Saturday, August 10, 2013

Stuff in the Road

This has been a banner year for stuff on the road, it seems, and the last few weeks have been no exception. 

You may recall that I have had a run in with a slow Raven
Common Raven -- photo by David Hofmann, Santa Rosa, CA
...and a small herd of goats,

...and some deer.  

Well, I thought I had come across most of the animal hazards out there, but I was wrong.  Some examples follow, all discovered over Independence Day weekend: 

See that dot in the right lane directly above my tank bag?   Click on the image to make it larger if you need to. 
 Know what it is?  It is alive, and sprinting across the road the best it can. 
It is a tortoise (NOT a turtle -- turtles are water dwelling), about 4" wide and 5" long.  He would have been a mighty slippery impediment to hit on the bike.

This is another hazard out there:  
I have pictured just six of around a hundred out riding today as a benefit for a sick child.  At this turn to the left, they are headed up the twisty hill on US-276 to Caesars Head

I have encountered even more bicyclists previously who were participating in the annual Assault on the Carolinas ride.  Those guys have stamina, believe me. 

The bikers have the right to use the road, but it can be dangerous when they are riding several abreast and they are beyond sight distance on the blind curve or rise.  That could make for a bad accident.  Some motorists say that the bicycles should be banned.  I think, instead, that the bicyclists should make themselves conspicuous with flashing LED taillights (even in the daytime), and they should be cognizant that they ought not be riding several abreast when they go over a rise or complete a blind curve. 

This fellow is not a hazard to me, as he explores a rail fence.
A herd of them on the road might be another story.

Right across the street from the snail, however, is a barking dog.  I don't get his picture, but he seems harmless enough as he sits in the mud wagging his tail at me.  He is one of those dogs with bright eyes, and that almost seem to be smiling when happy.  Of course, maybe he is just sizing up his lunch for today, and is happy about that!  His tail is making a mark like a windshield wiper in the goopy mud he is sitting in, and his paws are encrusted with the same red grit.

I am not so happy when he comes over to get a better look at me and jumps up onto my fine white summer riding suit that I'd just treated with Lexol the day before. 
July, 1999
At least he isn't mean.  I think he just wants to say hello and maybe play a little. I don't play with him for fear that I would end up as muddy as he is. 

There is one more hazard I encounter, again from within the animal kingdom.  As I motor along through a stretch of farmland, I spot a white horse running along in the road, his mane and tail flying.  I stop before I get to him, and I can scarcely believe my own eyes. 
Not the horse I saw.  This one is from the Joan Ocean website. 
By the time I get my camera out of the tank bag, a farmer and his dog have managed to put a rope around the horse's neck and lead him off to the side.
The dog seems particularly smug, his tail sailing in a circle behind him as much as to say, "I did a great job, master, rounding up your horse.  Now I am going to go rest a while, and maybe have a little snack.  How 'bout a nice steak for my effort?"  You have a fine rear-end view of both the horse and the dog in the above picture. 

That is the extent of the animal hazards on the list this weekend, but the recent storms have caused a variety of other hazards for my riding enjoyment.

The rain here in South Carolina has finally ended a years-long drought, but the rain has been torrential at times, and it has had its effects on the roads.

Mown tall grass in clumps from the berm can cut down on traction:

Mud washed onto the road is a slick mess waiting to trip you up:
A closer look:

A downed tree makes for a hard stop:
By the way, that tree comes after a blind rise on a curve from the other direction.  It would spoil your day if you came across this just as you breached the rise in that curve.  It is a good reminder that we should always be riding such that our stopping distance is less than our current sight distance.

There is plenty of other debris blown off the trees:

Those wet leaves and roller-like sticks are always a treat.  

And let's not forget about one of the all-time favorites, gravel:
This combination of mud and gravel was also washed out of a driveway.  In a curve, naturally. 

For the animal hazards -- except maybe for the turtle tortoise and snail -- stopping as soon as possible is the best action. 

For many of these non-animal hazards, it is important to steer as straight through them as possible, and with the bike a close to perpendicular to the road surface as possible.  Often, this requires a correction before the hazard, and another afterward, to achieve that goal.

Running at an appropriate speed for the conditions is vital.  There aren't many road signs like this, on one of the roads I have traveled today:

One thing I don't see much of on the road this weekend is Honda Gold Wing motorcycles.  Why do I single them out, you ask?

Well the weekend of Independence Day is the 35th annual Wing Ding, and there are said to be some 12,000 bikes gathered in the Greenville area. 

I have gone out riding two days this weekend.  Now, one day it was certainly threatening weather, but the next day was beautiful, and there was ample opportunity to ride the great roads here and abouts.  But I only saw seven Gold Wings.  One group of three was waiting in a parking lot for another who had become separated from the group, and there were three at the Table Rock State Park visitor center. 

One of the riders at Table Rock chatted with me for a spell, and said that he had observed that many of the Gold Wing riders like to get together and eat, but not to ride.  Boy, if that's true, they are sure missing a good opportunity around here.  He also said that there are more and more trikes, and he opined that some of the older folks riding, even the trikes, shouldn't be. 

Well, this has been a rundown of things you might come up on in your ride.  I managed to negotiate my way through them today without incident.  I was going relatively slowly and continually assessing the road surface before me.  It wasn't the fastest ride I've ever taken, but it was certainly safe. 

More on Road Hazards:


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