the announcement of the new remodeling project for the dan ryan expressway in chicago stirred me up. this is one of my favorite roads - coming from the small town, landing in the middle of the south side, everyone going 75 & weaving back & forth...its remodeling will mean that south-siders will be thrown off for years. we on the far south side (5 1/2 hours) - well, we might get thrown off once or twice. nevertheless i've taken to collecting pictures and writing about it. and this is partly because traffic is on my mind for another project...this also about traffic.
a traffic story - in the summer of 1974, i was hitchhiking back from alaska and was in the yukon territory of canada...took a good look at a map and saw a road cutting down the western side of the british columbia mountains that would allow me to cut over to the coast and take the prince rupert ferry to vancouver island, one of the last places that i had not seen...and spare me the long haul through the peace river valley, dawson creek, edmonton and the great plains. i got myself dropped off at the edge of that road and camped the night with a distance bicyclist who warned me that it was a private road, gravel, owned by the logging trucks, and somewhat hazardous (he, nevertheless, was going to bicycle it)...in the morning the bicyclist was gone, up early, but i, after poking out the fire and collecting my things, standing by the road, was almost bowled over by one of those logging trucks, then picked up immediately by two guys in a more standard pickup, which, after a few miles, left that poor bicyclist in the dust. like many vehicles up there it had a metal screen in front, which the driver pointed out when I asked him why he sped up and tailgated the logging truck. it seemed to me that one wouldn't want to have that endless pile of gravel spewing up on one's windshield if one could possibly avoid it.
but there was another reason he tailgated the logging truck. the road's not wide enough, he said. so we always drive in the middle, and we always follow the trucks. the northbound logging truck will come through at a point about a hundred miles down the road; we both know when that truck will come through, and we'll all fit through that point at that time. but that's the only point, and that's the only time. if i'm not behind this logging truck, i have to wait for the next one, or give up driving altogether. after all, it's their road...
the conversation went on...it included amazement at the fact that a mountain goat could come down from the mountains on that particular day...how that must be a sign of something, given his solitary existence. and how the road was bumpy, the middle of the road was clearly the best place to be, the middle of the seat was somewhat rough for riders, but we were making good time, and the rocks flying up at us were doing no more damage than had already been done thousands of times. and, how, on long rides, going 75 behind a logging truck on a gravel mountain road, looking down the cliff to the right, one could even question the merits of hazing up the cab with sweet smoke, and seeing things from the mountain goat's point of view.