Every time our county repaves a road, it is cause for celebration among those who run and ride. Gone are the dangerous cracks and rubbery tar snakes that take down cyclists and cause runners to roll ankles or experience the dreaded “heel drop” into a pothole.
New roads are like a dream. Cracks are the nightmares.
For a few months, the new road rides like a dream. Then winter comes. Snow flies (at least it used to here in Illinois…) and cold temperatures, frost heaves and truck traffic combine to stress and strain the road until it starts showing cracks along its edges.
Rhythm of the breakers
The worst phenomenon for cyclists are the 15-foot breakers. You know what they are. Cracks at 15-20 foot intervals that dip about half an inch into the pavement surface causing your tires to make that ‘dunt dunt’ noise as you pile along at 20 miles an hour. A road with cracks like that can literally drive you crazy after 4 or 5 miles or so.
Risk of insanity
I have seen normally sane cyclists reduced to a stop from the constant pounding of a dunt-dunt road. Even found one guy rolling in the ditch in tears, screaming “I can’t take it! I just can’t take it anymore.” His bike wheels were still spinning, but they appeared to have flat sides on four ends of each tire. That’s what dunt-dunt road can do to you. And your bike. So be careful out there.
They sometimes fix horizontal cracks in the road using tarsnakes, which usually have to be quite thick to fill in the 90-degree cracks. That method works fine to make things smoother for car tires. It does very little to make things smoother for cyclists. The dunt-dunt sound just becomes a little squishier and dull. More like duhnt-duhnt.
Along the road edges the tarsnakes ultimately become thick and intertwined. It’s almost like they are planning some sort of conspiracy to confuse your feet or your bike tires and take you down, once and for all. If you make the mistake of staring straight down while riding at 20 perhaps miles per hour, tarsnakes can literally hypnotize you.
Your mind goes numb, unable to process the abstract rhythms. Sooner or later you just veer off into a bean field or down an embankment, crashing happily to be ride of the dizzy, sick feeling. You try to consider where you are and suddenly realize, while looking up at the sky, that those contrails begin to look a lot like the white tarsnakes criss-crossing the great blue expanse. Then you realize: perhaps it really is all part of a giant government conspiracy.
Holding it together
The real significance of tarsnakes is that they are the bandages holding together the temporal world of the roads we run and ride. To everything there really is a season, because that beautiful black asphalt you ride is eventually doomed, just like the rest of creation, to some form of crackling decay. None of us gets out alive. Not even Donald Trump, with that big yellow tarsnake of a combover flopped over his noggin. It’s all just a ruse.
Makeovers and do-overs okay. No comb overs allowed.
So it really is the time we have together that matters. Tarsnakes are trying to tell us that. Don’t take the good roads for granted and don’t blame the older roads for their dunt-dunt or duhnt-duhnt problems. We’re all built the same. We all get makeovers and d0-overs and still we fight the drag of time and purpose. But please, don’t resort to the combover. It really confuses things in time and space. Not right.
Tarsnakes will guide you
Which means that you really must celebrate those moments when you are out running or riding on a perfect road when the weather is fine and the rolling is easy. The tarsnakes can wait, and when you rejoin them on a less maintained road, the tarsnakes will guide you along the way. They really make good company if you let them, like one long companion along the way. The cosmos is reaching out to you. One Way or another.
We can thank these signs for the reminder to seize the day. So “Carpe diem” which means, enjoy the new black road. It doesn’t last forever.