I grew up on a dirt road, but for some reason that I cannot recall, our driveway was paved. This was a rather odd situation . . . coming home, we left the paved road to travel on dirt before returning to asphalt. I remember my mother complaining about our little dirt road; dad would wash her car in our driveway, but the short trip out our road to the main road involved dodging deep mud puddles when it rained or dry and dusty spots when it hadn’t rained. Either way, mom’s newly washed car frequently became dirty again before she was ever able to drive it more than a quarter mile.
When my husband and I built our house, we, too, selected a nice dirt road as our postal address. My husband, ever practical, was quick to point out all the advantages of a dirt road including less through-traffic and lower speed limits. I was 25 and a newlywed; I didn’t care one whit about the road as long as we had a place to lay our heads at night. But, times change, and after a few years, the state DOT decided to tar and gravel our road, much to my husband’s chagrin. He did NOT want a paved road for numerous reasons; one of these reasons, inexplicably, was that bike wrecks hurt more on asphalt than on dirt. This may be true, but how he knew it was true was beyond me, for he also grew up on a dirt road. Regardless, once the state road was paved, I mentioned, rather casually, that perhaps we should pave our driveway. You would have thought I had suggested dumping nuclear waste into our water supply.
I guess because asphalt is all around us, I forget sometimes just how earth-un-friendly it is. Forget all the science talk about toxins and carcinogens . . . you can google search all that if you want to . . . but my husband’s common sense explanation is good enough for me.
For one, asphalt prevents water from draining the way it is intended to drain . . . by seeping into the earth. Secondly, if you pour concrete or asphalt anywhere near your home, you are supposed to pre-treat the area with an insecticide to prevent termites from taking up residency. My husband has this theory about insecticides and it goes something like this: if it will kill a living thing, even a bug, then it can’t be too good for us either. Third of all, since asphalt is black, it absorbs sunlight and heat and can actually raise the surrounding air temperature (plus burn your dog’s paws). Finally, asphalt will NOT last forever and must be treated with even more chemicals to prolong its life. The longer a person wants the asphalt to last, the more chemicals the person will have to use to preserve it. Add to all these the most convincing reason of all: (hypothetically) wrecking a bicycle on asphalt hurts like the dickens.
So, for the nearly twenty years we have lived here, our driveway has been dirt with an occasional smattering of gravel. It’s a loooooong driveway, too. When it rains, I have several mud puddles to avoid. Several. When we are in a dry spell, I leave a dust storm in my wake as I leave for work in the morning. I have completely given up washing my car; I don’t see the point in it anymore. But the worst thing about all of this is what a dirt driveway does to our house. There is no way to keep the garage floor dirt-free. It’s impossible. Even if I don’t park in the garage, the dust-storm billows about and settles there. Then, when we walk through the garage to get into the house, our shoes get either dusty or muddy. And, when we come into the house . . . you guessed it! . . . all that dirt is tracked inside. I have to sweep our entryway almost every single day of my life. I take my shoes off right inside the door, and I have successfully trained my daughter to do the same, but my husband cannot be broken. He traipses in with his dirty shoes as if I actually enjoy sweeping. He’ll come in one door, walk all the way through the house, and go right back outside through another door, leaving dusty size 13 footprints all along his path. He either does not hear my frustrated sighs or he has become brilliantly successful at pretending he doesn’t hear them. And NOT paving the driveway was HIS idea!!!
Of all the many ways we try to respect this earth, not having a paved driveway is one of the most difficult. I have to remind myself about once a month why it is better this way. And on days like today, after a sleet/snow mix has melted and everywhere I look all I see is mud, mud, mud, I have to do even more than remind myself. I have to share my frustrations and admit that sometimes being conscientiously green is not easy. Sometimes, it’s just a great big muddy mess.
Copyright 2014 Lori Creed