We had waited for years for the road to be resurfaced.
It happened this summer, and we were proud of the scenic road we traveled to Norfork or Mountain Home. Never had we been this happy about a road. No more pot holes!
It was a smooth, winding road. Quiet, too. Easy on the tires, easy on the vehicle, easy on the eyes. Lines were good, clear, bright.
We were thrilled.
Then one day a couple of weeks ago, my husband Jimmy came home from work, shell-shocked. He said, “They sprayed tar and put chat on Push Mountain Road! Why? They ruined our road, and I don’t know why. Not the entire road, but several miles of it. Makes no sense. No more lines, no more smoothness, no more safety.”
Jimmy, who is easy-going, blew a gasket! He couldn’t let it go. It was all about messing up a perfectly good road.
He kept talking. “The asphalt was already pressed. It’s a sealer itself. Why do this to one part of the road? I don’t understand.”
The next day, he stopped at the Arkansas Highway Department in Mountain Home and said, “You guys ruined our road. Why? Why would you do that?”
The woman at the desk rallied and quickly responded. “Oh yes, we’re sealing Push Mountain Road. But don’t you worry, we’ll sweep the chat several times.”
He looked at her cheerfulness, held his tongue, and left before he said too much.
Clearly, it’s okay with the Arkansas Highway Department, but not okay with us. My husband is angry. I’m disappointed.
Jimmy is like a dog with a bone. He keeps chewing on it. This is grief at work.
“I don’t understand,” he says, “unless it was a quick way to get rid of excess materials before a new fiscal year for the highway department. Not right if that’s what’s going on. Understandable, but not right.”
Would they do that? Well, they are part of the government, and politics is always alive and greedy.
Jimmy and I lost a wonderful road leading to the forest. He’s just being human—having thoughts and feelings. Me, too, but mine are quieter.
This is the road that goes into Sylamore Forest. It’s a winding road stretching from Highway 201 to Highway 14. It’s called Push Mountain Road or Highway 341. It’s a motorcycle road. Our stretch of the road may no longer be safe for cyclists.
Long ago, Jimmy had a Gold Wing. He cares about cyclists. He says riding a motorcycle is like riding a horse. It’s freedom.
I notice the listening trees along the road, the crows watching and flying in the area.
How do I tell you our hearts?
The road. It was music, sweet music. She was wisdom. She was a journey some people take and live most every day.
This is beginning to feel like a letter to the editor.
Whatever the Highway Department or anyone else hands out will come right back to them in another way. Natural order of things.
Push Mountain Road will remain our ride to the grocery store in Mountain Home, a trip to Matney Knob, Sheid Bridge, the Norfork Cafe, Calico Rock dentist, our church in Lone Rock.
It’s just sad what the Arkansas Highway Department did. We have not met one person who understands the thinking behind it. Guess it helps a little to write about it. It helps Jimmy to talk about it.
Jimmy, I’m sorry.
And today, I went to the Buford area. Highway 201 has a chunk of miles with the same treatment. Oil and chat combination, sometimes called chip and seal. It used to be 55 mph. Now it’s 15 mph.
A mystery, but I watch behaviors. They are believable.
We are in the middle of a grief process. Harder, when nothing makes sense and you feel like the truth is hiding in a dark corner somewhere.
NOTE: This is a write-up of feelings which led to research. Chip and seal, we have now learned, is supposedly like wax to a car. It is to protect the road. Understanding of the theory helps. In our case, the process is only in its beginning stages. The strangeness of only sealing a few miles on two separate roads is still puzzling, but we grieve changes and must live with many things we do not understand.
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State Highway 341 (also known as Push Mountain Road) in Baxter County, Arkansas. Photo by Pat Durmon, August 2019.