I thought I was finished with the road paving project but I’ll have to mention those annoying little leftovers after the road was paved. The dump truck came, the crew marched along picking up the road markers, the construction signs and the bright turquoise portable toilet. Done, I thought, but no. A hike down the paved stretch turns up all sort of things they missed. The grass yielded up a abandoned spray can full of bright orange paint. Orange bags of sand for anchoring signs lie on the road verges. The stakes first driven in by the roadside with mysterious numbers written on them remain at their intervals, some now suffering from the snowplow.
Among the odder items is a cardboard box containing asphalt that turned rock hard as soon as it cooled. This box, like a gift, has been left by my fence with its inflexible contents, so far impervious to rain and snow and wind. Perhaps, in time, the cardboard will crumble away, leaving me with a tidy black square to decorate my roadside and puzzle passersby. The fresh gravel shoulders laid down so neatly are being scattered in broad sprays by the snowplow. Perhaps that’s how road shoulders get smoothed out. Some leftovers are big misses, such as entire constructions signs complete with metal frames and legs. Perhaps they’ll wonder why their sign count is short back at the storage sheds.
This is just a little chuckle about a certain lack of tidiness generated by the paving project. The worst leftover, of course, is the roughly patched paving mistakes we have to bump over until they come, as they say, to put in another surface layer in the spring.
All of this finally prompted a brief internet inquiry into how hot mix asphalt is created. Very carefully, I take it. The mix is 95% gravel, rock, recycled old paving, etc. and 5% crude oil byproduct. It must mixed and heated to exactly the right temperature at the plant to move easily through the paving machines and flatten smoothly under the rollers before it hardens. The temperature has to be correctly calculated according to the season and the distance the trucks have to travel to the paving site. Too cold or too hot and there will be too little or too much air in the pavement, causing the pavement to buckle or break. Nor can there be any water in the mix. Imagine miscalculating time and having the stuff harden in the truck.
I had no idea paving was such a tricky process. Now I truly sympathize with whoever cleans out the paving machines at the end of the day and can certainly forgive a little untidiness as the crews thankfully go home from a job a lot more complicated than it looks.