Loose Chippings


Michigan license plate from 2008

Image via Wikipedia

It’s that fun time of year again – when road commissioners everywhere decide to allow ordinary citizens to participate in road repairs. Yes, paying taxes and license plate fees is just not enough – we really need to get our hands dirty and get in there to help, to appreciate the complexity of keeping our roads in good repair. No longer just bystanders, we’re allowed to experience the intricacies of road maintenance first hand. Great!

And so, we enter the season of loose chippings. Probably most of you know how this works. The road repair crews go around with a big tanker truck of tar, and a big truck of tiny loose stones, aka chippings, usually to rural and less-traveled roads, but in my area recently, I’ve even seen this done on main city streets. They spread the hot tar on the roads, then spread a layer of chippings on top. Then, here’s where ordinary citizens are asked to chip in. We drive our cars on this tarry, stony mess, and use our wheel power to drive the chippings into the tar, until they become a pavement of sorts. Sometimes this takes awhile if it’s a less traveled road. You never want to be the first person down the road right after the chippings are applied, and you definitely don’t want to be biking down said mess. The stones whip up into your wheel wells and the tar spatters onto the lower part of your chassis. Other cars throw the stones up onto your cars, making a generalized mess and sometimes breaking or chipping windshields. Yes, it’s an exciting time for everyone – the road commissioner gets to save money by buying tar and stones, instead of actual black top, and we citizens get to do our civic duty to keep our roads going. And thanks to the crummy economy, chances are we’ll get even more opportunities to do our part to keep the roads repaired. What’s not to like about this?

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8 thoughts on “Loose Chippings

  1. This reminded me when I was growing up and the trucks would come to our little neighborhood and lay down gravel and then a thick layer of asphalt. It smelled so bad, the fumes always gave me a headache and we couldn’t ride our bikes on the road for awhile. I’m still waiting to see some road work done on our terrible pot holes in Virginia Beach. This is what we pay taxes for?

    • Do they not do the loose chipping repairs there? Ours always start around early to mid July. You get your bike out, start out and halfway through your ride take a turn onto a road that was previously okay and find loose stone. Around here everyone calls it “chip and seal” but when we were in Ireland they called it “loose chippings” which I think has so much more charm. If they haven’t fixed your pot holes by now, maybe they’re not going to. It seems like this is the time of year to do it.

      • I’ve just never heard it called that, but maybe they call it the same thing. I haven’t seen them doing repairs right now, but I think it’s too hot.

    • Yes, I had the misfortune of biking on one right after it was done – what a mess, plus terrifying that you might slip and fall, and if you do, you’ll be covered with tar and stones. Some kind of a strange purgatory of road repair.

    • If you’ve never lived where they put loose chippings on the road, you’re lucky. Must be more of a rural, middle-America thing. Of course ours are blocked off during rush hour too, while they’re putting the loose stone on.

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