Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I read that Clarke County, Wisconsin is joining other communities across the Midwest in returning paved roads to gravel. In the long run gravel costs more to maintain but in the short term paving is more expensive than communities can afford in this, the Great Depression of the 21st century. If you believe the mainstream press which loudly trumpets the political line that we aren't in recession, you aren't paying attention.

Have no fear though, the lifeline through the Fabulous Florida Keys called the Overseas Highway is getting a facelift, a mile at a time. Last night I worked a short shift in police dispatch and found myself at Mile Marker 18 at 2:30 in the morning. On my way in to work a few hours earlier I was held up for some time waiting for traffic to flow the opposite way so when I was stopped on my way home I knew I had time to whip out the camera and record this bean feast of repaving in a world gone poor.

Since my fall in Big Coppitt in June 2009 I dread the sign that says lanes are uneven. I fell off the Triumph at 45mph owing to a step in the roadway I could not see and slid down the road as a result. That ride home after I picked up the bike and myself was rather less fun than usual. I like to ride this highway and I look forward to the smooth new pavement but signs like these are the price we pay to get there. A price the state of Florida can still afford to pay somehow.

The "new" highway was built in 1982 and it has reduced the drive to Miami by half from the old drive on the converted and narrow railroad bed originally built by Flagler's engineers. It is well marked, lighted frequently and lined with reflectors, and is thus easy to drive even in the worst rains, or the darkest of nights.

Night riding is a blast on the road when traffic is sparse and you find yourself alone in the dark, flying through the warm night air. Roadworks tend to gum things up, leaving you standing in the middle of the roadway twiddling your thumbs and wondering how much they can re-pave before the money runs out.

This crappy picture is a hand held reminder of how beautiful this recent full moon was, shining silver on the water either side of the road, illuminating the clouds hanging low in the sky.

I don't think riding the newly graveled roads in the mid west would be half as much fun in the dark.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Donna OShaughnessy said...

In the 70's my dad, a cop, taught me how to drive on gravel roads without headlights in case I ever had an alternator fail. I later taoght my own kids to drive this way. Of course driving FAST on gravel in the dark is really really fun but I didn't tell them that

Conchscooter said...

I grew up riding bicycles and a mopeds on gravel in Italy and when they finally paved my corner of Umbria I never looked back. Too many stinging bleeding wounds on my arms and legs, powdered white, dripping blood and filled with small painful pieces of rock. I rode too fast and fell a lot when I was a teenager.

Chuck and the Pheebs said...

I did all my early morocycling on gravel and logging roads in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan; one must get a feel for the 'float' of the bike between your legs. Just because the front tire is pointed one direction, there's no guarantee you're going that way.

Sand was the worst, though. It's a lot like piloting a boat on water, as there's a speed where the bike will plane on the sand as if to be on solid ground. Below a critical speed, the tires act as displacement hulls, sinking, dragging and wallowing. Of course, the front tire, being narrower than the rear, sinks first, discharging the rider in a highsider.

Don't ask me how I learned that.

I miss the lurid, flat-track gravel slides we'd do as a kid. I'm certain i've lost the skill.