How We Roll: Urban Archeologist

This story first appeared in Bicycle Times #28.  

Words by Robert Brunberger

how I roll urban archeologist

There is much to note in bicycling about Baton Rouge. Many sights thrill. Others dishearten. Bicycling highlights each in ways less often seen from cars. Litter is as an unpleasant eyesore as roadkill. Too often am I greeted by cups and containers, food wrappers, and other assorted items too numerous to cite. Bungee cords are plentiful. Coins and bills less so. I once found $8.32 in scattered bills and change and on another occasion a rumpled five dollar bill peeking from the levee bike path grass.

Clothing items often appear, and a pair of pliers and a screwdriver now reside in my toolbox. I even recovered a junked but repairable bicycle, now my backup. Some finds are returnable. I reunited a lost dog with its owner as was the case with a wallet and keychain.

I feel like an urban archaeologist noting what others eat, drink, smoke, and use before discarding (or losing). Who are these folks for whom a rolled down car window is a mobile trash bin? How did they acquire a throwaway mentality? Does conspicuous consumption and materialism breed an instant waste disposal mindset? I struggle to understand.

I am the product of Great Depression and WWII-era parents who knew scarcity. They’d jump at loose change. They stretched hand-me-down clothes and intervals between haircuts. I know thrift stores, figuratively and literally. I know leftovers. Their values are hard to shake. Even bicycling seems a carryover from the ones once ridden in childhood.

Other bicycling finds puts litter to shame. They are aesthetic, and delight by striking a chord difficult to describe. These finds offer visual feasts, enable silent music to be heard, and stir where words fail.

There is grandeur to a flock of pelicans suddenly rising in a white cloud above the university or Capitol Lakes.

There is stunning beauty to a golden sunset sinking over the Mississippi River.

There is high drama in a gliding hawk’s arrow-like dive at an unsuspecting squirrel.

There is enchantment at the first hint of seasonal changes, as when buds appear or summer temperatures cool.

Thus are my bicycling finds a mixed bag.

What is deplorable is countered by what is captivating. Eyesores and eye openers go hand in hand and are never far apart. One, in fact, enhances the other. I bicycle before both, remaining the observant spectator. 


How do you roll?

Want to share a story about your bike and what makes it special? Send some details to [email protected] with the subject line “How I Roll.” We’ll publish some of our favorites online and in the magazine.

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