2004 Bike Trip: Waving and music

Leif Johnson — 15 Jun 2004, 19:06

on friday, after spending a not-so-great night slapping at king-size skeeters, i rode through carlyle illinois and met sundance, kendra, and jim, who invited me in for coffee and pancakes ! thank goodness for nice folks. jim is a truck driver, so he gave me all kinds of recommendations for roads to use in approaching st. louis, a veritable labyrinth of freeways and river crossings.

so, revved up on syrup for the short but intense ride, i spent the afternoon slipping past transfer trucks and suvs on us highway 50 west through illinois, finally taking rapid transit from the sticks and arriving here at the 1/3 point in the trip : st. louis, missouri, 2000 km from the atlantic ! i've been staying with a very nice family of friends’ friends for the past few days, resting a lot and sweating whenever i poke my head outside—it's hot here !

i suppose this update is more reflections of some thoughts than riding adventures, but i hope it's interesting anyway.


you know, i apologize ahead of time—i've been trying to avoid being preachy—but for the past few days i've been waxing evangelical / dave eggers while out riding. the people driving on these roads, with some much-appreciated exceptions, just don't seem to offer any encouragement to us bikers !

some of the nicest folks i've passed on the road are the harley riders, lowering their hands in two-wheeled solidarity along the pavement. but the other drivers just seem to fart on past, boxed in with their air conditioning and 200 horsepower engines, not understanding that this hill they're being transported over is actually a large physical object, requiring lots of energy and engineering to get past. a few days ago i was riding through the indiana corn fields, waving feebly to cars every now and then ... with no response. what a damper on the spirit ! if even one car driver an hour lifts their arm to say hi, it seems to drive into the legs and knees a new life, powering along another four miles of highway.

so, what i'm saying here is if you see a cyclist on the road, be sure to wave. if you're going the same direction as them, wait till the next lane over is clear, pass (using your turn signals—bikes are vehicles too) with plenty of room for the cyclist, and then honk when you're ahead of the rider, thrusting your arm out the window with flare—this happened outside st. louis and i about fainted with delight. if space permits, pull over, get out of the car, and cheer ! raise up flags and light sparklers and fireworks ; assemble a crowd and build a water stand, so that the tourist can grab a cup on their way past and pour it down their parched gullet. hold up your babies to smile on the cyclist's effort, saving gas and working for a less obese america ! hop on a bike yourself and pace them through the next half mile. ask them where they're going and give a validating look of awe when they say they're just headed down the road to the store. assemble your neighbors and block off traffic for the next five miles, plant a row of trees along the road for a wind break, have a bbq, and gather the materials for a bike lane along the side of the road ! whoop, holler, and jump at the sight of a tired rider cresting the next hill. and watch the tour this summer so we can see lance make history. :)

these are the kinds of thoughts that creep into the amazingly tired mind of the touring cyclist, 1000 miles from their starting point and 2000 miles from their destination. but they're also the thoughts of the cycling commuter, riding three miles to work or taking the youngin out for some fresh air.


i was pretty curious what the trip would present in the way of tunes for the ride. i didn't bring along any kind of cd player (though i do have a minidisc recorder for taping interesting sounds—just outside crossville, illinois, i got a recording of a really cool-sounding oil pump engine). but it turns out that, so far, most of my mental effort has been devoted to the intricacies of the road : veering left for that pothole coming up on the right, checking the rear view mirror for trucks, collecting information from my spedometer, wondering where my next turn will be. so, surprisingly, i haven't had much of any music going on in the old noggin.

but there have been a few songs i've happily used to push through the tough bits : a bit of neil young, some magnetic fields (i'm the luckiest guy / on the lower east side / because i've got wheels / and you want to go for a ride), pavement every once in a while.

but when i got to st. louis i went out walking (unfortunately st. louis is not a great place for walking—too hot) and almost dropped to my knees in awe of the led zeppelin tune belting from a vw cabrio at a stoplight. music ! what rapture ! it will be a glorious event to reunite with my cds.

the road ahead

pete arrived on schedule from taipei monday afternoon, and since then we've been gathering our gear and preparing for the ride ahead (he's ptfo right now). the plan is to ride north by northeast (oh, so close ... sorry, alfred) from here to bloomington-normal, then head west by northwest through iowa to sioux city, then continue on to the badlands, devil's tower, and on into montana.