Reflective Materials and Where They’re Made

First, I should thank Rich for a July Challenge that seems to be custom-made just for me. THANK YOU, RICH! Now to explain what I mean by that statement:

Just nine miles from my house is a huge 3M plant in Cottage Grove, MN. Among many other things, this plant manufactures the reflective materials used on road signs, license plates, and safety devices all over the world. The picture at the top of the page is but a very small section of the sprawling facility.

While it’s true that 3M has been fined and sued multiple times over the years for polluting our earth, our air and our water, they do produce some important industrial products and some pretty cute products for us consumers too–like Post-it Notes and Scotch Tape. And don’t forget those reflective products.

Here are a few examples of how a bike rider might appreciate 3M’s innovation:

It can remind you that you’re still on the Mississippi River Trail.

Even while riding in the dark, the reflective signs can tell you to turn left. (I can’t tell you how it works, but I think the secret formula for light reflection is hidden in that honeycomb pattern.)

It can help prevent you from ramming into a gate.

If, like Scott Anderson, you are working hard by conducting beer research while on a bike tour, this reflective sign can help you identify environmentally conscious breweries.

It can help you identify the truck that ran you off the road. That didn’t happen today though. This is just a random license plate, but it’s nice to know that 3M’s technology might help me to see the license plate while lying in a ditch in the dark. The best part of this picture is that it also includes the other part of this month’s challenge–a headlamp and a turn signal lamp.

I didn’t get a picture of anything odd, unusual, or strange today, but I do have a story that fits ALL of those descriptive words. The setting for my weird story is back at the 3M plant.

I turned back and took another picture of the plant from a different angle. Note the security building on the left.

A short distance ahead, I came to the test farm where 3M’s reflective products sit in the intense sun for months or years at a time. I pedaled about 50-feet onto a side road and took a couple of pictures of the test panels. Not more than a minute later, a white 3M Security vehicle drove up.

“Can I help you with something,” asked the uniformed security guy?

“No,” I replied. After a couple seconds of awkward silence, I realized what he was REALLY asking. “I suppose you saw me taking pictures of the plant back there.”

“Yeah. That’s okay though. It’s a public highway and you can take pictures from there, but when I saw you turn onto this road I had to come up here and investigate.”

“I’m not an industrial spy or anything, I just wanted to get a couple photos of these panels. They’re pretty cool.”

“True, but some of the things in there are patent-protected. I’m going to have to ask you to delete those pictures.”

I assured him I would, but after another second of awkward silence, I thought he might want some proof. “I’ll delete them while you watch,” I offered.

“I’d appreciate that,” he said.

So that’s what I did.

He was actually a pretty nice guy, just doing his job, so I didn’t argue. And technically, I WAS trespassing, so if I made trouble, he could make even more trouble for me.

[Since posting this, our compatriots, Bill and Bob, informed me that I might be able to retrieve those pictures from my trash bin. Huh? Trash bin? Yup, I looked for a trash bin, I found it, and here are the pictures that I thought were lost forever.]

Patent-protected, so avert your eyes and please don’t tell the police about what I did.

Years ago, all of those racks were completely filled with large test samples. Maybe they went with smaller samples after too many cyclist-spies were able to take pictures of patent-protected materials with telephoto lenses.

After that episode I rode straight home and reflected on my day with a delicious IPA. Get it? REFLECTED? Good one, eh?

That last picture was another dig at our friend Scott, though there is a good chance he won’t even see it considering he’s touring in England. Not only was I conducting research on good beer, but I was also wearing the Caribou Coffee jersey that he’s been coveting for more than a year now. And, related to the challenge, there are a couple of REFLECTIVE strips on the back pockets of the jersey. NICE!

Hi. My name is Greg and I ride my bike a lot. That is to say, I ride my bike almost every day. I go on long rides and short rides. Sunny rides, cloudy rides, and rainy rides. I like commuting, errand-running, day-tripping, overnighting, and touring on my bike. I ride on city streets, highways, gravel, single track, and snow with equal enthusiasm. Sometimes I ride fast and sometimes I ride slow. I try to keep my feet on the pedals at stop lights and I do not dismount when I hop up on a curb. I have a roadie bike, a mountain bike and a touring bike. I try to accept any challenge a bike ride can throw at me without complaint. But I don't like bugs.

7 response to "Reflective Materials and Where They’re Made"

  1. By: Bill Stone Posted: July 1, 2022

    Good post for the challenge, Greg. I found your encounter with security guard especially interesting. I had a similar encounter with US Coast Guard several years ago. From OUTSIDE the base on a public highway, I innocently took a photo of their big sign. Before I could make a clean getaway, Coasties caught up with me and wanted to know what I was doing. In my case, they didn’t make me delete the photos. I suspect they were basically bored and apprehending me — just for a moment — livened up their duty a little.

    So, when you deleted the photos, did you also empty the trash folder on your phone? Or are the photos still in the trash folder, waiting to be retrieved?

    • By: gregblood Posted: July 1, 2022

      OH MY GOD, Bill, and you too Bob, I had no idea there was a trash bin for my photos. Once again, I exposed myself as a technological neophyte. I did a little searching on my phone, and sure enough, there they are in a trash bin, along with hundreds of other photos! I retrieved the two photos in question, and I’m going to go back and add them to this post. Thank you so much. (I have to wonder if the security guard knew I could do this.)

      • By: Bill Stone Posted: July 1, 2022

        Kinda gives a clue about the competence of 3M security guards, too, eh? Anyway, I bet you were surprised at some of those old photos hanging out in the trash folder. Good thing Federal agents didn’t seize your phone!

  2. By: BobinVT Posted: July 1, 2022

    I had the exact same thought as Bill as to whether those photos are still in the Trash. You might still be able to sell them to the highest bidder and maybe earn some beer money. You know, for your research.

  3. By: Rich-Illinois Posted: July 1, 2022

    Great and diverse assembly of challenge items!
    3M is a great company, use their products all the time.
    They made the stripping for the 1977 Indy Pace car — and Oldsmobile Delta 88.
    Friend owned such a car and asked 3M if they would cut him some new ones since they still had the dies etc to replace the worn ones on his car.
    They would not. 🙁
    Had a similar experience with the Security at the Oldsmobile plant in Lansing (when there WAS an Oldsmobile) and another with the FBI at a train station in Champaign, IL shortly after 911.
    Excellent post, you are off to a rip roaring start!

  4. By: NancyG Posted: July 2, 2022

    Several years ago Susan and I had a similar experience with security. We were riding in upper New York State and came upon — get this — Sing Sing prison! I was snapping all kinds of photos from the OUTSIDE of their fence when a car drove up, the security guy got out of his car and walked up to the fence and told us we had to delete any photos. OK, I said, but didn’t. I don’t even now remember what photos we got. The stuff of innocence ;’-).

    Great going on this month’s challenge.

    • By: gregblood Posted: July 2, 2022

      Wow, it seems everybody has had an encounter with a security guard. That was pretty sneaky of you to not delete your prison photos. Good job.

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