Several years ago, I made a frightening discovery while on a run near my parents’ home. Fortunately, no one had been robbed, nor was there any need to call the coroner. This was far worse. Two of the roads that I took to get to their home from the highway were in terrible shape, broken and crumbling from years of neglect. This was not the discovery, but a harsh reminder of the real tragedy: these two roads had never been repaved since I was born. Without getting into too much gruesome detail, I will just say that meant a very long time indeed: decades (several).
It was always harsh to drive over these roads. The winter cycling above and below the freezing point that makes our soil so easy to turn in the spring also wreaks havoc with pavement. Potholes and frost heaves are the result and, in fact, the norm for most of the Northeastern U.S. In Lancaster County, we also have the moving chicane known as the horse & buggy. Outsiders view them as simple and majestic, but they don’t take into account the havoc the carbide embedded in the steel shoes does to the road surface. The middle of each lane is often marred by deep troughs running the length of the road. It is only when riding motorcycle, bicycling, or in this case, running, that it becomes shockingly evident just how bad these roads were getting; you tend to notice these things when you’re more vulnerable to the elements. The potholes were deep enough to extend through the pavement and past the sub-base of coarse stones into the dirt beneath. While not wide enough to swallow a car tire, they could do some serious damage to a bicycle wheel. Or engulf a whole running shoe, and perhaps a whole runner. As I continued to run my course, fearing for my ankles, I pondered just how bad the Highway Department would allow these roads to deteriorate before slothing to action in an effort to repair them. Read more