A few days into my first bike tour, I became aware of one the experiences that are particular to bike touring itself. As I logged miles on the road every day, repetition, patterns, and common sights and themes emerged as I was exposed to the nature of the road intimately on the bicycle. One of those sights was butterflies. I had started on the Oregon coast and was riding up through the Cascade mountains. On the slow, cool climb through Douglas Fir and rhodedendron forests, blue-winged butterflies spiraled in and out of the scattered sun light. What I hadn’t expected to see was that a lot of these butterflies ended up as road-kill, clipped by cars and broken-winged on the pavement. I wouldn’t have noticed this in a car, and I wasn’t contributing to the carnage on my bike.
Road-kill is one of those experiences common to the road, and cyclists get a close-up view. It’s not all carnage. We get to experience a region’s flora and fauna without the separation of speed, sound, or screen. We see it live, in various states of growth, and in death. Or, in harvest – the roads in my area have lately been strewn with the husks of the corn harvest. We also see litter, which alerts us to many indications about a community, e.g. whether they can regularly invest in picking up the side of the road, or whether there’s a Walmart or McDonalds in an approaching town.
Cyclists are swift-moving, passive witnesses – sort of the butterflies of road users.