powered by nightshades (srl) wrote in trans_usa_biker,
powered by nightshades

harper's ferry, iowa, evening, june 22

i'm sitting at a picnic table in camp after 2 days off the road. i finished on the 20th in marquette, then took 2 days to hang out with my sweetie. it was good; we hiked some, saw the effigy mounds national monument (where the authority given to white ethnographers really annoyed me), went to see /mr. and mrs. smith/, and watched a lot of tv. (mmm, motel. air conditioning. pool. hot showers. good stuff.) he gave me a ride 15 miles down the road to a campground, which handily avoided a big hill. he was thinking about staying the night in the tent, but we realized that it just wasn't right--- this is my trip. he wished me well, we said goodbye, and now i'm organizing things and preparing for another seven weeks on the road. the big hills start now, and the unknown; up until now i knew where and when i was aiming for, and it was relatively short-term. on the plus side, it's now no longer a race to a particular point. my schedule from here out is all 60, 65, 70 mile days, and if!
i happen to do a longer day than that it's because i'm having a good day.

the mississippi river is huge here--- tall bluffs of sedimentary rock, then several wide channels with big islands in between. the bluffs are very tall, several hundred feet (which i realize will seem like nothing to me in a month). lots of bugs. there are trains that run along the river, so i hear lots of whistles, lots of freight. E explained to me yesterday about hopping freight trains--- which cars he rode in, why trains are so fascinating to him. we went up onto a high point on the wisconsin side of the river and watched the trains. for some time now, the land's been so large that i can watch an 80-car train go by, and it doesn't even fill the horizon.

i've been thinking about the ways i'll be different when i finish this trip than when i started. it's changed me some already. i'm understanding the old stories and images about travelers in new ways. i don't think i ever really understood the reason for the stories about people who shelter strangers, realizing later that they were entertaining gods. those stories don't talk about the experience of being a vulnerable traveler, accepting hospitality from strangers that you haven't asked for. i'm finding it humbling in good ways. i'm also mellowing out a lot, having no deadlines and minimal clock usage. i love the way days on the road can sometimes stretch out pleasantly forever, measured only by the position of the sun in the sky.

sitting by the river today, i was thinking about ferries and bridges: how ferries end up as place names (_____'s ferry) while bridges almost never do. i'd never given much thought to bridges; they're just always there, with no thought to who built them or what travel would be like without them. i was thinking about images of river-crossing; fording the river into the promised land, or paying the ferryman charon for passage to the underworld. ferries and fords are almost always significant. they're places where things change.

"grab your ticket and your suitcase,
thunder's rolling down this track
you don't know where you're going now,
but you know you won't be back..."
--- bruce springsteen

a small, bright green, iridescent beetle just landed next to me. it's beautiful. the sky is sunset-pale blue with a few cirrus clouds. i hear there's a heat wave coming in the next few days, or storms, but i wasn't paying much attention.
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