Monday, April 19, 2010

The Sniff Test

Riding across the country on a bike has permitted me to experience our roadways an entirely new way--through my nose.  The scents and fragrances that permeate the air are vast and varied, and can not to be fully appreciated in the cocoon of an air-conditioned car.

Cycling through urban areas often leaves me hungry and with drool dripping from my chin.  In the Arizona and New Mexico, I was often tantalized with the savory odors frying tortillas, onions and meat.  I was also treated to the pungent scent of fried chili peppers; these did not appeal to me in any olfactory way.  I found their smell disagreeable.  In the wealthy city of Scottsdale, AZ, it seemed that everyone was grilling steaks or hamburgers--so cruel...nothing to do but sniff the air like a coyote and imagine the succulent juices and taste. Cruising past restaurants and McDonald's also produces salivary spasms; what can I do but pull out a Powerbar and munch on it, pretending it is a mouthwatering, heart-clogging morsel of ribeye steak.  Donut shops are perhaps the worst offenders, throwing out the sweet succulent smell of frying dough, sugary glaze and coffee; a number of our riders do fall victim to them.  Yes, urban areas can be tough.

Out in the country, however, a totally different array of smells waif through the air.  The ride past the feedlots brought the nauseating stench of hundreds of cows, their 'byproducts', (okay, poop), and whatever was rolling out of the nearby smokestack--(it smells somewhat like beer hops). Rural Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi also had cow smells, but it was a pleasant country odor instead of the massive olfactory overload of the feedlots.  Texas provided many different nasal experiences: the delicate fragrances of the miles and miles of flowering fields: the piney smell of Christmas in the Sam Houston forest: wood smoke; goats (gag): cattle: horses: fresh cut hay, BBQ and sawdust. Crossing into Louisiana introduced our noses to burnt rice fields and fishy crawfish farms, but nothing compared to the stench of the Bogalousa pulp mill.  Louisiana was one stinky state; it has also been the dirtiest, with trash ( we're talking TVs and furniture) strewn along its less frequently used roads. Mississippi brought the smell of ol' man river, fish, horses and azaleas, while Alabama has given us our first sniff of salt water....

Once I leave this tour, I may become a crime scene investigator.  I have become an expert in identifying rotting flesh, without even needing to see the evidence  The roadkill has been numerous and as varied in victim as the terrain of the states through which we have traveled. (Question: What compels one to look at roadkill? Things that make you go 'hmmm'.)  New Mexico gets the prize for skunks; Arizona had a lot of coyotes: Texas definitely scores for deer and vultures: Louisiana roads showed us armadillos and Mississippi has a lot of squished frogs, toads and a few turtles. Fortunately, few domestic animals have fallen victim to the roadways; I guess those dogs that chase me are smarter than they look.

As I leave Alabama tomorrow and enter Florida, I wonder what potpourri of scents await me--Coppertone and Polygrip?


  1. You've posted on sights and smells of the road. Maybe even the tactile perspective of your trip considering the bumpy qualities of the road. Next you need to write on "Tastes of the Road", maybe describing and identifying the different bugs you accidently eat while biking at high speeds across the country!
    -your secret friend

  2. LOL- Your Secret Friend is funny

  3. Yes, Secret Friend is quite witty! I enjoy his/her comments

  4. You still haven't guessed who it is?? Things that make you go Hmmmmmm.............