Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dirt roads

My camp is on a private dirt road. A road association maintains it and residents, year round and seasonal, pay annual dues for its upkeep. Volunteers work hard to keep the road smooth, but it is still rough and narrow in spots. There are lots of hills and curves. It is so dusty in midsummer that I have to keep my windows closed on the roadside of the camp or a layer of dust covers everything inside.

In early July, the road association folks post a sign at the beginning of the road announcing the date for the annual meeting. “Bring a lawn chair,” it advises. These meetings are held outside on a Saturday morning—or if it rains, inside someone’s garage or barn. I have been to a few of these meetings, and I was surprised to discover that most of the folks on my road are year round residents, not seasonal camp folks like me. The year round residents have to travel the road in the winter when it is covered with snow and ice. I’ve only once been on the road in the winter.

At the road association meetings I attended, some of the discussion—and it was sometimes contentious—was about whether to continue to maintain the road as a dirt one, or to pave it and turn it over to the town for maintenance. I am not sure why the paving option isn’t preferable to ALL of the year round residents, but I know why I want my road to stay as a dirt one. Here are a few reasons:

On a bumpy old dirt road like mine, cars have to go slower, making walkers like myself feel safer. First off, you can hear them coming before they get to you. Same thing for the dogs and cats that occasionally stray out into the road. Other than an occasional frog or chipmunk, I’ve never seen any road kill on our dirt road.

There’s also more to see on a dirt road than a paved one. In the sunshine, the mica in the dirt sparkles in like stars in a night sky. Some of the mica flakes are bigger than jigsaw puzzle pieces. I also like to look for animal tracks in the soft spots—I find them too—deer, raccoons and once, moose tracks. Big ones. Won’t see any tracks on a paved road.

I like the way the dirt smells after a rainstorm. And I like the way my footsteps sound when I walk in the loose gravel at the road’s edge. The dirt road reminds me of the camp where I spent childhood summers with my parents and sister. It too was a dusty old dirt road. Walking my dirt road is a trip down memory lane.

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