Saturday, October 12, 2013


The road treasure cornucopia.
It’s that time of year: the elementary school’s pumpkin patch overfloweth. My neighbour’s apple tree is weighed down like a sherpa. Huge bundles of hay dot the brown fields outside the city. Farmers are frantically taking off crops and storing up the bounty of the season. The Saturday market stalls are bursting with fabulous butternuts, swelling turnips, and mighty rutabagas.

But if farmers are harvesting now, why can’t cyclists? In the past week of riding, I’ve noticed an incredible amount of road treasure—you know, the man-made prize objects that somehow end up on the shoulder of the roads (not garbage, not litter), the cool stuff that motorists don’t see but that cyclists do, even if they don’t always stop to examine it. Every cyclist’s got his or her road treasure favorites: the diamond ring, the teddy bear, the Ganesh figurine, the waterlogged Bible.

The treasure I’ve been noticing isn’t just the usual flotsam and jetsam of bungee cords and work gloves but weird stuff, and tons of it. It’s as if the very roads are trying to get in on Nature’s act, and, like the fields, are brimming with their own strange fruit.

So here was the scheme: on my rides this week I’d actively harvest--as in, stop and pick up and put in my musette—any and all road treasure I came across. I gave myself some general rules: no bungee cords or straps (too many, too boring) and no gloves (gross—plus, why are there so many gloves? And why do they all look so sad, squashed and contorted in the garment equivalent of the dinosaur death pose? ) and nothing that wouldn’t fit in my bag (too bad, hub caps). And, of course, no ordinary trash. I was looking for objects that had something treasurable about them—a flash of beauty or sentiment or charm.

They were just lying there.
Funny how this scavenger mission changes the riding experience. I found myself stopping frequently to investigate any shiny object in the gutter. And looking down all the time too. At the beginning of each ride, especially, I didn’t want to miss anything. In fact, the first day I was so intent on the harvest that I kind of forgot about traffic (in a bad way). But soon enough my musette, not to mention my back pockets, was bulging with junk. (An early haul made me more selective; by the end, the junk had to be pretty special for me to stop.) It was a bumper crop—and that’s not including the actual car bumper I saw in the ditch.

So here’s my harvest of the past week, my cornucopia of crap, my horn of good and plenty.
·         Big bolt
·         Shiny washer
     Golf ball (Pinnacle 1)
     roll of painter’s tape
·         Pliers
·         BMO debit card
·         Chain
·         Antique metal sign
·         Tiny lightbulb
·         Green hair ribbon
·         Drill bit
·         Bunch of pencil crayons
No room for this chunk of frosty artificial turf. Maybe next year I'll bring a trailer.

Sometimes you see stuff on the road and wonder: What exactly happened here?
The pliers were definitely a score; they’re a nice addition to my toolbox. But my favorite find is the curious old metal sign. I plan to hang it the garage. And the pencil crayons were a perfect final touch; I found them this morning, splayed along the shoulder of 111 Street, a little bouquet of color for my thanksgiving centrepiece.  

Photo by Gil Morgan

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