Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Detritus Anthropologist

It's in the nature of the life, we spend a considerable amount of a riding day in close proximity to the roadside verge. A long, vast and divergent landscape, full of question, explanation and prediction. One that can both entertain and educate, amuse and bemuse.

Whilst riding towards La Paz, Bolivia, the trash consisted, in the main, of discarded compact discs. A sentiment with which I would be in full accordance, having been entertained by the nasal intonations of what I had erroneously assumed was always the same artiste. My atonal ear has yet to be enabled, attuned to distinguish between either artiste or their ubiquitous song. A main road merges and those silvered discs are augmented with the ultimate moniker of gringo arrogance: the empty, flung bottled water bottle. It was stark and immediate, repeated at many more points of interreaction, and intersection.

In northern Chile there was the preponderance of steering wheel covers, in Argentina, a white plastic mesh, to separate sliced ham; in Scotland I've collected enough ring-pulls to chain-mail a dummy knight. Then there was the unfathomable, still unsolved, stamped out, rusting upper-cased letter ’E', that seem to be falling from scrap metal trucks. They're all stories, little is of value, even to a cycling Scot. But for sheer diversity of 'treasure trove' a trip along the North American highway can be a profitable endeavour.

Road-kill Everglades.

The Tamiami Trail heads west out of Miami and crosses the Florida Everglades, heading for the gulf coast and a slow migration to the cold northern states. Which means that we will be passed by vacationers and their diversity and plethora of sporting paraphernalia. Like their ancestors in their covered wagon trains before them, we're overtaken by the 'snow-birds' and their multi yokes of recreational vehicles. One is pulling a pick-up which in turn is lumbered with a motor trike, whose brand screams 'USA', and has the bulk of a small car. Others will have tagalong golf carts that are attendants to a furniture removal pantechnicon behemoth. Yet more will be pulling an anonymous haul, secreted behind roller shutters. Mobile garages; mansions on wheels. Some will be more conventional; a car with an air-boat, a fibreglass float with attached roaring fan, or a tin dory on a flat-bed trailer. It's these that supply the vergescapes' jetsam. Shoes left on a roof, towels tucked under a transom, jeans drying on the out-board motor. All unsecured.

Which is how I'm able to collect a padded saddle cover, a blue bandana, a vicious filleting knife and enough tie-down straps to secure a mastodon. If I'd had the space or the inclination, I could have added floatation aids, flip-flops and the ability to fit out an hotel with linens. There was even a fishing pole, that with the flooded cypresses in their drapes of filament nylon and fluorescent floats would have completed the tackle. Which only leaves the question of bait. As to whether the local fish would strike on a putrid rancidity of roadkill skunk, I know not. More likely to hook an alligator.

These are what I am searching for. A roadkill 'gator, a photo' op, a physical picture that can encapsulate a rise through the Everglades. I keep spotting potential encounters up ahead, only for them to revert back into curlicues of truck tyre treads, whilst others would morph from snake back into fan belt. Their desiccated carcasses had been here the last time we passed this way, along with squashed shag, and shattered tortoise. Only the local municipalities have manicured my hunting ground.

All the evidence suggests that they must be here, for the warning signage is encouraging me not to feed them, only it's a cool, early season day, they'll be sunk into the mystery, down into the deep slime. I've stopped to look at the reflections of swamp cypress, their ghost buttress trunks reaching out of and sinking into, the dark tannins of the canal. A solid glacial skin, punctuated with islets of lily pads and the relics of evolution.


A single ripple disturbs the primordial silence; an alligator blinks its eye.