Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Road rip!


You never like to see this. Even if the road in question is one you must use, one you've been yelling at the town council or state roads commission to fix because of its cavernous, axle-busting potholes, you still die a little inside when you see road work signs. Because if it's a road you take, you know that for the duration of the work you will be inconvenienced.

Roads are funny things. Kingdoms that could build them could become empires. The Romans may not have been the nicest guys in the ancient world, but they sure could build roads. Even most libertarians agree that, for the sake of commerce and freedom of movement, roads are a legitimate government enterprise. We need them, and we're willing to pay taxes and tolls to maintain them.

When the road being fixed is the one outside your house it can be worse than a change of route. It can be a minefield of tire-popping fun and an obstacle course of flagmen every time you have to run out. This sign popped up last week on my street. Monday at about 6:15 a.m. the trucks started rolling in.

What did I expect? Oiled road. What the hell is that?

You may know, but I did not. According to the Straight Dope, this is a necessary maintenance wherein the top layer of road is crunched up and a layer of sealant (not really oil) that helps bind the new surface applied later. If what I've seen of this kind of work in these parts was an indication, we'd have a greasy, pebbly road for several weeks, and then another sign would go up and we'd have blacktop.

Here was the street as of 6:32 Monday morning:

As of Monday evening... it was exactly the same. They started up the street, about half a mile away, and we didn't see them on our end until Tuesday.

Tuesday morning a fellow came bopping down the center of the road with a little wheeled measuring device and a spray gun that made skinny lines. I was outside with the big dog, who went into an uncharacteristic barking frenzy. "All dogs hate this thing," the man told me, gesturing with the paint blaster. We would later have a lot more canine objections -- the little dog was terrified of the steamrollers. Even inside the house, not seeing them. It was the sound that made him nuts. When he did get a look at them it didn't help.

By 3:06 Tuesday afternoon:

Ahhh. That smooth, silky blacktop. You want to just lie down on it and luxuriate in its pure dark richness. Bad idea, though, as there's nothing like fresh blacktop to make drivers think they are in car commercials and hit the gas.

Later I realized that they never did chop up the old pavement and leave us for weeks with an oiled, rocky surface. And I hate when the road is like that. But they just laid the new surface right over the old surface. Does that mean that this a half-assed job? That the new surface won't adhere properly? Did we get gypped? Should we have demanded they leave the road in diabolical condition for a few weeks to make for a better road in the long run?

Well, at least it looks nice right now. My wife says I should have slipped the crew a few bucks, have them do our driveway. My luck I would have been arrested on the spot for bribing a government worker.

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