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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Concrete Roads

Driving on old Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, the old main two lane east-west artery from Point San Quentin to Point Reyes through Marin County, California I was struck by the fact that as a child, many of our weekend "rides" were taken over concrete roads. I clearly remember the pock-eta pock-eta sound and vibration that filtered through the car, and announced our progress through the landscape. The steady rhythm was both annoying and comforting, and I wonder if today's children experience this cause and effect experience. As a child I found the noise and vibration to be annoying when I was trying to read or draw in the back seat, but very comforting when I wanted to take a short nap. During my college years the annoying repeating sound and feel kept me awake on late night drives.

Most of the roads I've traveled lately only have small sections of exposed concrete ribbon with exposed expansion joints still remaining. Where a thin layer of asphalt or wet tar joint compound has been added, the joints still telegraph from underneath the layer, as shown in the photograph of an abandoned section of old Route 66 in Arizona above. In many cases, thick black asphalt has been poured over the concrete and the joints are eliminated. Somehow as our highways became interstates and freeways, something has been lost - a rhythmic reminder that we were actually making progress through time, space, and distance.

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