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Gravel-Grinding and Belly-Dumpers

 Many people probably like camping because it helps them appreciate things they take for granted.  At the top of my list are things like window screens, refrigerated foods, a breeze in summer, and a non-breeze in winter.

Another top contender is the gravel road.  You have to experience a bit of rain on an unimproved dirt road before you learn how frustrating it can be.  In the 1800s our ancestors probably experienced several months of muddy roads that were impassable to wheeled vehicles (wagons).  They probably thought mid-winter was a relief because at least the roads were passable.

Recently I have witnessed a truly impressive amount of road improvement.  

There is more to improving a gravel road than just smacking down some new gravel.  You need drainage ditches on both sides of the road a few feet lower than the road surface; every creek or swale needs a culvert, that is, a drainage pipe underneath the roadway; the surface needs to crowned or banked; the gravel should have sharp corners and be mixed with 'fines' (dirt or sand).

I was biking along on these road with my jaw dropped down to the ground!

As it turns out, this area (in eastern Oregon) has an annual gravel-bicycle event.  But they had to postpone it because of all the road improvement.

By luck I found the gravel pit on an exploratory mountain bike ride where huge trucks, called belly-dumpers, made an hour-and-a-half loop to pick up a new load.  The payloader guy was bored waiting for them so he was willing to talk to me for 45 minutes!  He was probably amazed that somebody in the general public was so interested in the art of building gravel roads.

Furthermore I appreciate that the Northwest takes its gravel roads more seriously than the desert Southwest.


Barb in FL said…
Brought back a childhood memory of staying in a North Wisconsin resort. My brother and I took a walk in the woods & made it to the edges where a road grater had passed and left a pile down the middle of the road. We proceeded to take a bunch of branches/sticks and "plant" them in the pile for a few feet. Don't know what we were thinking. Dumb kids. Bet the guy running the grater wasn't happy.