05 May 2008

Afternoon on the Mississippi River 1: Mostly about Moline

Adventures with a folding bike, episode 3: Hell and high water. I have finally found a convincing excuse for car ownership (or lease, or rental, but I barely remember how to drive anymore), and that is the Greyhound terminal on Harrison. I groan in despair to remember it. (So much for a makeover.) It's just sad. Crowds and crowds of people sitting or standing around surrounded by mountains of luggage, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, too resigned even to bother being impatient. Like if all of Union Station was the Amtrak waiting area, but there were no trains, and no one expected that there would ever be trains again. And more sketchy types than elsewhere, because only poor people take the bus. (She said with sarcasm.) I'm always getting questions about my folding bike, but when the first is how much it costs and the second is why anyone would buy that kind of bike, and then then no more questions are asked but the asker continues to stare intently at it, well, I'm put a little on-edge. Call me crazy. (Most people already do.) Then the bus was an hour and some minutes late, meaning I wasted a whole extra hour of my life at that worthless shithole. If I had millions of dollars I would fund that potential Amtrak route to the Quad Cities and beyond my damn self.

Once I finally got on the bus it wasn't so bad, since nobody ever wants to sit next to the terrorist with the bike helmet. (More sarcasm, of course.) So I had a free seat beside me and was left pretty much alone from then on. An ominous stormfront had begun to loom in the west, and the bus sped headlong right into it. By Aurora (why am I always in Aurora lately?) it was raining. The rain turned to a fine, drizzly mist somewhere in Lee County; around Carbon Cliff the clouds at last began to break up. By the time I got Scooty-Puff reassembled in Moline the sun was shining fully between the gaps. High winds swept the sky clear as the day wore on.

So, was anybody in Chicago aware of the extensive flooding along the Mississippi and Rock rivers in the Quad Cities area? I was not, damn our blatantly Chicago-centric news reporting, but it sure was a hell of a time for me to forget what happens when a severe storm system passes through a major river valley in springtime. I really should have better considered what I was doing, or at least been prepared enough not to gape stupidly in surprise at all the water everywhere.

It was also a hell of a time to forget that when my digital camera is on manual setting I need to check the white balance.

Let's try that again:

View westward from Moline's riverfront district. The traditional downtown area (i.e., main street) is actually about half a mile south; the riverfront was a traditional industrial wasteland until just a few years ago. Extensive development and the creation of a public riverwalk have made the riverfront a "destination" for both area locals and extraregional tourists (such as yours truly), but I don't know how well this has translated into actual success for the Moline economy. This "new downtown" didn't seem dead, but it didn't seem very alive, either, with seemingly far fewer people out and about than the developments were planned to accommodate. (Pay attention, Hyde Parkers; this could be us someday.) However, I can't say whether this is normal or just an anomaly due to all the flooding.

I can say that downtown (old+new) Moline has a vibrant nightlife, as long as your idea of "nightlife" is to dress up like a tramp, drive impatiently around and around in circles, and stagger drunkenly from one cliche bar&grill-type place (a la Park 52, hmm) to another. It was like downtown Naperville but with tractors. I'm sorry, folks, but I'll just never understand how getting smashed in a room full of crap on the walls while wearing a completely impractical outfit is supposed to be "fun." I finally gave up looking for anything my kind of fun to do that evening and found an empty Thai restaurant where I could sulk in peace, eating incredibly bland curry while reading enviously about an art festival going on across the river in Davenport. I would have pedaled right over, except I was in an unfamiliar metro area and had no decent map, and it was getting on toward dark and I was alone. And the MetroLINK system and schedules weren't nearly complicated enough for me to understand them. (By the way, the one-way adult cash fare on MetroLINK is 80 cents. Eighty cents! Imagine!) And in any case, Davenport's riverfront was underwater; it was all over the news.

But all that was later (why do I find this place so fascinating? I've been there twice), after an adventurous afternoon with just me and the Mississippi.

[Eh, it's late and I'm more tired than I thought I was. To be continued.]


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