Saturday, November 17, 2007

Meet the Neighbors

It's a rainy day, I'm not going out on the bike today. I probably will head out to the shop and work on a project later but really, mostly a lazy rainy day.

I though it would be nice to take a break from the Pellet Shooting Hoodlums Drama. A while back I wrote this account of my commute, thinking that there might be a rainy day (physically or metaphorically) somewhere up the road when it might come in handy. It's long and geeky. Geeky in that it might be slightly interesting to a thin slice of humanity, just like some ones account of their first attempt at knitting: "A magical recounting of the transition from 'casting on to knit one, purl two". No hard feelings if you hang up in mid sentance. So here goes:

We moved recently, from the city to the country. It takes time to get to know the neighbors, there’s not so much time to socialize and there is the distance too. In the city people live more closely together, but here in the country it takes a little more effort to make contact. At 5:30 am you meet some neighbors and you miss some that you are more likely to see at 5:30 pm.

The am neighbors include the family at Osprey Nest #1 on Elma Gate Road South. OK, truth is these folks moved on a couple weeks ago. Not sure why; they were active in the nest building and guarding department. Mrs O was a little unsettled by the huffing chuffing cyclist rumbling along and shouting at the wind just below the place, but she only lifted into the vicious head wind and did a tight 360 allowing me to peddle on by, returning to the nest as I passed on down the road. It’s possible that my commuter presence drove them off but I doubt it, twice a day for two or three days a week, I can’t be that scary.

Then, north of Hwy 12 on Sickman Ford road there are the three Bad Farm Dogs. BFD #1 is really agressive. He's never comes out on thew road because he's kept inside a fenced yard that he can't get out of. He's young, alert, a shepard mix and gives the impression that if he could get at me, he would. I'm always just a little worried that someone left the gate open. Hasn't happend yet.

BFD #2 is the big black lab. He’s not so much a bite threat as a high risk for a serious collision! He’s got the mind of a pup but the white in his muzzle, and something about his lope betrays a little more age (reminds me of someone I know who has a bike addiction!) He’s big and barks and comes right out to get a very close look. He always gets a face full of water from the water bottle which always stuns him. He stops momentarily but then follows along at a safer distance, barking encouragement as I roll away. (Is he barking to let BFD#3 know I’ll be along presently?)

Next, at the 90 degree corner on Sickman Ford and 175th is the family at Osprey nest #2. These folks are pretty new to the neighborhood but very committed. (hmmm? Did they move in about the same time that the folks at ON#1 moved out? These Osprey, they all look the same to me) They have been doing LOTS of home improvements as evidenced by the dearth and variety of nest building materials that are often found on the road below. This is farm country and a typical farm road that turns at a neat 90 degree angle. The pole and nest are at the apex of this angle.

The road is seriously crowned with rough chip seal which means there is often some gravel or shoulder dirt on the road. This, plus the nesting materials always gives me a convenient excuse to slow down, right below the nest. @ 5:30 am Mr and Mrs O are both at the nest site. She’s sitting the chicks and he’s perched on one of the telephone pole cross members. They find the huffing chuffing fluorescent yellow clad cyclist somewhat unnerving, especially as he slows and continues to peer up at them. They may screech a bit but often wheel off the nest in a fairly wide 360 circle giving me a lot of room. I’ve seen this couple hunting the sod fields, I know fish is the preferred food source but it’s a ways from the Chehalis River and maybe they’re finding easy pickings among the meadow voles in the turf grass. Maybe they're eating night crawlers that surface in heavy rains.

Then, just before the turn on to Moon road there is BFD #3. This guy is younger, more agile and more aggressive. He’s a shorter, lean compact Pitt bull/boxer looking guy. He comes on a dead run across a wide, well manicured lawn, making a bee line for me. His path is a graceful arc calculated in dog geometry for precise inteception. No matter now fast or slow I go he gets it perfect every time. He get’s a face full of water bottle water which puts him off, but not much. He continue to run along behind and gets doused and barks like mad.

I’ve thought about stopping along the way and offering doggie treats, these are after all my neighbors and perhaps it might be a good idea to try to develop a positive relationship instead of an antagonistic one. It’s an idea. The Lama’s in the corner field (Moon road Lama Ranch) just look on with that haughty, disdainful “we’re foreigners and socially superior” look.

Between here and Elma Gate it’s a pleasant bucolic setting. There’s farms and farmmetts, trees, pastures, cows, calves and horses. I’m sure to spot a rabbit or a deer, or even a raccoon along this stretch. There is enough farm wood lot and forest that there is shelter from the wind, but also not much early morning sun comes through.

Starting into Elma Gate road I come upon the Weyerhaeuser tree farm. Not sure how many acres or how many seedlings but I am sure that it is a big number. The lack of big tress means the wind here is often a huge challenge. It is amazing how much activity there is at a seedling orchard. The trees grow amazingly fast and in just a matter of weeks the brown tilled earth with just a slight haze of green is transformed into rows of thousands of healthy little seedlings. Say what you want about logging or industrial forestry operations, these folks are growing a lot of trees. I think a salmon or a deer might be a little more predisposed to a replanted clear cut than a new housing development. By the same token, no human intervention would surely be the ‘preferred’ alternative, but that’s just not very realistic. Disclaimer here: I don’t think of myself as an apologist for commercial forestry but I did work for the US Forest Service in "timber management" for a lot of years so I have had a hand in a fair amount of deforestation. However I was also a tree planter for a time and so I have personally planted thousands of those seedlings in those clear cuts. I should probably go back to look at some of those plantations to see what they look like now, some 35 years later.

Up the road we get into the Mima Mounds area. Here is a chance to see real transformation. When I moved to the south sound a few years back this area was sort of a natural wonderland. You have these acres and acres of naturally occurring mounds. Looks a lot like created moguls on the ski slopes, only this isn’t just piles of snow, and it is on dead flat ground. There is no generally accepted explanation for how these mounds came to be. Now, the mounds are getting harder to see as 1 to 5 acre ranchettes are popping up. I am pleased to see that many of these new landowners are NOT making efforts to smooth out the mounds.

Next up is Littlerock; a convenice store/gas station, a tavern, a post office, and a church. In this neck of the woods it qualifies as a town. Here I have a choice: Turn right on 128th and run down through Littlerock and then up L’Rock road to Trosper. Or go straight on Wadell Creek Rd SW and through the Capital Forest. L’Rock road is frying plan flat with generally good road surface, but it’s a suburban corridor and more and more people are incorporating it into their morning commute. If I stay straight on Waddell Creek Rd SW I’m not going to see many cars at all. In fact, on this stretch the traffic count actually goes down eeven though I am crawling closer to the population center.

This takes me through the Capitol Forest. The road surface isn’t generally as good and there are a couple climbs here that usually put me into my little ring, but it is a beautiful part of the ride, very peaceful, I almost always go this way. In the past when I lived in the city this was one of my fave morning rides. I’d have to take an hour or so off work to come ride it in the morning but it was a great way to start the day. Now it’s part of my morning commute, how great is that?! The last half of this stretch is a gleeful, windy descent through woods, a few houses here and there visible through the trees.

Through the forest and out onto Delphi, now I am closing in on civilization. The road is good but there is enough morning commuter traffic that I have to wake up another level to watch for errant drivers, actually more to keep myself from wandering into traffic. It’s a good place to hammer. If I’m pushing it wakes me up more and that sense of speed (well, speedy for me anyway) alerts me to watch more closely what I’m doing. Drop down 62nd Ave SW along Black Lake Blvd and I’ll be there in a few more minutes. Past Black Lake the road is not so good and the traffic count goes up even more but that’s fine, best for me to arrive at the office wide a wake.

The route is about 43Km, and my morning average is about 25 to 26 KPH depending on weather, my mood etc. It winds up taking about 1:40 out of my day, but I don’t look at it like that. It really adds to my day. I can tell when I start the day with a ride. I usually have a better attitude when I bike in, there’s the endorphins and all that, and I think I am a little more productive on commute days. I’m buoyed by the knowledge that I‘m doing something that is generally good: Good for me, good for my neighbors, and good for the planet. I’m lucky to be able to do something “good” that I enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Paul,

    I'd put some electrolite into your water bottle for BFD #3. Dogs get the strangest look on their face when they get squirted with that.