It was my first time traveling on the Kawasaki. Motorcycle travel in America is a completely different experience than motorcycle travel in China. The roads and the countryside seem so empty. And vehicles move much faster.
My cycle's engine was still in the break-in period, so I took county roads wherever I could, trying not to edge over 45 mph, winding through unpeopled farm country and riverside woods. I basically followed the Mississippi river south, crossing over into Illinois the first Friday night and then back into Iowa on Saturday morning. I had been riding quite a while and it was good and dark by the time I got to Clinton, Iowa. When you've been riding through the country for a couple of hours, when you get to the city it can seem very strange. And I am always mesmerized by night-time scenes of glowing industrial compounds.
This place reminded me of Interstate 10, between Houston and Orange, TX, except that it lacked the stench of deadly petrochemicals.
This was sort oddly art deco-looking for an industrial facility.
I spent Friday night at a Super 8 in Moline; good, cheap lodgings but not so picture-worthy. I rode for three hours in the morning and met my mom at a B&B in Keokuk around 1:00 p.m.
This is what happens to an ordinary rain poncho after 50 miles on the highway.
I threw my pack on my bed and we visited and ate and then checked out a steamship that has been converted to a museum.
I love the ear tube. The engineer would stick his ear up to this copper tube and listen to the captain's instructions, shouted over the roar of the engine works.
And these were the subtle adjustments he woud make. It looks like something out of a Warner Brothers cartoon.
Full steam ahead, mom!
I found this eulogy to another steamship poignant.
To think... a ship that sailed all those years, carrying all those crews and all that cargo. And what's left? A photograph stapled to the wall.
I love looking at old handwriting. People used to have such lovely script.
Compare today's handwriting. Sad.
There was an awesome little diorama of the Mississippi.
The next day we moseyed over to see the Mormon village of Nauvoo, Illinois, where lo and behold, they also had a diorama of the Mississippi.
Nauvoo is pretty huge, with lots of restored cabins where early Mormons farmed and wrote books of rules and sang hymns, after they were hounded out of Missouri and before they colonised Utah. I found the visitor's center fascinating, as much for what it neglected to mention as for the documents and artifacts on display. Like that business about polygamy? Not the ghost of a reference.
This is a painting of Joseph Smith, receiving a revelation from God & Jesus, who are apparently identical twins. All in all, I have to say that if the purpose of the visitor's center was to convince me that Mormons are just like the rest of us? FAIL.
On my way back to Dubuque, motorcycling lazily through Illinois, I came across a very weird bar. I'm thinking the men that frequent this place are pretty secure in their masculinity.
And what kind of get-togethers do you reckon they have at the Pink? Fashion shows? Poodle promenades? Hardly. Unless eroslane stops in for a beer, I have a feeling glittery Tinkerbell spaghetti-strap tees would be in short supply.
I was starting to get sore from carrying my backpack so I stopped at a gas-up and the only thing they had to augment my single bungee cord was bootlaces. By golly, those things worked just fine; my gear stayed put all the way back.
Week Two: Quad Cities
The next weekend we met in the Quad Cities, which is a metro area comprised of four cities clustered around the Mississippi, two on the Iowa side and 2 on the Illinois side. We had a fantastic Indian meal in Moline. The restaurant had orange dots on the walls, which made a nice backdrop for a picture of me, looking like I'm hosting some kind of bad psychedelic game show.
We went to the park and saw a documentary about two guys who floated the entire length of the Mississippi in inflatable kayaks. The guys were there, along with their kayak. It was a nice summer evening.
The next morning, We took a tour of the lock and dam. It was just me, mom and Mike, our official Army Corps of Engineers Tour Guide. He grew up in Moline and I'd say he made good.
We didn't get a chance to see it happen, but this bridge rotates to let tall vessels through. It can spin 360 degrees.
I forget exactly what Mike called these things hanging from the bridge: last chance ropes or something like that. The water in front of the dam is extremely treacherous and powerful. If your boat gets sucked into it, you grab onto these guys and hold on for dear life until they can fish you out. It happened not too long ago.
This yellow block is another last-ditch safety measure. The width of the channel here is only a few feet more than the width of the barges that creep through. If someone falls overboard, they'll slide these blocks down between the walls and the hull of the barge so the hapless man overboard will not be crushed.
We had some lunch and I took off. I decided to take the Great River Road up the Illinois side of the Mississippi. Illinois is pretty skanky; it's like the Louisiana of the midwest. Blagojevich would fit right into the Louisiana senate. And this place, right on the highway? Very Louisiana.
Of course they've got competition right across the road.
And a few miles down the road... a nuclear power plant.
Now THIS is Louisiana style. No drinkin' at the nucular plant, okay? If you had a couple before you got here? Toss 'em in the dumpster already.
I found one more Illinois oddity on my way home, but I think Krazy Acres deserves its own entry. Stay tuned.