March 26, 2010


Two days a week my sales route takes me to a town an hour away from my home. Last week in another example of our crumbling infrastructure, a four-lane highway between Hither and Yon caved in. This is a rural county, and the official detour on state highways takes me about thirty miles out of my way.

I read in our Village Bugle that the county designated a country road as the detour for locals. Meaning: this is not the way for the huge trucks that carry coal or aluminum byproducts to travel.

Even though I live just a few miles from the blocked off area, I'm reticent to go the "back way." This area of the county has numerous abandoned stripper pits from coal mining. Unpaved roads suddenly drop off into surprise ditches.

Some residents really enjoy being away from it all. Some residents have houses way off the road, surrounded by a barbed-wire chain-link fence.

Occasionally news reports cite someone's trailer blowing up when mixing anhydrous ammonia and pseudopedrin for illegal reasons. Several years ago, three people were murdered in that general area in a drug killing.

In this context, I decided to drive through this area on my way home today. In broad daylight, mind you.

I left the state highway against the better judgment of my GPS. She's programmed with a British female accent, and sounds like a cross between Dame Edna and Margaret Thatcher. We call her Amelia, after the famous pilot who lost her way near Howland Island, South Pacific in the 1930s.

Amelia did not want me to turn left. "Re - cal - cu - lating," she intoned like some crisp, upper crust Sloane Ranger.

But I was not afraid. Until I came to a T that was unpaved in either direction. Against Amelia's wishes I turned right. Turning left took me back to the closed road. The unpaved road wound around and the road became narrower. At one point I thought I was driving on someone's personal farm lane.

The road straightened out and passed a little farmstead. The road curved right again and this time through a wooded area. Water came up to the unpaved gravel edge on each side. Was there a river in this area? I've lived here more than twenty years and had no idea where the water was coming from.

Then I saw the bridge. I remember hearing about this one-hundred year old county bridge, but jumped out of my skin when I saw it. The bridge is one-lane and I truly was not certain my little Honda could chug across. Most people make fun of how slowly I drive, but I gunned it across this bridge willing my car to fly.

On the other side, I stopped long enough to take this picture and then the dusty unpaved road wound back in the other direction, trees hugging the gravel edge, water high.

Round the corner the road was paved and I spied a familiar site. This is the picture of a church I know where I stopped to cross myself for my deliverance.

Ah, almost home, within site of civilization. While I heard no banjos playing in the distance, amazing the difference in five miles between suburban neighborhoods and rural desolation.

This is the picture (albeit fuzzy) of the margarita I drank at dinner to celebrate being home. It's been a very, very long week, and I'm really glad it is over. Quoth the raven. Cheers.