Gravel roads

Driving home from work today I noticed I can feel the gravel on the roads again.

It’s been a very, very long winter here in southwestern Ontario and our roads have been ice and snow packed for many months. Now, with the roads finally clear and dried up after the thaw, I had a flashback to those wonderful summer months of driving down the “side roads,” as we call them.

It’s country living at its best, is it not? That slow, meandering journey. One hand on the wheel, the other outstretched to the wind out the open window. The feeling of the wind tossing your hair around and the hot sun on your legs. That “get there when you get there” attitude….

What is it about gravel roads, exactly? I love to drive on them. The feel of the road’s texture and the vibration that makes its way through the car and into my hands on the wheel….

And the sound….I love the sound of them. The gravely, crunch of the stones under my tires, mixed with the pings of stray pieces bouncing off the metal of the car. It’s music to my ears, and strangely soothing. It says “We’re almost there!” The cottage road, the summer house, the beach….

It’s often a solitary journey on these roads. Long stretches flow in front and behind you with the occasional farming implement appearing as your sole, fleeting companion. These quiet trips give me time to think.

Maybe this love harkens back to my childhood, when my mother would take the side roads to our destinations. She preferred the zig zagging, bumpy journey to the high speed smoothness of the highways. Sometimes she would stop the car, right in the middle of the road, and turn all the windows down demanding that I listen. “To what?” I’d ask. “The silence” she would say, exasperated. Or, “the bear in the woods, don’t you hear it?” when she figured out that I’d be quiet and actually listen for once.

And I would listen. It was on those occasions that I learned that silence is not really silent but has many voices. The wind in the trees, the cracking of wood, the twittering of birds….

Gravel roads are great.

Unless, you really need to get somewhere fast, of course. Or, you have a freshly washed car that is instantly unrecognizable. That sucks. Or, when you’re the one that has to walk up to that car that looks like a giant dusty beast in the grocery store parking lot, and the guy helping you unpack your groceries doesn’t want to touch it. Or that occasional farm implement I mentioned? Well, it’s actually a turbo-combine the size of my first home and you can’t get around him and the dust he’s kicking up makes you have to close all the windows, and it gets hot, so then you have to turn on the air conditioner, which you then remember doesn’t work. And remember those stray pieces of gravel I mentioned? Well, one misses your car and hits your windshield, again, and you’re starting to know the guy at Apple Auto Glass by his first name you’ve been there so many times.

Or how about when said piece misses your car and your windshield and gets caught in the inner workings of your tire, and it sounds like grating metal mixed with screaming-dying-animal whenever you drive anywhere, until you get into Canadian Tire to have it removed, again, by the guy there who you now also know by name.

But, when all is said and done, I’ll take a gravel road any day. It speaks to me. It says slow down, listen, and feel.

And in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives these days, that is just what we need to hear. And with that in mind, I’m going to play a song that I listen to when I need to remember the art of taking my time. Have a listen: Take Your Time

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