I looked up the road and inhaled a deep breath as the imposing blue metal structure came into view.
“I’ve crossed long, narrow bridges before – no problem,” I thought to myself.
Then I saw the sign: Motorcyclists use caution, metal grate ahead.
“Um, OK, I’ve crossed sections of metal grate bridges before – no problem.”
I hit what I would later learn was a +5% grade entry onto the bridge and realized that the WHOLE LENGTH of the bridge was metal grate.
And the bridge is one mile long!
As soon as my front wheel met the metal grooves, it couldn’t decide which groove to be in, so it seemingly slid around between 2 or 3 vertical rows.
I’ve ridden long enough to know that you can’t fight the bike trying to “wiggle” between grated rows. You’ll go down for sure if you fight it, so I resisted the urge to white-knuckle my grip and tried to maintain a loose hold on the handlebars. As I tried to minimize the amount of dancing my bike did around the narrow lane (it turns out that both lanes together are less than 10 feet wide), I kept an eye on my camper behind me to make sure I wasn’t allowing too much wiggle and letting the camper stray into the oncoming lane.
I usually like to sightsee when I cross over a bridge. Not this time.
By the time I had traversed a solid mile of the Irvin S. Cobb Bridge and emerged on the other side of the Ohio River (via a -5% grade on a slight curve), I had to laugh out loud to release the pent up nerves from the crossing when the female GPS voice in my helmet cheerfully exclaimed “Welcome to Illinois!”
I didn’t video the crossing, but here’s a link on HistoricBridges.org of the same direction crossing I did (click HERE).
OK, now that I got the bridge-crossing drama out of the way, I can back up and tell y’all what happened between Mammoth Cave National Park and the Irvin S. Cobb Bridge!
As I traveled west from Mammoth Cave National Park, I saw a sign for a Trail of Tears Commemorative Park in Hopkinsville, KY, so I made a pit-stop to check it out. In 1987, the National Park Service designated the Trail of Tears, the route taken by the Cherokee during their forced removal from the east coast to Oklahoma in 1838 by the U.S. Government, as a National Historical Trail. Included in the five routes that span nine states are various landmarks with information to educate people on the devastation caused to the Cherokee, and other tribes, by the forced migration. I’ve read numerous books over the years about this event that led to thousands of native American deaths as ten detachments, each with about 1000 men, women, and children, traveled, mostly by foot, 800 miles westward. It was sobering, however, to stand on the actual site where some of them struggled, and died, during the journey. You can read more about the Trail of Tears HERE.
From Hopkinsville, I made my way to Four Rivers Harley-Davidson in Paducah, KY for a bike service. Technically, it wasn’t really time for an oil change in my bike yet, but I didn’t want to take any chances while pulling a 400-pound camper. Plus, my bike was obnoxiously dirty, and Harley dealerships always wash your bike after a service 😉 As a thru-traveler, they worked me into their service schedule and had me on my way in no time. Even though I didn’t spend big money there, they treated me as though I did and made me feel welcome – awesome folks!
I decided to do a little sightseeing while in Paducah and visited the National Quilt Museum and the Flood Wall Murals. The sunset over the Ohio River was stunning and I marveled over how much it highlighted the bridge in Brookport. I had no idea that I would be up close and personal with it the very next day! I’m still alive and have yet another great experience to add to the collection 🙂
My fingers hurt as I read your post. I didn’t realize I was gripping the phone so tight.
I think I would have needed a spa day!
Trail of Tears I’ve read a few books myself. America was not at it best!
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That crossing was a bit nerve-wracking, but all good! As for Trail of Tears, I hope we’ve learned something through the lens of history.
Extreme pucker factor makes you tired all over! Grated roadways are almost as much fun as loose gravel. Glad you handled it like a champ; I would not have expected less. Bravo Zulu!
I have had a Harley and I have followed Harley’s all over the country. There seems to be two common dominators; there is always a Harley dealership close, and they all seem to go out of their way to help bikers in the traveling mode. Their customer service mantra is first rate.
Stay safe and stay in touch.
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I haven’t had an HD dealership do me wrong yet while traveling. And as for the bridge, I kept thinking how much better the story would be to tell later if it didn’t end in a crash!
I told you that I feel like I am there with you as you describe the adventures. Well my toes are still curled from riding on the bridge! Good thing we talked on the phone before I read this post.
Hugs,love and SAFE travels.
Mom, there’s no way I would’ve posted this without letting you know I was OK first 🥰