Saturday, January 9, 2010

“I remember how it was to drive in gravel.” (after Theodore Roethke)

I grew up around gravel roads. They led to the best places. The paved highways and county roads just led from one town to another. But gravel roads led to farms, the small airport, the gravel pits, the river bottom, lakes, and unknown parks.

A gravel road led to my grandparent’s farm, which was my favorite place on earth. You couldn’t drive fast. The stones would crunch under your tires and offer to slide you sideways if you weren’t careful. The dust would plume like a great peacock tail behind you and signal your passing for miles around.

When the gravel road leading to my grandparent’s farm became weak and pitted, the only way Grandpa could get it repaired was to run for a seat on the city council. He won. The road was re-graveled and nicknamed for him. Mission accomplished, he did not seek re-election.

The gravel roads here in Arizona are not maintained and are frequently washed out in Monsoon flash floods. However, they, like the gravel roads in Minnesota, lead to the best places. For instance, the breathtaking Superstition Mountains are only approached by a winding rutted gravel road.

And someday, when driving south on I-10 to Tucson, I’ll turn off the interstate and take one of those gravel roads that branch off and disappear into the distance. Maybe I’ll disappear with them.