Sunday, March 13, 2011

Worst Road In Maine

This past Saturday I was privileged to be the speaker for the York County Master Gardener Association’s annual meeting at Laudholm Farm in Wells, Maine. I drove from my home in Waldo to Topsham, where I hopped in the car with Just Write Books publisher Nancy Randolph for the trip from Topsham to Wells. Nancy took care of selling books after my presentation, a good thing because I’m, as my Scottish pals would say, “noo sae good” at selling things.

Anyway, on the way down to Nancy’s, I noticed a dead cat in the road. On the way home, I passed the “cat” from the opposite direction and was amazed to see that it wasn’t a cat, but rather a raccoon. Which reminded me of an old man, long gone, who used to live just nearby. Old Russ had a speech problem and substituted “t” for “c” at every opportunity.

So without even thinking about it, I spoke out loud to myself and said, “I thought it was a tat, but now I see it’s a ‘toon.”

All of which goes to show that spring has sprung. Raccoons, skunks, muskrats and all manner of other critters are working their way out of hibernation and going about. So keep a weather eye out for animals crossing roads. They are out in force.

Continuing on with Saturday’s events, I arrived home around dusk. Going from the fine roads in southern Maine to the unpaved, secondary road where I live was a real eye-opener. While the road was badly potholed and very muddy that morning, it had completely deteriorated during the brief time that I was gone. Mud season had arrived, precipitously, to say the least.

In the perhaps 45 years, give or take, that I have driven this road, I have never, ever, seen it in such dire straits. Years of adding low-cost, bargain basement dead sand instead of true gravel have taken their toll. Ruts are everywhere and so deep that upon approaching a truly bad section, a motorist needs to stop and assess the situation before proceeding.

In a number of places, there were absolutely no choices, since the width of the road was churned to a quagmire and left, right or middle made absolutely no difference. So the question of speed presented itself. “Do I back up and try to go fast in hopes that momentum will carry me through? Or do I take it easy and try and seek some kind of high ground?”

After successfully negotiating two particularly troubling sections, I arrived at a point about 50 feet south of my driveway. But that was the worse section of all. One ridge, of sorts, remained. I hoped that keeping two tires on that would provide sufficient purchase to get me through the last major pitfall.

So on I went, all the time keeping my 5-speed manual transmission in first gear. Halfway through the gauntlet, the ridge gave way and my little sedan was engulfed, sucked deep in muck.

“Thooomp,” it went. Anyone who has ever bottomed out on a muddy road will recall not only the sound, but also the total feeling of despair that accompanies the process. However, fortune favored me and by keeping my wheels churning I was able, little by little, to progress forward in small but steady increments.

So I made it home, thankful for small blessings.

The next morning I headed out to church, going up the road instead of down through the scene of my former discontent. That section of road was slightly better and by dint of slow (no more than 5 mph) speed and strict attention to which path of travel offered the best option, managed to reach the far end of the road and on to better climes.

But upon shifting through the gears once upon the paved road, I noticed that my car shimmied, and badly. Getting dragged down in the mud has done something to my car’s front end.

This all makes me much less inclined to pay my property taxes ahead of time, as is my usual practice.

Mud season is one thing and bad roads are part of life in the country. But the East Waldo Road is in a state of criminal neglect. I hereby nominate said cowpath as the worst road in Maine. If anyone thinks they have a viable contender for that ignominious title, just let me know. I’m anxious to hear from you.

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