Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 14, 2013

Robins, insects, time warps and potholes are all welcomed signs of spring


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — We’re now in that transition between winter and spring. Temperatures are gradually warming, and there are fewer episodes of winter weather. We’re not out of Old Man Winter’s reach just yet, but there is cause for hope. Unfortunately, it’s also time for a new round of “Dodge the Pothole.”

I noticed fresh potholes while driving to work a couple of weeks ago. They seem to crop up on Princeton Avenue near the intersection with U.S. Route 460. Personally, I think the water that keeps pooling there has something to do with it. As I left 460 and headed down the hill toward Bluefield, I suddenly spotted dark patches. Bone-rattling experience told me what to expect. Fortunately, nobody was coming the other direction and I was able to straddle the potholes. They weren’t very deep, but they were wide enough to worry me.

The experience put me into pothole mode. I quickly started spotting potholes on my familiar routes, so I subconsciously know when to slow down and when to go on extra alert. Sometimes other traffic keeps me from dodging, thus I have to slow down and avoid hitting a pothole at high speed. Worse, I have to watch for other drivers who focus too much on potholes and not enough on the cars coming in the opposite lane.

Potholes are the scars our roads and highways get after a winter of salt and a freezing/warming cycle. Water gets under the pavement and gradually erodes the asphalt, opening up a cavity that eventually breaks under a vehicle’s weight. Water gets into cracks, expands as it freezes and widens the cracks. Add the corrosive nature of the salt used to melt ice and snow, and you have a punishing workout for the roadways.

My Dad was a design engineer for the state Department of Highways, and he told me that dealing with winter damage was something that had to be handled every year. In district offices, plans are being made to deal with the latest pothole crop.

One temporary fix is a cold patch made of asphalt that doesn’t have to be heated. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last indefinitely. Asphalt plants usually open in April because asphalt can’t be used during the cold winter months. The weather usually makes paving almost impossible. When spring finally arrives, expect to see road crews out patching potholes.

I guess that potholes are better than all of the other hazards winter throws at you. I’m tired of slick roads and wondering if I’m going to get home alive. I’m tired of washing road salt off my car and playing with my thermostat. I’m tired of writing winter weather stories every time the forecasters say we might have more snow on the way, and I’m definitely tired of wondering whether my electricity might go out.

There are, thank goodness, other signs of spring besides potholes. My Mom saw a robin last week.

She always says that she doesn’t stop fretting about winter weather until she sees her first robin. I haven’t seen a robin, but I have see flowers starting to poke out of the ground and bugs starting to fly around. I’m sure I’ve even seen a spider crawling on my porch. Assorted insects and their cousins are testing the proverbial waters, I guess, to see if spring is literally in the air.

Oh, I just remembered another sign of spring. That ritual where you spring forward an hour. In other words, daylight savings time. It caused me more than a bit of confusion Tuesday morning. I visited my parents last week and dutifully moved clocks and my watch ahead an hour before I went to sleep Saturday night. I came home Monday morning and noted that my computer and various other electronic time pieces had adjusted themselves.

I woke up at my usual time Tuesday morning, went to my computer to check the morning mail and news, and wondered about breakfast. A full half hour went by before I realized something was wrong. Why was it almost 8:30 in the morning? What happened?

I was in the fuzzy stage before my morning coffee. Another 10 minutes went by before I realized that I had forgotten to advance my bedroom clock. Only one clock had needed my attention, and it had completely slipped my mind. Gathering my wits, I managed to get dressed and on the road.

Years ago when I was a kid, I was outraged when daylight savings time made me miss my favorite TV show. Now the practice was coming back to bite me again. Despite the time warp, I got to work ahead of schedule.

Like everyone else, I’ll be glad when we are officially into spring and past pothole season and road salt. Those last piles of shoveled snow will melt away and winter will be just another memory. We will be able to open windows and let in some fresh air and maybe a few bugs too. Yes, heat will arrive and air conditions will fire up, but at least it won’t be cold outside.

Greg Jordan is the Daily Telegraph’s senior report. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com.