Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Fart Strip on Route 28

 A few years ago, NHDOT installed a rumble strip on the center line of Route 28. Any time motor vehicle tires hit it, a sharp, buzz-saw noise warned drivers that they were straying out of their lane. After the initial shock wore off, riders learned to like the sound, because it audibly indicated that a driver had moved over to give us room. The only remaining drawback for a transient rider was the collection of rainwater, which would then blow up in a gritty mist as vehicles passed during and after rainfall, but what can you do? At least they left the shoulder alone.

This summer, they repaved a long stretch, from about the Ossipee town line all the way in to where Center Street starts to look more like a street than a road. In the process, they obliterated the old rumble strip. I knew it was controversial with residents. It was audible miles away, let alone for people with houses right on Route 28 or in the neighborhoods close by. Maybe they'd done away with it.

They took so long to stripe the new blacktop that I started to think they would have to repave it again before they got around to painting it. A frugal Yankee, I also expected that they would cut their rumble strip, if any, before painting the centerline. Why waste paint if you're just going to cut it away? So, when they finally put the lines down, I took it to mean there would be no rumble strip. But no: the very next day they cut the rumble strip. Your tax dollars at work! I did realize that the line gave the strip cutters an exact guide, so it served a purpose, but it still seemed extravagant. I had recently returned from a brief and hectic road trip to the south on roads where the stripes were pale ghosts of their former selves, barely discernible in the night. To waste a bright yellow centerline seemed decadent.

They cut the rumble strip during the day while I was at work, so I didn't experience it until I was headed home. The first thing I noticed was all the residual grit. The crew had run a sweeper, which left occasional mounds of debris on the shoulder, but it also left quite a bit of stuff in the strip itself, where conscientious motorists could fling it into the air as they gave me the requisite space. And the strip itself was eerily silent. I attributed it to the clogging action of the leftover grit. But the next day, with much of the grit now distributed across the margins of the road and any hapless cyclists who had been riding by, the strip was still curiously quiet. Passing vehicles delivered a noise like a low fart.

As humorous as a fart strip is, it does not provide the audible alert that the old shrill screamer did. But I'm not complaining. I'm sure that humans and animals alike will rest easier with the milder noise.

 I have yet to drive 28 with the fart strip. The weather was fine for my first week back from my highway haul, and I was just as happy to spend the days out of the car, even though I was pretty depleted by the end of it. The jobs that had piled up while I was away were all the kind of frustrating and unsatisfying problems of finicky technological horseshit that leave me tired from all the various treasure hunts attendant to them. When something does work, it seldom conveys a triumphant confidence that it will stay that way. And since absolutely none of it attracts me, I can't even admire it. I climb gratefully aboard my steel bike with friction shifting and (OMG!) a triple crank, and plod home.

The Elm Street bridge opened late Monday afternoon. From my house I heard the work site go quiet, so I slipped over through the woods to a vantage point above the intersection. There it was, clear and deserted. I kept expecting an accident as motorists going by suddenly jammed on the brakes because they noticed that they didn't have to keep going miles out of their way. It would have been ironic if they'd caused a pileup and blocked the bridge.


RANTWICK said...

A neighbour of mine asked me to take a look at her rear derailleur, saying it was skipping in certain gears. She had grip shifters, which I'm not fond of. Anyway, I did the usual stuff, cleaned it up, replaced the gear cable and changed the limiting screws a little and things were improved, but I could not get it to clean flawless shifting. I returned to to her saying I had done what I could but it wasn't perfect. I wanted to suggest friction shifting but had no Idea how to accomplish that on a bike with grip shifters. She was a very occasional cyclist and wouldn't have wanted any more work done on it. Anyway, to my question: have you run across indexed systems you just couldn't fix fully?

2whls3spds said...

Somewhere, someone has installed a rumble strip that plays "music". There is one outside of Albuquerque, NM on Rt 66 that plays America the Beautiful, a bit oxymoronic, however interesting nonetheless. And with a quick search apparently, there is also a stretch outside of Lancaster, CA that plays part of the William Tell Overture. Perhaps a call to VTrans? On most roads I travel I think Welcome to the Jungle would be appropriate...


cafiend said...

@Rantwick: Blogger's notification system is quite lax. I had no idea that your comment was waiting in the moderation queue. I have definitely encountered indexed systems that I could not get to work perfectly. And since their purpose is to work perfectly as aids to the gearing impaired, less than perfect functioning constitutes complete failure.