The Scourge of Texas

It covers miles of Texas in its bumpy, noisy, low efficiency mess.

What is it? Chipseal.

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I spend a lot of time on the roads around our fair state and few things offer the full-on assault of my senses like chipseal. If you’ve driven just about anywhere, you’ve been fortunate enough to experience the joys of the stuff.

The pro of chipseal: it’s cheap. Holding to the truth that you get what you pay for, it shouldn’t surprise you that it’s the only check in the pro column.

The cons of chipseal are many and I’ve taken the liberty of biasedly discussing a few of them for your convenience. You’re welcome.

  1. Noise – driving on it establishes a road noise akin to an operatic bass humming slightly off tune until you turn. The plus side is you can get it on pitch to the song on the radio by speeding up or slowing down.
  2. Longevity – it lasts about as long as a Tag Heuer acquired at First Monday Trade Days.
  3. Loose gravel – this con actually does keep several window and paint repair shops in business and can help with that highly sought hockey player smile for us cyclists.
  4. Loss of control – with varying terrain and oddly placed quick-sand gravel pits laying in wait, automobiles, motorcycles and bicycles can lose control quickly. Not good when travelling the back roads keeping the hum in tune with the music.
  5. Foreign materials – all the gravel, tar, and asphalt that continues to fall off of the resurfaced road falls into drainage systems. This gives us a creature akin to a TMNT mixed with an armadillo.
  6. Bleeding – yes of real blood if you ever have a bike crash or even walk on it, but this is a term used for the over application of emulsion. The result is something as slippery as a baby’s asphalt and bubbling hot in the summer (not too dissimilar to said babysitting for 4 hours in a soiled natural diaper). Tires, both autos and bicycles pick up that asphalt emulsion and to get it removed from paint or skin requires a slathering of diesel fuel.
  7. Rolling resistance – due to the variable surface of chipseal, the rolling resistance is higher than that of asphalt or concrete surfaces. For autos, that means lower mpg (more money to the oil industry…hey wait a second…) and for cyclists it means expending more energy for a lower speed. Along with the increased rolling resistance is the horribly bumpy surface for riding. It’s so rough that we’re kinda happy we lost a couple of teeth from the loose gravel.

My favorite use of the term “scourge” comes from a movie. Know which?
“You call yourself the scourge of New Mexico, but by God, I am New Mexico, and you are dead.”

Hint: it’s not Tombstone, which is one of my favorite movies to watch.

Pedal hard. (Even harder if you ever encounter chipseal.)