Sunday, February 1, 2015

Country Road

Living on a country road brings with it some unusual benefits.

First of all, outlanders are often afraid to expose their expensive vehicles (trucks included) to the dust and mud and ricocheting rocks that their knobby tires kick up. If you live on the road, you appreciate the lack of traffic.

Another benefit is that when the mud turns to ice it still has a rough surface. No need to get out and put the chains on. And if you have four-wheel drive, you can probably avoid using it unless you need to demonstrate something to your passengers. A friend says four-wheel drive just gets you twice as stuck, twice as fast.

Living on a country road keeps the city folk from building their MacMansions where you have to look at them. Try as they will, they will not get the county or state to commit to paving anytime in the future (near or distant).

We know these things because we live on a road that is often sloppy and slushy, full of pot holes and skimpy side ditches. When the mood is upon them the road maintenance folk will come out and move the stones and dirt around, and even add a bit more, to fill the scooped-out places that appear between rains and snows and droughts. For a few days the road is evenly uneven, if you know what I mean. Then gradually the scoured holes reassert themselves and we are back to the dodge’em game. Extra points for maneuvering the road without dropping a wheel in a pot hole. If you ever drove a sports car in a gymkhana you know the drill.

Where we live there are four seasons: Mud, Snow, Fly and Dust. Some days we have them all at once. All too often the sun shines on alternate days, intermixed with enough rain to turn the dust to mud, and/or enough snow to turn the mud to ice. Sometimes that happens between leaving and returning on the same day.

Still, you can’t beat a dirt road for getting away from it all. They are often empty of traffic except for a tractor pulling a combine or planter or hay rake that is wider than the roadway.

One of the first questions in the city driver’s mind is: “What do you do if you meet someone coming the other way?” Experience teaches that both parties stop. The one that can pull off or back up does, the pass is executed (generally with a smile and a wave), and travel resumes.

If you are following rather than meeting, you simply close all windows and vents and follow slowly until the fella up ahead pulls over and waves you by, or turns in at his gate and you have a clear road ahead. That’s life in the country, on country roads.

There is one other advantage to living on a dirt road. It comes most often at the end of winter, when the snows have gone, the mud had hardened, the county has maybe sprayed a dust retardant, and you decide, when you get to town, that this is the day you can stop at the car wash.

When you get out of the car the next time and turn to lock it (another thing you never do if you live on a dirt road), you stop, step back, look at paint colors and gleaming chrome that you haven’t seen in months. You realize the old bucket isn’t so old after all, that maybe it will do another trip around the odometer. You’ve just spent ten bucks and gotten a new car in exchange.

Living on a dirt road has its compensations.


  1. Well described aspect of country living, Paul. And, yes, I have experienced that last part of having a shiny new car emerge after a snowy, dirt streaked winter, or mud slinging spring rains....

  2. Love the four seasons...Indeed! Living on a long driveway that might qualify as a backroad I always know that if someone comes to see me, they really want to.

  3. Ah yes.... an ode to the yellow br.... whoops, wrong road. When I moved to Highland almost forty years ago, I hoped that it would not be too far in the future when this dead-end dirt road (VDOT described it as an "all weather surface") would be widened to more than one lane, the muddy end drained a little bit better, and ultimately paved. I am very happy to report that the only improvement done to the road was the drainage issue, the muddy clay section was corrected over thirty years ago and the rest never happened. The only time that there is any traffic on the road is during hunting season (not very much any more) and when the leaves turn in the fall. That is the way this hermit likes it. VDOT plows it when it is necessary, sprays salt water during the summer to keep the dust down (which doesn't really effect me very much with my eighth mile driveway) and grades it with the addition of more gravel usually annually. All is good back here in "the holler". Moinonymous.