Where did my street go?


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



I worked an entire career (actually two careers) to qualify for retirement. Now, I have to admit, I love being retired. I generally stay up late watching the news, then a little bit of one of the late shows.

Most of my mornings are relaxed enough that I can get a complete eight hours of sleep before rolling out of bed. That allows me to get up and enjoy a leisurely morning with a light breakfast and the Wilmington News Journal to start my day.

About 5:30 every morning, the birds chirp me awake. Usually, it’s not enough to keep me awake, but (like most men) I wake up enough to get up and go – then go back to bed. I love it, because the last few hours of sleep are almost always the best.

Last Monday, the chirping of the birds gave way to the sounds of heavy equipment grunting and groaning just outside the bedroom window. It sounded like a 10-ton mechanical behemoth was chewing up the pavement on Washington Avenue.

In the growing daylight, I looked out the window and saw that an amazing piece of equipment really was chewing up our street and spitting the worn-out, tired old asphalt into the back of a huge dump truck.

There was nothing subtle about that sound. It pushed me right out of bed. I threw on some comfy clothes, grabbed a cup of coffee and a yogurt and went out to the front porch for a better view. It was amazing.

One of the over-sized dump trucks had a huge yellow sign on the tailgate that said, “DO NOT PUSH.” My imagination went to work, and visualized a bully saying, “Do not push me!”

I cannot imagine anyone trying to push that truck around. The only meaner looking beast on the street was the long one that chewed up the blacktop and immediately spit it out.

On the side of the beast was the name Wirtgen. One man sat at the controls and kept it feeding on asphalt and spitting out rock. When one dump truck was filled, he would toot his horn a few times. The truck he was filling would immediately pull away and another would take its place.

It was like heavy-construction-equipment choreography. Everyone knew what their next move was supposed to be and everyone moved and drove in a well synchronized dance.

In large print on the side of the Wirtgen asphalt-eater was written, “Stand for the Flag and Kneel for the Cross.” I loved the sentiment, but didn’t expect to see it on equipment that was chewing up my street.

Please understand … I am not complaining about all the roadwork on Washington Avenue — it is all well overdue. This is the first time we have had full-depth replacement of the roadway since we moved in over 30-years ago. If the road was not being replaced this year, just a few more years of freezing and thawing would have turned the entire roadway into gravel.

When we passed the citywide tax levy a few years ago, we were told that a large portion of the money would be used to repair our roads. Good; now it is being done.

It will probably take another week of more to get everything finished back here in McDermont Village, but I bet the next several mornings will be a lot quieter than last Monday. Hopefully, the robins and the wrens will not have to compete with the sound of the Wirtgen.

As I sat on the front porch last week enjoying a cool beverage and a cigar, one of the members of the road crew waved at me. I went down and offered them a drink of water and the use of our restroom, if needed. They were all fine, but he apologized for all the racket and mess they were making.

I told him that one of my Mom’s favorite sayings was, “You cannot make a tasty omelet without breaking a few eggs.” Waving my arm toward the noisy Wirtgen asphalt eater and the line of dump trucks waiting their turn to haul away the remnants of roadway, I said, “You guys are just breaking a lot of eggs. It’s going to be a lot better and will be totally worth it. Thanks.”

I got the impression that those workmen are not shown a lot of appreciation for the loud, dirty, noisy job they are doing. I was glad I thanked them.

If you see those workers on your street and if you get the chance, give them a thumbs up and a shout-out of appreciation. They deserve it.

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist