Lectures to myself: the west

July 3, 2008

Contained within this post are a group of loosely organized but¬†related thoughts about a series of not necessarily¬†important obsevations. Except that, I have found when you ride a bike saddle for a number of hours,¬†your thought pattern is often neither¬†relevant¬†nor logical.¬†Whatever, the west is behind us as of today. So, other than the map; How does one know this?¬†Well, in riding a bike ones sense of smell is very much a unique factor particular to a bike’s slower speeds. I can smell a lot. The good stuff; flowers, grass, sage, lupen, rain, crops, good food cooking somewhere like fresh bakery etc. Then there is bad stuff; road kill, exhaust, live stock, black top, pesticides,¬†bad water etc.

Lesson 1. For the rest of my life I will take with me those great smells from the rain-soaked forests of Coastal Oregon (stick your head in a bag of mulch and take a breath), the dry fragrence from Idaho’s sage and late spring¬†blooms and the¬†sweet grassland¬†as we desended into Nebraska. Smelled hay again, great. Smelled the road kill but you expected to when you saw it coming along the road. Tough ones were smelling the ones you could not see. Just guessing as to what it might be.¬†So, what’s the key to knowing you are back in the midwest?? You smell HOGS! Pigs, swine, porkers. They are here and lot’s of ’em. On the trucks, in the barns, pens, you name it. It’s hog heaven.¬†¬†¬†

Lesson 2.¬†You learn and re-learn a lot about yourself on a journey like this. For one example, I’ve had to¬†adjust¬†my opinion about truckers and¬†their disdain for bicyclists. In the west, I was thinking I would see my life flash in front of me every time a big-rig passed. A couple of times that was true,¬†however, that was by far the exception and not the rule. The vast majority of the time these drivers would¬†leave the lane open if they could allowing maximum distance between us. I saw, more than once, a¬†big rig passing us slide into the center of the road so the oncoming truck put one set of wheels on the shoulder in order to pass. Some of these trucks were mammoth, mining trucks with huge trailers¬†behind.¬†¬†Perhaps the worst catagory of rigs are the livestock and logging drivers. There are also a bunch of RV idiots.

Lesson 3. After three western states have seen my tiny little tires roll over them; I ask myself: “What is a road¬†trip, anyway?” Roads, hmmm. Having worked for the Wisconsin State Highway Commission about 50 years ago, I recall some basics about road engineering. For example, Oregon (apparently not having gravel) crushes¬†feldspathic rock to make¬†roads. Problem is the¬†crushed stone is very sharp and then mixed with coal-tar (black-top) and smashed “flatish” by monster rollers. They think this is a fine surface. Most other states¬†call this the “base coarse”. To shorten this some, all states have some unique “pain” built into their roads, which on a bike is felt very clearly and distinctly. Nebraska, it should be noted,¬†has shoulders¬†which¬†pavement consistes of 50′ of smooth surface followed by a crack. The crack varied from county to county. Some cracks¬†1″ wide but usually about 4-6″ wide and¬†deep. So,¬†it was like this: pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal WHAM!¬†pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal WHAM!¬†¬†pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal WHAM!¬†¬†pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal WHAM!¬†¬†pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal WHAM!¬†¬†etc, etc,

So, ” A road trip”…….. ¬†romantic adventure? or a pain in the butt?¬†

(Peter coverd some of this earlier and I will write on IOWA roads shortly) 

  1. Carolina Said,

    Hi Peter, Jean, Dan and Ian…
    Happy fourth of July!! Thinking of you and was hoping that you were indeed taking the day off today. I had a dream the other night about your trip and you were almost done, and were way ahead of schedule…now reading your blog entries, it seems just like that too! Wow! You are doing this fast–I know it doesn’t feel that way to you, but boy it sure seems that way. Awesome! Hope everyone is feeling strong and healthy…and were are those blog entries from Mr Brooks? Enjoy your day off!

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