I wore my raincoat to cut the wind-chill, but since the weather reports were in consensus that it wouldn't rain, I left the pants rolled up in my luggage. Out on the highway the traffic was loud and constant, mostly gigantic trucks with an amazing diversity of cargo, screaming by on the inside lane to courteously avoid whipping me with their jet-stream.
I think that if I ever encounter another trucking corridor like this one (highway 36), I'll spend a few hours camped out by the side of the road snapping photographs of all the flatbeds with their monstrous farming vehicles, geometric stacks of piping, corrugated shipping containers, plastic-wrapped cylinders of hay, pyramids of rocks and produce, and rattling cages teeming with barnyard animals. The diversity is impressive, but even more impressive is the organization behind it. Each of these loads is bound for a known destination on an arranged schedule, and every piece of cargo is accounted for. It's not surprising that some loss or theft or miscommunication happens... What's surprising is how little that amount is.
Why are pundits so impressed and threatened by the pace of development in China? What's the advantage in blasting people and property aside to complete a high-speed railway in less than a year, only to have it fall apart less than two, and go bankrupt in three? How can a monolithic government substitute for the adaptability of private enterprise?
Wait; wait a second. This digression is way too big for a simple travelogue! Okay, forget everything I just said. Time for some amusing photos. Look what I found by the roadside: Cat tails!
When you poke them, they go "floof"! They're very stripey.
Also, extending the theme of fuzz and stripes, I found this guy bumbling up the shoulder of the road, as though he was trying to outrun me. I picked him up, then chucked him into the weeds, well away from the speeding traffic.
I chomped snacks from my bag, including that brick of sharp cheddar I bought in Miss Kitty's store, and listened to my audiobook. The headwind was relentless.
After ten hours of riding, constituting 2000 feet of ascent over a mere 66 miles, I arrived in Brookfield. By the time I plopped down in the booth at the Mexican restaurant I was ravenous. I ordered enchiladas and then began chomping industriously through the bowl of chips and salsa and examining the other patrons.
On my left was big family, gathered around two tables. Mother, father, an array of kids from 16 to 30, and a couple of people that seemed to be in-laws, each paired up with a kid. Every one of them was dressed head to toe in camouflage cold-weather hunting gear, with a splatters of mud drying on their boots. Must be the start of hunting season.
My attention was drawn specifically to the young woman - about 25 I guessed - with her straight blond hair in a high ponytail. She wore exactly the same hunting gear as her siblings. She looked over at me a few times, showing herself to be slightly more curious than the rest of her party, but she was also intent on preventing me from noticing her interest. I was struck by her sober, serious, almost dour expression. All traces of femininity had been erased from her, even the traces that men commonly allow themselves on the west coast - warmth, playfulness, gentility. What had happened, or was happening, to this woman to make her this way? Was this her "game face" for hunting, or just the say she was?
Or maybe she just really, really hated Mexican food.
That family got up and left. A few of them glanced at me, but again, they did their best to hide their curiosity. Then a group of four men arrived, and arranged themselves at the four sides of a table in front of me.
These men totally ignored me, and everyone else around them. They, too, were bedecked in hunting gear and spattered with mud. What I heard of their conversation convinced me that I would never, ever become friends with these people, even though we were all the same age.
To amuse myself I began a tally of the ways we were incompatible:
- Different wardrobe
- Incompatible eating habits
- Diametrically opposed political views
- Unrelated ambitions
- Very different religious beliefs
- Different standards for raising children
- Different taste in women
- Different ways of making a living
And yet, we have a common language and a common stock-in-trade of respect for work, through which we conduct business to our mutual benefit. The saving grace of America. ... Without this, we would probably be at war.
There I go again with my digressions... Sorry!
Anyway, I biked from the Mexican place to a motel across the highway, imported my photos and synced my GPS and took a shower and other stuff, and then around bedtime I began to feel ill. Something was wrong with my intestines.
I laid down on top of the bed, since it was the only position that didn't make the feeling worse, and fell asleep for a few hours. I woke up in the middle of the night with a strong urge to vomit. I managed to stagger into the bathroom and lean over the edge of the tub, ready for the worst to happen, but after laying like this for a few minutes the discomfort ebbed and I felt better, so I drank some water and crawled back into bed.
I think that Mexican restaurant needs an audit from a health inspector. I wonder if anyone else got sick that evening?