Highways in context

Among many other things, my dad taught me to think about geographies and topographies.  Roads would often make him think of other roads, and areas of the country would be like, or not-so-like, other areas.  Features such as hills and winding roads and skylines would take on personalities of their own.

Where we currently make our temporary dwelling, Rt. 19 is the main road.  It’s one of 2-3 roads of consequence in our entire county, actually.  Rt. 19 reminds me a little of a few Delaware roads, such as Frazer Rd., near the MD line, or sections of old Limestone Rd. (near the old Lowe’s, that later became a church-house, or maybe that little section no one travels near the PA line).  Our Rt. 19 may be even more like Rt. 71, between Lum’s Pond and Red Lion “proper” (is there a Red Lion “proper”?).

Rt. 19 is a nice road, really.  It stretches the entire length of our sizable county, from the Pennsylvania border, south of Wellsville, then running alongside the Genesee River, all the way to Fillmore.  There, it forks:  19 heads northwest, then north again to Pike, and 19A meanders northeast to Portageville, which is the southern gateway to Letchworth State Park, containing a remarkable gorge, just into Wyoming County.

Rt. 19 is traveled by quite a few 18-wheelers and all the rest of us who go anywhere from time to time.  Being beside a river, it’s relatively flat, and has a goodly number of curves.

At face value, Rt. 19 is a standard, two-lane highway.  There’s nothing really remarkable about its size, shape, or construction.  But it defines and supplies a lot about Allegany County, and adjacent areas.  It is a reputable, dependable marker, and we depend on it.

I’m grateful that the highway maintenance crews take care of Rt. 19 as they do.  But they, like all of us, need to be a little more aware of context.  You see, when autumn was expiring, the crews came out to do their pre-winter work, fixing some of the little potholes, presuming to protect the road from the coming winter damage (snow, ice, salt, blades).  

In their zeal to do an extra-good job, they did something new this year:  instead of simply digging out loose macadam and patching holes one by one, they put new asphalt down over long stretches, parallel to the solid white line on the right.  Seems like a good idea, right?  Looks pretty nice, all considering, and provides for a bit smoother ride if you set your wheels to the right.

But they forgot something about our local context.  This might have been fine in the dryness of Colorado or Arizona, but here, we get lots of moisture, and we do depend on this road.  The seam is at just the wrong spot — it’s just where the right tire rolls, for moderate- or small-sized cars.

Hey, guys!  Remember, we have a lot of rain and snow here, and the water and slush will build up on the seam where the new asphalt meets the old.  I’ve already almost hydroplaned a time or two.  You’ve actually created a hazard with the way you fixed the road.

Durn.  Welp. . . .  This winter, people just gotta be extra careful.  I guess we can get out there in April & do something about this after the snow melts.

Wonder what happens when we forget our contexts at our jobs, in our churches, and in Bible study.  We try to fix things, but some damage lasts a while, no matter what we do.


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