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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Troubled Bridge over Sloughy Water...

February 22

No sun today, but then we are on the cusp of the February and March. Gladys and I ride out under gray skies and thick clouds to watch our County taxes at work on Bridge 52. On the upper Loop road a second bridge crosses the slough where at that point is posted a sign that reads "Riley Slough: Fish Crossing." Strangely as the slough trickles south-west through the fields between the blackberry brambled banks, it meanders itself right into a new name at Bridge 52 where it becomes "Tualco Slough." What happened to the fish between the two bridges is anyone's guess.

I expect to have my looping route truncated at the north end of the bridge and intend to backtrack on the upper loop around to the other side. When I arrive, I find the road clogged by County equipment: two dump trucks, trailers loaded with heavy timbers, and a steam shovel. The county crew is hard at work on their mid-morning break. One county guy sits in his dump truck and chomps on a sandwich. He has left the truck idling to heat the cab so he can eat in comfort. At this point the only action I see is idling. I wheel Gladys up to the cab, and the driver cracks the window and tells me I can cross the bridge if I'm careful. I tell him, no, I was out for the exercise and planned to ride back all the way around to the south end of the bridge, and leave him to his sandwich and diesel exhaust.

A few minutes later I am back, this time on the south end of the bridge where two more County guys and a County gal have just finished their break and about to resume work. I talk to the gal, who seems apologetic about their inactivity. "Our supervisor didn't call us, so we went ahead and took our break," she says. At this point I think, somewhere else in County there's a guy sitting in a warm office, hot cup of coffee in hand, watching the clock, and when it's ten a.m., he radios his crews and tells 'em between sips: 'Break Time!'" And to think I taught school for thirty-one years when I could have had a job like that.

I thought I'd take the opportunity during this little segue between break and work, to act in behalf of my environmentally sensitive friend Nancy L. We had talked a few days earlier about the bridge closure, and she had asked me then if I had seen all the beer cans someone had tossed off the bridge onto the bank below. "Disgusting!"she said. I had not noticed the litter, of course, on account of my having to keep a tight rein on Gladys so that I wouldn't be thrown from the bridge myself; at this juncture I'm concentrating on the road, not looking at the scenery. Sure enough, the cans were there, nearly a dozen of them, twenty-four ounce green cans (they're green, Nancy L, at least they're green) of Mickey's Malt Liquor. Apparently some hearty tipplers of the 5.6% beverage had decided to make Riley Slough their personal repository. (And in this valley of Dutch/German farmers, not a Heiniken can among 'em. )I explained to the pony-tailed gal in the yellow hard hat that my friend was in the habit of walking this route, too, and collected discarded aluminum cans which she later exchanged for cash at the recycler's, which she later gave in exchange for hay for her horse Ginger. I said she'd be doing my friend a favor by fetching up those cans. She said she didn't think she was about to, but there was pause enough in her answer for me to think that for a brief moment she was weighing priorities: bridge repair or litter patrol. For all I know, perhaps during her afternoon break she clambered down the bank and collected the cans--with her supervisor's permission, of course.

And the bike path?? When I asked the county guy who so graciously took time from his work to pose for a photo if a bike path was in the blueprints, he said: "Bike path? I thought this was a bike path!"
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