The Evil Chip-Sealers

It’s Saturday, and I’m supposed to be cleaning floors and bathrooms, but I would much rather sit at the computer and complain about The Evil Chip-Sealers.

In case you are fortunate enough to live in an area where chip-seal is unheard of, let me explain what it is. “Chip-seal” is a road surface made by spreading on a layer of tar followed by a layer of gravel. Everyone hates it. Traffic is supposed to squish the loose gravel down into the tar, a process which takes three or four months of hot weather. Bicycles might as well stay completely off it until it is duly squished. If a road is chip-sealed in winter, most of the gravel just keeps getting kicked up so it dings the paint on people’s cars, or thrown off into the weeds alongside the pavement.

Depending on the size and shape of the gravel, chip-seal can end up making a road anything from a temporary nuisance (small, flattish bits of gravel) to permanently unsuitable for bicycles (larger, pointy gravel which never, ever, ever gets squished enough to form even a moderately smooth surface).

When we moved to our current home, the Farm-to-Market road near our neighborhood was pretty beat-up, full of Epic Potholes of Ellis County. A few years ago this road got resurfaced: a beautiful, glass-smooth, clean, black asphalt road that was a joy to drive over. I repeat, it was one beautiful road. One year later, I noticed telltale piles of gravel had been dumped here and there on the right-of-way. I believe my exact words at that point were “NOOOOOOOoooooo!!” But there was nothing anyone could do. The asphalt road was in almost mint condition, but the Evil Chip-Sealers were going to resurface it anyway.

Soon it was all over (such a shoddy technique at least doesn’t take very long). Instead of gliding quietly over the road, car tires now made a loud rumbling sound as pointy gravel chewed off bits of rubber. You could feel your fuel efficiency (or pedaling efficiency, if cycling) plummet. Within a couple of weeks, traffic had skidded all the gravel in the 90-degree turns (typical of Farm Roads) right off the pavement and, I suppose, into the grass. This left bare patches of hardened tar which become treacherously slick when wet. For bicycles, hardened tar is treacherously slick even when it is dry. And, of course, it is most likely to be left ungraveled in corners, which is precisely where a slick surface is most dangerous. The annoying thing is that someone came along and RE-re-surfaced the corners with decent asphalt pavement, which must have cost additional bucks on top of the complete waste of Chip-Sealing money.

You may ask, if this surface is so obnoxious, why are the Evil Chip-Sealers even allowed to operate in our area? The only explanation my family can think of is that the Evil Chip-Seal Corporation must be owned by the brother-in-law of someone in our city or county government. We have yet to unravel this.

Thanks for reading!
Tailwinds (you’ll need them if you ride on Chip-seal),
Jan

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