Washboard Situation

We live on a dirt road. It might also be called a gravel road, or an unpaved road. I am not a fan of referring to it as “unpaved” since that implies that the norm is paved, when there are more miles of gravel roads in the world than paved roads. In Vermont, there are 1,500 more miles of dirt roads than paved roads.

A gravel road has its charms. Generally fewer people drive on them. Paved roads are faster and usually more direct, so they take the bulk of traffic. People tend to drive more slowly on dirt roads. And they look better, if you ask me, since they feel like they are cut from the earth, even they are often solidly engineered. Nature could take them back, if we let it, or so it seems. A paved road just seems laid on top of the landscape–foreign and immovable.

There are, of course, disadvantages. Our road is open, so it bakes in the sun. Many dirt roads turn to mud in the spring, but ours dries out pretty quickly. Mud season is short on our road. But that sun drying things out? That means dust. When summer comes and we haven’t had rain for several days, passing cars raise clouds of dust. And the wind blows it our way. Our porch can get covered in dust. When we eat outside at the porch table, we need to wipe that thing down or expect grit in our teeth.

We are in the season of dust right now, but it isn’t too bad lately. That is because of another problem–washboarding. We have the worst washboarding we have seen on our road since we have lived in this house. The phenomenon gets its name because it looks like an old fashioned washboard. Wheels bouncing on the road cause ripples to form in the dirt surface, and these get enlarged with more traffic. This means a really bumpy drive. It shakes the dash and rattles the windows. Not good for your car.

However, this washboard situation means that everyone driving past drives a little more slowly. With slower driving comes less dust. So when we leave the house and drive down the road, I am none too happy about it, but when other people drive down our road I am pleased that they kick up less dust.

The town grades our road a few times each year, and they have not done it in a while now, so we are due. I am surprised they have not graded it yet, given just how bad the road has gotten, but I know there are plenty of other projects in town. Grading our road is a priority for me. It may not be for the town as a whole.

One possible delay is the installation this summer of fiber optic cable along our road. It has been buried, like the power cables, rather than strung, so they have been digging. That digging ended a month ago, but maybe they have more to do? It may not make sense to grade the road if more digging is going to happen. Really, I have no idea.

It will be great to have high speed internet, finally. But I sure would like a smoother drive and to prevent some car damage. In this case, I will take some dust. It is easier to wipe down the table than to replace auto parts. Costs less, too.

Snow in the Kingdom

Yesterday morning I got up early. It wasn’t quite 5:00. I took care of the usual morning routine–shave, shower, coffee and all that. I walked out in the dark to the car. I had not parked in the garage. I had to brush off the dusting of snow. It is still early April, so snow? I guess.

That dusting of snow was around when I headed east, down I-89 and across Route 2. By the time I got to Plainfield, however, that dusting had turned into a regular old accumulation. The temperature was just under freezing, so that wet road? I wasn’t fully trusting it did not have some ice on it.

I slowed down quite a bit once the road had packed snow on it. That is why I left so early, so I could go slowly if I needed to, and still be on time. Sliding off the road would have made me late. Then the road cleared up and I made it to Lyndonville by 8:00. There was a lot more than a dusting there. Two hours of driving on some good and some less-than-smooth roads, with a little ice and a little more snow. Not a commute I want to make every day. But beautiful yesterday for sure.

I had a good day in Lyndonville, in the Northeast Kingdom as they call that part of the state, longer than I had planned but solid. The road was dry coming home. And I did not have a deadline. In Richmond, the sun dropped below the clouds. It was the first I had seen it in a couple of days.

That sun looked like spring. It won’t be long now before the snow melts. I discovered some muddy roads and saw steam pouring out of sugarhouses on my drive. I won’t see those by May. And that is just next month.

Stymied by snow

Just before dark

I worked a long day Thursday–started early and ended late. In the middle, when I had some time, I checked the weather. I was planning to head across northern Vermont in the morning, so I wanted to be sure roads would be clear. The forecast was not promising. Snow was on the way, the heavy wet kind, and lots of it.

In the morning it was raining, but some snow flakes were mixed in. The forecast was worse than the night before. I was going to a school, so I checked the closings list. My school was open, but several others, some schools I would pass right by on my way, were closed. I had to make the call. I decided not to make the trek.

I did drive my daughter in to school. On the way, snow started to accumulate–not a lot, but enough to slow me down. After I dropped her off I headed back to work from home. And it snowed more. It snowed all day. It started really piling up by day’s end. Wet and heavy indeed.

My decision not to drive across northern Vermont was sound. The town where I was headed got two feet of snow by this morning. The section of interstate highway I would have traveled was closed for three hours. There were accidents all along Route 2. Even if I had made it, my two-hour drive would have been longer, and I would have had to return at some point. Here at home, over a thousand homes are still without power, although not ours.

Today is quiet. The snow is tapering off, but all is white. Birds are at the feeder in numbers we haven’t seen all winter. Blackbirds sing despite the snow. The town plow has cleared the road. I just polished off the coffee. Later, I will make a trip out to the dump, run a few other errands, and enjoy what is likely our last burst of winter.

This morning

Pushing the Season

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I wore gloves because the steering wheel was so cold. My daughter, in the passenger’s seat, covered herself in a blanket as we drove out the driveway. A couple of miles from home I glanced at the car thermometer. It had warmed up to -5ºF. Then I glanced in the rear view mirror. Following us was a guy on a motorcycle.

We were driving about 45 miles per hour at that point. It was hard to tell exactly what the guy was wearing but he was wearing white shoes–running shoes, tennis shoes, something like that. At a stop sign he pulled over to adjust his helmet, right behind us, so I could tell it was a he. At least he was wearing big fat mittens. One hardy guy, ready for spring.

A few more miles up the road I had to swing wide to pass a bicyclist. This person wore a  reflective vest similar to the one on the motorcyclist, so at least he was going for high visibility. In warm weather along that stretch I feel a sense of bafflement at why so many people on bicycles do not ride on the bike path, which is right next to the road. Why skirt auto traffic when there is a smooth and safer path right there? But today that bike path was covered in snow and ice. It was not smooth or safer. So I passed widely and offered a Godspeed. That dude was just as hardy.

I am looking forward to spring as well (although I have enjoyed skiing the field lately) but below-zero biking? Imagine standing out in below zero temperatures facing a sustained 45 mile per hour wind. That was the motorcycle dude. And a bicycle isn’t much warmer, despite the self-propulsion factor, when the temperature is so low.

Hats off to those two hardy fellows, but I have news for you. Wanting spring does not make it arrive. Acting like it is warm does not make it so. Still, I have to admire them. Even if I had extra time to bike, or was crazy enough about fuel efficiency to choose a motorcycle, I don’t think I would push the season quite so. For activities such as that, I will wait for spring to actually arrive.

Stopping for Turkeys

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Your standard work day. Did some good work, offered my knowledge and labor, learned some things. Heading south toward home. Near Burlington, some traffic. Not bad, considering, but not quick. The traffic loosened as I moved south into more rural territory. Then the car in front of me braked, more quickly than for just a turn off the main road.

It was turkeys. A whole gaggle of them crossing the road. Well, not a gaggle. That’s geese. You could call it a flock. They are birds. Call it a rafter. Seriously. A group of turkeys is called a rafter. Once upon a time it was a raft, I guess. Then it got colloquialized.

Anyway, this rafter crossed the road. There were eight or nine of them. Or ten. I maybe didn’t see all of them. The majority of them ambled from west to east and blended into the trees. Three of them hung out on the other side, pecking at the grass. Cars started moving again.

Turkeys have made a comeback in recent decades. They once were booted entirely out of Vermont, but they came back. Now they are everywhere in the state. Still, it isn’t every day that one must pause in one’s vehicle to let them waddle across the byway. Lucky me today.

Water this Summer

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High water on the Winooski River

I was planning to continue working on staining the house siding today. That wasn’t going to happen. I got up early enough. It was not raining, but it was going to rain. I didn’t want wet stain to get rained on. I would have had to stain it again. So I held off. Good thing. The rain came down.

It came down in sheets. Not for long, mind you, but in that short time we got a lot of rain, tossed around by strong winds. The forecast called for rain throughout the day and we got a few more bursts like that. Staining will have to wait.

I was away for a good chunk of June. My son and I were in New Hampshire last week. My wife was home and reported heavy rain, enough to flood our road, which I have never seen. Three inches of water fell in as many hours. That was mid-week.

My son and I came home on Saturday. As we headed west to Vermont it started to rain. It was a hard rain, so hard we slowed to a crawl it was so difficult to see. Once the rain let up a bit we kept going, slow but steady. We passed route 25A and I considered heading across that way, but decided to try 25C, farther north. But shortly after we turned onto that road we encountered a ROAD CLOSED sign. Maybe we should have taken 25A after all, I thought.

But at 25A we found a couple of rescue vehicles blocking the road. They were not there when we had passed the first time. I asked the man there if the road was blocked due to flooding. “I don’t think you’ll float,” he said, looking at our van, before adding that several other roads were closed. That was good information. Hopping onto the wifi at the store down the road (no cell service to be had), we chose a long route around. It took about three extra hours to get home that day.

I did get started on staining the house this week. We had a few days of sun. Yesterday I had to stop early. A thunderstorm moved in. I’ll get it done over time. I have some summer left. Water is high now. The ground is saturated. With more heavy rain like this, we might get more flooding. I hope we don’t get too much.

 

Snapper

Laying Eggs

This snapping turtle was laying eggs a few days ago. Good for you, turtle. Procreate! I’m all for those cute little buggers popping out of the sand and wiggling their way toward a new life trying to avoid things like raccoons and crows, who only want to eat them for breakfast.  This turtle, however, was depositing its potential offspring right on the side of the road.  Cars are whizzing by and its just hanging out there, popping out unformed youngsters.

Honestly, I’m not sure why turtles have been around for millions of years, or why they live to be, like, 100. Granted, we have pretty much destroyed any hope of any other creatures, aside from the ones we eat, surviving at all on this mess of a planet, but come on, turtle, how about my driveway at least? Those speeding high schoolers won’t slow down for you if they don’t slow down for the rain soaked muddy turn. That most humans don’t live to be 100 makes sense to me.

I’ll have to watch out for those little guys in however long it takes for snapping turtle eggs to hatch. I’ll even move them to safer locales, too, as long as it isn’t when school gets out.