decision was challenging since I was not comfortable. I needed to make an important decision soon, possibly like staying calm in a house-fire. But unlike house-fires, there was no prepared procedure to follow.
I chose to cycle on and hope the shoulder on the road would increase or the number of semi-trucks would decrease. About a mile later, I saw semi-trucks turning off the small road, toward the river. When I reached the place where they were turning, I saw semi-trucks backed up next to a barge. Whatever they were carrying, it was being off-loaded to the barge. A few hundred yards later, I saw the trucks turning back onto the road, toward me. That made it clear that the semi-trucks were driving in a loop that morning. When they were loaded, they drove to the barge, unloaded, turned around for another load, and drove back to the barge.
The day got much better after I passed the barge, but I admit that I still felt tense. On that morning, I saw how the Mississippi River is a working river, and sometimes, cyclists should not get in the middle of work.
I finished the day cycling on extremely quiet roads. Normally, they’d be too quiet, but after spending the morning up-close-and-personal with semi-trucks, those extremely quiet roads felt ok. Toward the end of the day, a simple popsicle felt surprisingly comfortable, as explained in the pictures.
The song for this day is from Beethoven’s 9th. There’s tension in that symphony which reflects what it’s like to get off a small road when semi-trucks are passing in both directions.