Wabash Cannonball Bridge


Ride date:


Sat Oct 24. Vincennes IN to West Salem IL.

At the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge I forgot myself and crossed into Illinois like I’ve done on previous rides. Then I remembered that I had wanted to try the toll bridge across the river at St. Francisville IL. So I went back to the Indiana side.

I ended up riding some gravel to get to the bridge, but it was probably not necessary to do that, even though that was the route recommended to me by an older man who was out planting flowers by his house. I’m pretty sure there is a route to the bridge that’s completely paved, and it’s not a lot longer than the gravel one.

The Wabash Cannonball Bridge is a single-lane bridge. There are three spans. The longest is the one pictured here over the main channel of the river.

I didn’t have the bridge all to myself. I looked at the bridge and took photos while other vehicles crossed in both directions, then took off when the coast was clear. I made it all the way across without slowing down any other traffic. The lengthwise ties felt kind of slippery underneath. I quickly learned to avoid the bigger cracks between the ties and the places where ties butted together unevenly and gave me a nasty jolt.

The last span, not quite as long as this one, was a little more trouble. Close to the end one of the ties seemed to give way, dropping a few inches teeter-totter style. I kept my balance, but then hit another spot like that. I didn’t fall over, but my bike ended up in the center, on the ties that run crosswise. I couldn’t ride there, but I was almost at the end, anyway.

I stayed at the end of the bridge several minutes to see what would happen to those ties when cars went over. But they didn’t seem to move. Most vehicles seemed to avoid the ties that had given me trouble, cheating to the south end of the lane. There was nothing visible to identify the problem spots, but maybe the locals all knew where they were. It may also have helped that car tires can usually straddle a couple of the ties.

Finally I gave up watching and rode on in to St Francisville. Just before I got into town there was a tollbooth. I asked the attendant how much I owed. “One dollar, please.” Then he remarked, “This is the first bicycle I’ve had.” “The first ever?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied, “but I’ve only been here a year or so.”

It might have been interesting to talk longer, but a car was waiting behind.

(Maybe those ties that run lengthwise are not really called ties. Stringers, maybe?)

Miles today: 42 Tour to date: 419.0 Ytd: 2505.5

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