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.

Another Cold Day

OK, I should have taken a trip to the dump today.  I should have gone to the hardware store to get some salt for our water softener. Some new wiper blades would be a good idea, too. But I did not get in the car today. I stayed home, stoked the fire, and went for a run. I read for a while, I ate breakfast, I drank coffee. I played with my kids. But I did not go anywhere. It was too cold. It was one degree when we woke this morning. The high temperature for the day was 16.

Saturday usually is my day for a long run. I would have preferred to go in the morning but I thought it prudent to wait until the temperature got to at least ten. I ran during the warmest time of the day which, as I mentioned, was not especially warm. I had a good run, however. I had to keep taking my gloves or my hat or both off and then don them again. I was cool at a couple of points, where the wind cut across a field, but mostly I was good to go. The danger was not the cold but the dust. Every time a car passed, and there were more cars than usual of course, a cloud of fine dust would rise and hover over the road. I used my hat or a glove when they were off as a mask but otherwise I was sucking in particulates.

Tomorrow will be cold again. And the next day. And the next day. I got my nine miles in today but I will run again in two days. It will still be cold. Tuesday’s high is forecast to be 11 at least. Winter has, indeed, arrived. Monday is the start of celestial winter but December 9th was the start of meteorological winter–the first of the 91 historically coldest days of the year.  A little snow would be nice. They are getting slammed down south, but we got diddily squat. Maybe next week, if weather tracks north, we will see some white stuff.

Right now we’ve just got ice. And dust. Despite this, in the darkest time of the year, we are doing well in this house. The solstice is just about here, and Christmas. In this warm house, amid the cold and dark, we are happy campers.