Thursday, May 21, 2015

Micro Landmarks

Every morning that I ride to work, I dodge the same discarded hose clamp on the shoulder of Route 28. I'm always in too much of a hurry to stop and pick it up. It's become a micro landmark.

A true micro landmark is something a person in a car would never see. There's a mysterious plastic disc set in the pavement of Elm Street. It could be the cap from a milk jug. But, if so, how has it stayed in the same place for years? Tiny road kill and the stubborn stains left behind by juicy bits of litter tell their stories to cyclists scrutinizing the pavement for a safe, smooth line. Some last for weeks. Some last for years.

Disposable diapers tend to turn into micro landmarks. They withstand the elements for a long time, and adopt-a-highway crews have an understandable blindness concerning them. Wouldn't you?

Micro landmarks fall into the larger category of micro scenery. Forget your herds of elk and bison, I get to see migrating newts. The cyclist sees individual bugs making their perilous way across the asphalt plain. We see really odd small objects people have thrown from cars. Coins raise the question, "would you stop for 10 cents? How about 25?"

Bike riders can take a good, long look at the roadside vegetation, too. On one of my woodsy detours, lady's slipper orchids grow in a bunch along just a few yards of roadside bank along a dirt road. The whole growing season presents flowers and foliage small and low for anyone who passes slowly enough to see it.

Odd objects include items from the Roadside Tool Company. Some items I won't even stop for, because I already have several. If time permits I will set them up where they can be seen better by more passersby. If they hang around a while they become micro landmarks. "Go out 28 until you come to the socket set sitting on that rock." "There'll be a screwdriver stuck in the top of a guardrail post."

Time seldom permits when I'm inbound to work. Objects along the southbound lane have to wait for someone else. Northbound I might stop. Rarely, something is attractive or annoying enough to get me to cross the road for it.

For that hose clamp I think I'll put a magnet on a stick so I can snap it up on the fly. It looks damaged. I don't want it as a clamp. But it's a tire hazard. As it gets rustier and dirtier it will blend in more and more with the weathering chipseal, until I, or some other cyclist, fails to spot it in time and takes out a sidewall. The problem is, I forget exactly where it is when I'm riding the opposite way. I need to get it when I'm hurrying to work, before it gets me.


Steve A said...

Losing a tire to that clamp would be an epic fail, worthy of its own post.

GreenComotion said...

Nice pondering.
Have a Great Weekend!!
Peace :)

NHcycler said...

Great post!

I think of these "landmarks" often, but only when I'm riding: The Chrysler hood ornament embedded in the pavement at the busy intersection; the tall weed that leans way over into the (narrow) shoulder every season; the trace of the railroad bed remaining since its 1926 abandonment...there're a lot of 'em!

As to the least amount of money worthy of stopping for -- it depends on what road and how busy it is when I'm there.

cafiend said...

Wouldn't you know it: just as the Old Man of the Mountain fell from Cannon Cliff, so has the hose clamp disappeared as if was never there. So has a computer keyboard that was in the weeds along the northbound side.