On The Road To Carlsbad

Route 285 is a straight shot.  You head directly due south, from the Santa Fe area through the ranch lands of New Mexico down to Carlsbad.  The road is pretty much straight as a die, as if it were drawn with a straight-edged ruler, like the border line of a state shown on a map.

At Clines Corners you stop, because everyone who drives Route 285 has to stop at Clines Corners.  It’s a way to relive the America of the Route 66 era.  You eat a hearty breakfast — the Truck Drivers’ Special is highly recommended– and you wander a bit through the massive “gift shop” area, marveling at who might actually collect thimbles representing each of the 50 states or Zippo lighters with NASCAR markings, or who might make an impulse purchase of “trophy husband” boxer shorts while at a roadside store in the middle of New Mexico.

And then it’s back on the road, motoring over the mostly dry and barren countryside, blessedly free of billboards but with not much else to see, either.  Scrubby trees, small, dessicated bushes, and spiny looking plants roll by outside the car window, with an occasional herd of cattle to break things up a bit.  Your eyes feast on every shade of brown you can imagine, and after a while the world becomes focused solely on the landscape and the road.  You wonder if that UFO crashed in Roswell because the aliens manning the craft were suffering from highway hypnosis.

At a roadside rest stop, there is a commissioned piece of public art that prominently features road signs — as well as a towering lance that is easily the tallest object on the horizon.  Why not?  On Route 285, it’s all about the road, the road, the road.

Chuckhole Season

Today the temperature touched the 70s. But it’s not spring, not really. No, in the Midwest it’s chuckhole season.

IMG_1885There are potholes, and then there are chuckholes. Potholes are no big deal. They’re about the size of a small saucepan — hence the name — and typically form at the juncture of different pieces of pavement. You can dodge them easily.

Chuckholes are a different story. They’re named after a guy named Chuck, and he was a big dude. You can’t avoid them because they occupy entire lanes of traffic. They’re caused by inattentive road crews or shopping center owners who ignore the repeated freezing and thawing process that causes the surface asphalt to crumble and produces holes that reach all the way down to the lowest level of the road grade. They’re large enough to swallow small children or smart cars, and if you hit one you’re likely to break an axle, lose a muffler, or bust a tooth when your wheel dips into the hole, rams against the ever-growing size of the hole, and shakes you to your very core.

Man the barricades and steel yourself for months of bone-jarring fun! We’ll be experiencing chuckhole season until summer, when the orange-vesting wearing guys finally stop leaning on their shovels and get around to patching them.