Tar Signatures

Well there’s a title, I never thought I’d write – Tar Signatures, but nonetheless, that’s what my last ride was about a week ago. I’m getting a little ahead of myself though…first things first…congratulations to the first cyclist to cross the imaginary “competitive” finish line of this year’s CLC challenge (of which, I’ve accomplished exactly zero qualifying rides to date, sigh). I believe a trophy is in order. Greg, I wanted to gather our cycle365 groupies and hand it to you in person while Queen played “YOU are the Champion,” but all this Covid19 stuff ruined that idea. Instead I’ll just post a photo of the trophy & you can have a 3D print made for your shelf. It took a very long time for Hopkins to carve this out of wood and paint it, so I hope you’ll appreciate the effort.

And the CLC 2020 “secret competitive contest” winner is:
Greg Garceau on his faithful two wheeled steed!

And now back to my last ride, I’m not sure when I started noticing that there were names “painted” in tar on the pavement. At first I thought my mind was deceiving me, but after a few passes on the same roads over time I came to realize this was some pavement worker’s signature using the hot tar with which they seal asphalt cracks. They’re not offensive graffiti type signatures, in fact, I find it kind of clever. It’s a “Kilroy was here” sort of thing. Let me show you an example…

Rob was here.
Ray was here too.
Rob gets around. He was on this road as well. Or maybe this is “Kob?”
And some are just learning how to write with tar. I think this says “Dave?”
And this one is probably the earliest example of road signatures in the valley. Jurassic era claw signature of a Velociraptor or simple tree root? You be the judge.

I also saw a “Mitch” signature, but my photo didn’t come out due to pavement glare on the camera lens. Ok, ok, it was camera operator error. But you get the idea. Now that I know these signatures are hidden in plain sight in the streets, I’m on the lookout for more. I saw these in a span of 10 miles, so I guess there’s others to be found in a county of 1642 sq. miles.

Of course, the ride didn’t only consist of me looking down at the road tar for names, I also saw the first signs of spring…

A forsythia bush in bloom.
And some delicate springtime forest flowers along the bike path.
And this large madrone tree with what looks like a bear butt protruding from it’s trunk.

Granted, this wasn’t my most scenic or exciting ride. And frankly, since this ride, I haven’t been out. A couple days later, I caught a common cold, nothing serious, but with everyone so frightened about Covid19 exposure, I holed up and waited for it to pass so people wouldn’t look at me as if I were a carrier of the “plague.” These days, just to sneeze from allergies or to innocently cough and clear your throat can make people look at you suspiciously as they flee for their lives. This is a strange time we are living, that’s for sure. On the upside, I am seeing more people cycling than before and so far, it’s still an allowable thing to do. In fact, I’m hoping I can get in a nice ride this coming weekend. If the weather forecasters are correct, we’re in for some lovely sunshine! Yippee!

I hope you can all pedal for your mental and physical well being, but, above all else, please stay healthy!

Oh yes, and lest I be remiss at mentioning what song this ride made me start singing as I was reading names on the street tops, it was a good ol’ tune by the band named America. The tune? “A Horse With No Name,” of course.

14 response to "Tar Signatures"

  1. By: gregblood Posted: March 26, 2020

    I humbly accept your wonderful Golden Bicyclist Trophy for being the Outstanding CLC Show-Off that I am. The idea of Hopkins carving it from a chunk of wood with his own wheels and handlebars makes it even more special.

    Of course, the real trophy is the Eternal Glory bestowed upon us by The Goddess. But since I finished first, I’d like to think MY eternal glory will be the longest eternal glory of all.

    Finally, I’m searching my entire brain trying to figure out why I didn’t think of writing MY name on the streets with tar. Kudos to Ray, Dave, Rob, and Kob for thinking of it first.

    I really enjoyed your post, T.J.

    • By: Hopkins Escapades Posted: March 26, 2020

      Thanks Greg. Glad you received the trophy in the fun spirit it was intended. I certainly would never desire to step on the toes of our benevolent CLC Goddess. She has earned the honor of dishing out the real awards, but Hopkins & I couldn’t resist that one opportunity. He feels proud that you took note of how hard it is to carve when his only appendages are wheels and handlebars. Cheers & happy pedaling.

  2. By: Suzanne Posted: March 26, 2020

    What a great find those tar signatures are! The bear butt is pretty cool, too.

    • By: Hopkins Escapades Posted: March 26, 2020

      I thought that bear butt was pretty cool, too. To me, it looked like a bear was trying to climb inside the tree after (maybe?) honey or something, and all that was left was what you could see. Ha ha. At any rate, it made me smile as well.

  3. By: Tony Cullimore Posted: March 26, 2020

    I have ridden over plenty of tar infill but never seen any tar art. I will have to keep my eyes open now. When I rode a small capacity motorcycle, some of the tar lines used to affect the steering of the bike and I loathed the stuff. Maybe my relationship with it will improve now.

    • By: Hopkins Escapades Posted: March 26, 2020

      I can imaging tar repairs would make you squirmish on a motorcycle. Some roads in my town have it painted real thick, like they had a spill from the truck rather than a repair and then they tried to smooth it with a poor grade mop. I’m pretty sure any motorcyclist would not appreciate rolling over that. At least the name signatures are just thin lines followed by squiggly tar marks filling whatever cracks they mended. Those seem benign enough for most any wheel to cruise over. I do hope you and others find some tar signatures. I can’t imagine they are exclusive to my little corner of the world. Cheers & happy pedaling.

  4. By: Rich-Illinois Posted: March 26, 2020

    We had some tar art on Illinois Route 9 some years ago — dont remember exactly what they were — smiley faces and tic-tac-toe I do recall.
    Im not sure the Illinois Dept of Transportation saw the humor in it. We did. 🙂

    Good to see the spring flowers, we have one, count ’em, ONE, crocus in bloom so far.

    • By: Hopkins Escapades Posted: March 27, 2020

      Cool – you’ve seen them too! Now that I think about it, I remember seeing a smiley face somewhere here. Hmmmm, I’m going to have to go on an “Tar art Easter egg hunt” to see if I can find that smiley face again. Thanks for the reminder!

      One crocus, it’s a start. Hopefully more flowers will follow the leader.

  5. By: Scooter Posted: March 26, 2020

    Tar art! What an awesome discovery. I’ll have to start keeping my eye out.

    • By: Hopkins Escapades Posted: March 27, 2020

      You definitely should. I bet there’s some lurking in the streets you’ve never noticed. Have fun finding them!

  6. By: Lednar De Nalloh Posted: March 27, 2020

    Definitely a Velociraptor claw, and those round things are eggs too

    • By: Hopkins Escapades Posted: March 27, 2020

      Oh I totally agree. Claws & eggs! I should probably put caution tape around it and put up signs that it’s an paleontology dig site. You know, keep the riffraff out. Ha ha.

  7. By: The Navigator Posted: March 28, 2020

    I remember tar art in Nebraska in a few places. I was just happy they’d filled in some of the annoying freeze-thaw cracks! Sometimes, here, the emulsion in the bitumen melts in summer in the chip-seal roads and creates its own abstract tar art on the downhill side 🙂 Stay safe over there!

  8. By: NancyG Posted: March 29, 2020

    Very interesting find, those tar signatures. Good eye at the front of your handlebars Hopkins.

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