Sunday, June 08, 2014

Traffic Signs

About halfway between the communties of Adabelle and Excelsior is a creek bridge.  On the Bulloch County side of the bridge, the county-maintained highway is known as Adabelle Road; on the Candler County side it is called Dutch Ford Road, though most of us who live nearby refer to it simply as the road to Excelsior.  The two-laned highway, called by whatever nomenclature one chooses, has long been an obstacle course of potholes, wash-out and loose gravel. The fact that the population of deer in the neighborhood vastly outnumbers the population of people adds to the overall perilous nature of travel on this short stretch of pavement. Its condition has been so bad for so long that there is, standing along the right-of way a tall metal flower, a diamond-shaped yellow highway sign, pockmarked from flying gravel, that reads “Rough Road.” As though it were not obvious.

Over the past few months in a rare act of county cooperation or, perhaps, serendipitious synchronicity, both ends of the road have been resurfaced. It is now possible to traverse from U.S. Highway 301, where Adabelle Road begins, well into Candler County on macadam smooth as ganache. A trip that used to strain the best shocks and struts, that could easily cause a blow-out, that left drivers in need of chiropractic adjustment now feels like a ride down a waterslide. The finished product more than makes up for the brief delay experienced on the days on which construction closed one lane or the other leaving tractors and pick up trucks and minivans transporting farm laborers backed up around curves trimmed with narrow aprons and deep ditches.

The resurfacing has made the drive so pleasant that I can now pay attention to the environs. The deck that has been added to the back of the house in Excelsior. How many legs there are to the center pivot irrigation system in the field to the right.  What is blooming in the yards of the farm houses along the road.

This morning I noticed something else:  the sign is still there. The rough road sign. 

With all the scraping and regrading and filling of holes, all the tarring and rolling of the new surface, all the careful and tedious repainting of yellow lines down the middle, nobody thought to take down the sign.  What was once a helpful warning to those who had not traveled that way before, what was once a gentle reminder to those who traveled that way often, what was once a useful part of the landscape has become a relic. 

Relics can be useful. They can teach us things about a time or place that we did not know. They can offer insight into the common characteristics between peoples of different times and places. They can remind us of progress made and progress still needed.

But a relic not recognized as such can be dangerous. We can spend so much time learning from the past that there is no time left to enjoy the present.  We can hold on to reminders so tightly as to be unable to grasp anything else. And if an official DOT road sign tells you that the road ahead is rough, chances are that you will believe  it and stiffen your entire body in preparation for being bounced and jostled and jerked.  It is likely that you will clutch your steering wheel tightly and set your face like flint against non-existent impediments.

I have no intention of violating Code Section 32-6-50 and taking down the sign between Adabelle and Excelsior, but I’m thinking of taking down a few others.  The ones that keep me stuck in the traffic jam of destructive thoughts.  The ones that force me onto detours that take me much too far from the path of my dreams.  The ones that say “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” and “No U Turn.”   Especially the ones that proclaim “Rough Road” when all that lies ahead is possibility.  

Copyright 2014

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