Keeping it between the ditches

Published 10:20 am Wednesday, July 6, 2022

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As I left a recent meeting to drive back home, someone hollered, “Keep it between the ditches!” If only that were all there is to driving on our modern roads . . .

In my experience, it is not enough to try to steer between the yellow double stripes in the center and the relatively new white line along the right edge of the road. I must watch out for the ever–present potholes that seem to form everywhere!

It was said of the late Willard Jolley that he was the only highway workman in Polk County who could patch a pothole such that it remained true to the road surface, rather than pack down into a pronounced depression that was little better than the hole it replaced.

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My 2006 Saturn has a tight suspension that provides a mild jolt at any such irregularity in the road surface. I therefore try to avoid them! Even so, I enjoy the handling qualities of the car as being reminiscent of the MG sports cars I have owned.

I don’t have any idea what Willard did that other road repair crews do not do. But has anyone noticed what happened on the newly paved section of US176 just south of the railroad tracks in Tryon? There were long rows of patched potholes in the right lane between IGA and town that were simply paved over recently. We enjoyed the new smooth pavement for a time—until those potholes telegraphed through the new pavement, such that now the new pavement is the same as the old!

I remember that Hwy 108 was widened when I was still attending Tryon School and walking home from my after-school job at the Bulletin office. A road scraper was fitted with a special grouping of “teeth” which cut a swath about a foot deep alongside the pavement. Then rocks and dirt were added and compacted before paving a new, wider traffic lane.

They apparently did a good job back in the 40s, because there has never been a telltale fracture in the blacktop above the edge of the old road!  That is the kind of repair that should have been made to the line of potholes in 176. My guess is that there is a pipe buried under 176 and the fill dirt just gets endlessly compacted by traffic. 

 Have you noticed that the Parkways, which do not allow heavy truck traffic, do not have potholes? There has been talk of building a separate Interstate system for trucks only; I think it would be cheaper to build it for cars only! The present Interstates are built more like airplane runways in order to support the heavy trucks.

As this is being written (late evening of July 3rd), I am hearing a few pops of what must be early celebrants’ fireworks. I am thinking  of my brother Bill, who died this day in 1990. I am looking forward to attending some of the Columbus Fabulous 4th tomorrow, rain or shine. My late nephew Steve came here every year from San Diego; he was born and raised in California, but he was a more avid Carolina basketball fan than most natives.

He began his visit with us in Hampton, Virginia, then went down to Durham to visit the Goodwins there, then to Chapel Hill to obtain the newest Carolina basketball stuff. On one such visit he strolled into Dean Smith’s office (entry not barred by absent secretary) and had a fine one-on-one session with him.

The climax for Steve, though, was the Fabulous 4th celebration in Columbus. Here he met his Dad’s fans and shared Bill’s sports exploits with his teammates still living then. Steve collapsed and died suddenly on a basketball court at age 28. So you won’t see a big guy with a Carolina cap and big grin, but even if you were not born a Tar Heel either, you can be one for a day and thus truly enjoy the Fabulous 4th. It was Steve’s birthday. 

 Garland would like to hear from you at 828-859-7041 or