Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Michelangelo of Road Hickeys

Lately, it seems that I've spent more time painting roads than riding my bike over them.

Well, not painting the entire road of course. That would be silly. Although I must admit that there are times when I wish that I had enough paint to put down a really good, smoothing base layer on some crappy roads. I would put an extra 50 coats on the rumble strips, until they were really just mild divots rather than the filling-shaking craters that so many are. And the surface prep would entail sweeping all of the gravel, broken glass, dead armadillos, and thrown retreads off of the shoulder, so that cyclists could ride there and maybe avoid being run over by truck drivers who don't slow down when the sun blinds them.

But I don't have enough time or paint to do that, so the world will just have to settle for well-marked routes. For example, here's one of the arrows that I put down for the Pancake Route, which the Harpeth Bicycle Club runs every Sunday during the season from Franklin, TN, to Leiper's Fork.

Nice, huh? I put down the blue first, and then used a couple of stencils for the yellow arrow that I sprayed on top. I took the opposite approach to mark the HBC's Tuesday night route in Cool Springs.

For these, I drove the course and painted a yellow arrow, using the stencil, at every turn and major road crossing. I also put an arrow at every mile, so that if anybody goes for more than a mile without seeing an arrow, they will know that they are lost.

After I put down the yellow arrow, I went back over the course with a smaller arrow stencil and painted it blue, green, or blue/green. The color depends upon the route, since there's a 20-mile and a 25-mile route. The blue/green pictured indicates that the routes are together at this point.

Yes, these took a lot of paint and time, but these are routes that the bike club will use every week from April through October. Conservatively speaking, I would guess that during the course of this period at least 500 cyclists will ride each of these routes. I don't want them to get lost.

Of course, you're probably thinking now, "RandoBoy, there are cue sheets for these routes, with turn-by-turn directions." Yes, that is correct, but I rarely see anyone on these rides with the cue sheet clipped to their handlebars. In fact, it's pretty rare for me to see someone come to a stop, pull a cue sheet out of their pocket, and check that. The norm seems to be that we all just follow someone who's done the route ... or someone who we hope has done the route. This can result in a cyclist lemming thing, where you find yourself hours later in Hohenwald, TN, and the guy that you've been following turns into his driveway, and you suddenly realize that he's not with your group, and you are lost -- 50 miles from your car.

Marking the route may take extra time, but it often avoids these problems. When someone calls my cell phone from Hohenwald and says, "I'm lost ... can you come get me?" I could be a shmuck and tell them, "No ... I gave you a cue sheet, and you should have followed it." But I'm not that kind of shmuck, and would probably drive down to Hohenwald to get them. But if I paint the route and they still get lost, I can tell them "I gave you a cue sheet AND painted the route ... how could you get lost?!" and then refuse to come get them.

Yeah, right ...

So, anyway, this past Saturday, RandoGirl and I marked the 50-mile and 26-mile routes that will be used at the Tennessee Tandem Rally, June 4-6.

These are the main routes to be used on Saturday before lunch at Tap Root Farms, and take the riders from the hotel (Embassy Suites in Cool Springs) down to Rudderville and Arno. The 50-mile route continues on further south to skirt past College Grove, go over Pulltight Hill, and then come back through Bethesda. It includes this excellent road that I found a few months back, called Choctaw Road.

Pretty, hunh?

While we were marking the way up Pulltight, I passed by marks that I had made when I painted for the HBC's April picnic. That day, the riders came down Pulltight going away from Bethesda, so I painted a warning near the bottom to let them know about the stop sign just around the corner.

If you read it as a pedestrian, it says "Up Stop," which doesn't make a lot of sense. If you read it as a cyclist going downhill at 35 mph, you see "Stop" first, and then "Up." This way, you know that there's a stop up. Even if this bit of un-scientific assumption on my part doesn't hold true, most people are at least going to pause to ponder what the cryptic message means, and will hopefully slow down a bit. If they instead just get distracted by the message and zoom through the stop sign, across the road, and into the hillside beyond to be flattened like the Coyote in a Road Runner cartoon ... well, maybe you shouldn't be on a bicycle.

Here's what I painted for the picnic folks when they were climbing Pulltight Hill.

When they get to the top, they see this.

The message is that there's an angry orange man being attacked by worms at the bottom of the hill, but the man will morph into a smiling orange woman will blonde hair when he (she) gets to the top. If this distracts the rider from the pain of climbing Pulltight Hill, then I have been successful.

On rides that I mark but will not be riding, I often paint cryptic notes. I knew that RandoGirl would be sweeping the picnic route, so I painted this.

This is about 40-miles into that picnic route, and I was off doing the TN 400K, so she probably needed to be reminded of this.

But, back to this past Saturday ...

The floodwaters have receded, and although a lot of roads and bridges were damaged and a lot of my friends lost all or part of their homes, Mother Nature seems to have rebounded. The soaking had everything blooming, so that the world was green with lots of yellow:

Or it was green with lots of red:

I felt a little guilty out riding in the countryside Saturday while so many people were working hard to put their lives together after the floods, but this was the only date that I have open for a while to paint this route. I hope that everyone who couldn't get out this past weekend will enjoy these pictures, and will remember that the world is still a beautiful place which will be ready for them to come ride in again soon. After you've got things back into a semblance of order, I invite everyone to come and ride the routes that RandoGirl and I marked this past Saturday.

It will be a great way to sweep the last of the floodwaters out of your brain.

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