COLUMN: Roadside provides a glimpse of life

Reporter's Viewpoint

You never know what you’ll find on the side of the road.

For about the last month and a half I’ve been doing a lot of road riding. Most of it has been with groups of riders training for an event later in the summer we need to get in shape for.

I’ve been into cross-country mountain biking for the past few years and thought I was in pretty decent shape until I got involved in serious road riding. I hate to admit this, but I’ve gained a certain respect for people in Spandex. The long distance, high-speed riding really builds stamina because the workout is sustained over long times and distances.

This weekend I hopped on my mountain bike for the first time in weeks and rode with some friends up a steep trail that normally leaves me gasping for breath and pretty much exhausted after the first couple of kilometres.

I was surprised to find it was no big deal this time. We weren’t pushing that hard because this was just a casual ride, but I was amazed at how much difference the road training made.

Friday, I needed a replacement bike part, so instead of driving, I rode the highway from my place in North Oyster up to the Northfield area and back. The 53-kilometre round trip took a little over two hours. I discovered the speed board on the highway near Spruston Road reads bikes just as well as cars and trucks.

Everyone was blitzing by me at about 90 km/h. During a break in the traffic, the board briefly locked onto me chugging along at 31 km/h.

It’s spring so the sides of the highways haven’t been swept yet. It’s fun seeing what’s been left lying on the sides of the road over the winter – at least until it punctures your tire. I’m happy to say I didn’t come across a single dead animal, but I did startle some black baby bunnies that scampered off into the woods.

There was, however, plenty of nuts, bolts, mufflers, springs, clamps, broken fan belts and other bits that fell out of vehicles that presumably managed to keep running without those missing parts.

There were also the remnants of car accidents – tracks where vehicles were pulled out of ditches, discarded Latex examination gloves and plastic shrapnel from bumpers and trim that didn’t get swept up. I also saw bits of spark plug insulation.

I remember the police and ICBC hosting a little media event a few years ago where they demonstrated how thieves smash car windows simply by tossing a tiny piece of spark plug enamel at them. I wondered what would happen if a truck kicked those bits up and they hit the windows of a passing car.

There’s also never a shortage of lost bungee cords on the road. I don’t understand why people buy new ones when they could probably get their summer supply within a kilometre or two just walking or riding the roadsides.

The roadside memorials all had fresh flowers for Easter. Sad, but somehow heartening to see how loved ones care for these.

No pop cans, but I did see several empty beer cans and one discarded mickey of whiskey. I guess drinking and driving – hopefully just the passengers are getting smashed – continues in spite of new penalties. There’s always a fair amount of furniture lying off the sides of the highway, especially at month’s end when people are moving. You’d think the people who lose furniture would come and pick it up. I guess they didn’t want to lug their mattress up the stairs at the new place.

Over the past couple of months I watched a broken toilet on Cedar Road – I guess it fell off a truck – disappear bit by bit over several weeks … weird.

All in all, the bike trip was a nice way to spend a sunny afternoon. I got a visit in with the bike shop owner, got the part I needed and it didn’t cost me any gas.

I figure that’s a good day.

photos@nanaimobulletin.com