22 miles of string
Okay so the other day I was riding along highway 34 from Albia to Ottumwa. Now the west-bound half of the highway appeared to be freshly paved. The east-bound section did not. While I was mildly annoyed at having to even be on this highway in the first place, and further annoyed to be riding on the crappier half, what really ticked me off was the presence of string.
Every several feet, for probably 22 miles – to the point of complete distraction from all the stuff I should have been thinking about – there were lengths of white string laying in the road. Some of the lengths were sort of tangled up, some were outstretched. Some were pressed down into the pavement, but some were loose and sort of half-billowing/half-laying across the road.
I could not, for the life of me, figure out why it was there. Had it fallen off a delivery truck in spools, and unraveled? Come out of a garbage truck?
It seemed like the sort of thing that wouldn’t bother a cage driver one bit. But if a hunk of that string got caught up in somebody’s spoked wheel or tangled up in a chain-driven bike, well I don’t know what could happen but it just seemed potentially dangerous.
And unsightly. Why if an old Indian chief happened to be standing anywhere along here looking out over the roadway, I’d bet dollars to doughnuts he’d have a tear running down his cheek because of all this wretched string*.
Eventually, after looking at wad after wad of used string, a thought began to form that it had something to do with the paving project taking place in the other lane. As I got closer to Ottumwa, one thing I noticed about the string was that there was a bright red-orange dot of road paint every however-many feet, and on each dot was where a length of string seemed to be stuck to the pavement.
My Holmesian mind began to whir and click like a well-oiled steel trap. Or something. Clearly, a road crew person had painted the red dots on the highway. And the string was anchored at the dots. That meant a road crew person had something to do with the string, and since paving was what was obviously occupying the road crew, it stood to reason that the string was connected to the paving project.
But if the string was used in paving, and the paving appeared finished on that side, and the string was no longer stretched out but was instead either lying in tangled clots along the road or ground into the pavement… why would they leave it in the road where it might pose a hazard? Why not simply remove it? Hell, why not even re-use it, and save us poor schlubby taxpayers some money?
Anyway, the Internet is a wonderful thing. I looked it up when I came home and sure enough, there is ample evidence that string is used in paving. Just LOOK:
And here, we have what appears to be some math-y thing going on which is from pavingexpert.com and clearly references string.
So after staring at string for 22 miles and looking it up on the Internet, I’m now pretty sure the string was used in paving. I’m unclear as to why it was still there, even though it was obviously no longer serving a useful purpose. Can it be that road crews love to litter, hate motorcyclists, and loathe taxpayers?
I hesitate to paint with such a broad brush here, but you KNOW that on every road crew there’s one guy doing all the work and seven others standing around.
You’d think one of them could pick up the frickin’ string.
*PS -Did you know that “Iron Eyes Cody,” the Indian in that “Keep America Beautiful” PSA from the 70’s, wasn’t an Indian at all? Nope. He was an Italian from Louisiana. True scoop, I read it on the Internet.