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Stetson's Corner

Karen McEnany-Phillips

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Old-timers have a saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Nearly nine years ago I submitted some thoughts to Darla Scoles, the founding columnist of Stetsons Corner, about the washboard effect of speeding on dirt roads.

And you guessed it, almost a decade later, people still speed on our dry dirt roads, kicking up massive clouds of dust and making the roads worse by the second.

Pros and cons of the dirt road view

Living on a dirt road has its pros and cons. On one level, folks unfamiliar with the deeper rural areas hesitate to venture down dirt roads. Check one for privacy. On the other hand there are plenty of days we yearn for a smooth asphalt surface solid enough to ensure serenity and not to rattle our teeth. I won't even mention the stormy nights we return home stressed out from navigating potholes and rivers of mud. Check one for a glass of wine.

Dirt roads are generally wonderful. As I've written many times over the years, we share them with horses, neighborhood pups, raccoons, armadillos, opossums, peacocks, wild turkey, sand hill cranes and deer. Barefoot patterns — zigzagging, sideways, arrow straight or random — chronicle the journey of all rural creatures. Our wild children grow up loving the thrill of a fast four-wheeler ride on dirt roads and trails, bouncing through ditches, sailing past fences, through spider webs and around mailboxes.

Speeding plus dry equals washboard

The sad truth is during drought-like conditions, the speeding four wheels of your vehicle create the very washboard effect you decry. Above 30 mph, your vehicle's wheels do not turn in a perfectly round fashion. At these higher speeds, it slaps the road in an oval shape, like an egg, and each slap creates a dent in the road surface. After the slap comes the bounce that really digs into the road. The more speeding, the more dents, the more bounces and the washboard is born.

Add to this the well-meaning road engineers who grab the community drag equipment and drag the road when it's dry. Unfortunately this scrapes the tips off the road while the ridges remain underneath. A road is best dragged with professional heavy equipment after a rainstorm when the dirt is most compact and the heavier blades can dig underneath the ridges eliminating them.

A dirt road without a good crown and with a deteriorating roadbed won't long withstand the effects of heavy rain and pooling water.

See speeding, say something

Roads are for everyone's use, and they certainly should not become anyone's final resting place. I'm not trying to be melodramatic, but I would like to grab your attention. If you're in a vehicle with your child or teen and someone is speeding toward you or behind you, make your feelings clear to the other driver and to your kids. Speeding on a washboard road is especially dangerous. It would be bad enough if everyone had control and full focus on the road. But the truth is most drivers, speeding or not, are on their cell phone, texting, jamming to music and eating or drinking — anything but driving with full intention.

When a curve comes up too quick, an animal jumps out and one or more vehicles drift to the middle, disaster is imminent. Someone looks down, someone swerves and the other vehicle is right there. This is how people and animals are injured or killed, because we never think it will happen to us.

Join the Jam

On Saturday April 21, enjoy old-fashioned bluegrass, country and gospel music at the monthly Geneva Jam held at the Geneva Community Center. Hamburgers, hotdogs, drinks and desserts are sold from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., or until the food runs out. The music starts at 6:30 p.m. and don't forget the 50-50 raffle.