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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Too many mud roads

© Another Day in the Country

When we moved back to Ramona in 2000, I had an older Honda Accord. It was the first car I’d ever purchased on my own and I already had it for eight years. It was the most tried and true, reliable car I’d ever driven and it was great in bad weather, which brings me to mud roads.

There have always been certain roads in the country that you need to steer clear of when rain is even threatening.

One is the county road. That road becomes a sliper slide quicker than you can say, “I think it started raining.”

Many the time, when we first moved here, that we’d have to call Brunner’s, with their big old tractor, to come pull out some unsuspecting tourist or a relative from California that didn’t know better than to follow GPS down that road.

“Stay off that county road, if it rains,” was one of the first instructions we got from our more country-wise cousins.

Paint Rd. was another one of those roads to steer clear  of in bad weather. We hadn’t been here long before we headed down Paint toward Herington one afternoon. It wasn’t raining in Ramona. We never gave it a thought.

The minute we turned onto Paint, I saw dark clouds in the distance. Before we’d gone a mile, it began to sprinkle. A mile later, the gravel gave out and we were slip-sliding as the rain came down harder.

Without that Honda, we’d never have made it. And 6-year-old Em in the back seat praying, “Hail Mary, full of Grace,” probably helped, too.

“Go straight to the car wash,” my sister said when we hit pavement, “I don’t want anyone saying that those crazy girls from California aren’t smart enough to stay off mud roads.” 

Unfortunately, “mud roads” in Marion County are becoming more and more prevalent. And, people are complaining for a good reason. When we aren’t discussing the mud, we’re talking about the potholes which are even more hazardous. 

I’ve lived long enough in the country, now, for it to become second nature to watch the weather and weave like a drunk sailor down Quail Creek Rd., dodging holes.

Now Quail Creek has a sign at each end warning “Rough Road.” Years ago, we petitioned the county for gravel on 370th, a crucial mile that has no gravel, so we aren’t locked in or out of town by a train on the tracks. But, there seems to be a shortage of good gravel and priorities must be chosen.

We joke about the pavement (or the gravel) running out at the Dickinson County line, because it’s embarrassing, sometimes dangerous, and TRUE!

I find myself being envious whenever I see the crews out adding blacktop to roads in other jurisdictions.

I know, we have to let our voice — our opinions and suggestions — be heard. But, I doubt the answer is an easy one.

“What should be done to improve our road conditions?” I asked my friend Gordon, who operated a road grader in Riley and then Dickinson counties for 59 years and took great pride in his work. “It’s training,” he said, “They’ve got to put the time into training these guys.” 

My friend Doug interjected, “and not just show ’em how to start it and send them on their way.”  Doug also suggested, “We need to make it against the law for joy riders to go out ‘muddin’ on back roads. They’ll find ’em in Saline County.” 

I told my “Mayberry” friends that I think it’s about a lack of money!  They seemed to think it was more about finding the right workers to do the job. 

“All the counties are having trouble with this,” the guys proclaimed, “Old guys are retiring and they have trouble finding people who even want to work flagging,” they said. And that got them off on a whole other subject!

I told them my story about going over to Hope for gas. How I’d decided to run to Tampa to the bank, so I took the road off Hwy. 4 that has a Highway sign saying “Tampa,” and never made it! 

Breezing along the paved road I briefly wondered what Limestone would be like when I hit the county line.  I soon found out: mud!  Most of the gravel was long gone. It’s dusty, when it’s dry, but now the snow was melting. I could see dark, deep, unforgiving ruts in the road ahead and there was nowhere to turn around.

And, I was in the Grandma Car — my old Lincoln. When I made it to 360th, I turned toward home and said, “Forget Tampa.”

I was relieved to be on a road that had been redone by the windmill guys. “Whew,” I let my breath out, “I’ve been saved,” until I passed the last windmill service road, and the gravel abruptly stopped.  

Once more, I was in deep trouble, spinning on the clay. At least now I could walk home if I got stuck. I confessed to the guys that I’d left home without my phone, which added to the drama!

I know this is a rural area. I know we have less revenue than other counties.

We can’t just complain, folks. We need to require our elected officials to come up with a realistic plan.

“Hey! We want to spend another day in the country, so, give us some options, if nothing else, put up more warning signs on unmaintained roads!”

Last modified Feb. 13, 2020

 

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