Crumbling Infrastructure, Act of God

Whatever the cause, the effect was a night spent at the Hotel Floyd–not a terrible tragedy in itself (I am drinking my first two of the four-cup coffee maker’s free trade roast from the Parkway Room just now).

Briefly: yesterday morning heading off for work, the road from the house to the hardtop provided the most harrowing driving experience ever in a Subaru. I think my utter lack of steering control came from the fact that it was zero degrees and the tires hard as rocks and  packed with snow from Ann’s trip home the day before, and the snow was so deep there was no contact with anything but snow, so the studs were useless.

Coming home from work last night, I chose NOT to return the way I’d come out until the road was scraped. Instead, I was thinking to park at Havens Chapel and walk in 1.7 miles from the high side, but when I got to that point at 5:45, the big road grader was sitting there where Goose Creek plunges down into the “gorge”. He’d broken a tire chain, but was headed down soon as it was replaced–probably 10 minutes max, he said.

I’d sit there in the car and wait for him to traverse the 1.7 miles to the house, call home to confirm he’d passed, give him another 15 minutes to reach the other end, and I’d come home the way I’d gone out that morning, less a foot of snow.

So I waited. And I waited–far longer than it should have taken for him to make it to the house. After almost 45 minutes (with me sitting in the failing light, very hungry and thirsty and tired, pretending to read) A VDOT truck descended down the luge run that is our road  (apparently to address some grader malfunction–lord, I hoped he wasn’t under that Volvo monstrosity upsidedown in the creek).

I waited some more. No, the road machinery hadn’t gone by the house. So I couldn’t go down the high side because I couldn’t get past the grader and that way is really not safe, even after being “improved” by the snow-pusher. I couldn’t come in the other way because it was no better than when I went out that morning and I had no way of know if the VDOT machine would be rehabed in an hour, or two or never.

So I knew I could get to town, get a meal and a place to stay. So here I am. Soon, I’ll head over to Blue Ridge Restaurant for a high-protein breakfast. And about getting home, well, we’ll slip and slide across that bridge when the time comes. Ann, meanwhile, has the problem of knowing when or if to risk leaving this morning to drive to Pulaski.

And when March arrived, I thought we were outta the woods.

So this seems in some way a sign of things to come. Two of the three road graders at the VDOT office that normally clears out road promptly were broken; the third broke between a tired man and home. That public service department has nothing to work with. I’d usually expect the cinder or salt truck behind the snow plow. Not any more. That’s just the way the infrastructure crumbles I guess.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. We’re no better off down here when it snows, but that’s small comfort to you, I’m sure. If I see Punxatawney Phil, I’ll wring his neck!

  2. I’m glad I’m in warm Colorado! Got all the windows open, 2 loads of laundry on the line and my huband and I are going for a bike ride this afternoon.


  3. But – – you do live out in no-where-land. Gotta take the good with the bad on Goose Creek Rd.. And the snow was really pretty. My Mom grew up down in there many, many, many years ago. Don’t worry, the mud will be soon to follow and you can “slide” all the way home next. ha ha.

    You have some BEAUTIFUL pictures here!

  4. I know those unexpected hard times are not usually fun, but a night at Hotel Floyd and a meal at the Blueridge sounds like a vacation to me!

  5. Speaking of great meals, my wife and I had a wonderful dinner at Odd Fellas Cantina this evening. I highly recommend it.