March 31st, 2003



I maintain a catalog of unpaved through roads in Essex County, MA. There aren't very many of them, and for a while I thought I had them all. Starting with a thorough list compiled from 1970s USGS maps, I've made a bunch of trips to verify roads, typically resulting in about a 10% return. The rest have been paved, gated, built on, plowed under, or allowed to deteriorate to hiking trails.

But I hadn't counted an another variable in the lifespan of an unpaved road, which is that although new roads are all paved, sometimes a disused paved road can deteriorate to the point where resurfacing it with gravel is more economical than repaving it. There aren't a lot of those kinds of roads, because it's generally even more economical to just shut the road entirely. But there are a few, and they account for nearly half the mileage of unpaved roads in my catalog.

Every time I go out scouting new roads for a rally there is a chance that I'll find a road like this. This weekend I found two, with a total length of almost two miles. And I can use them both on Essex. Wahoo!


  • While cycling past the snow-covered parked cars on Hancock Street, I saw a street sweeper go past on Elm Street. Signs of spring. I wasn't ready to believe winter was really over until it had its last shot, and this is it.
  • Mozilla 1.3 rocks. I whined about needing to install it at home, but boy am I glad I did.
  • Tidbit from Seattle: the sign reading "Welcome to Fremont, Center of the Universe. Turn your watch back 5 minutes."
  • We live in a postmodern age, in a way the futurists never predicted. The future is retro now. There's an antique store on Mass Ave that sells 1950s "futuristic" furniture, small appliances, dishware, and such. Fashion from 1970s SF media is fading from "dated" into "quaint". The tools of the future have been abandoned.

    But abandonment isn't always caused by transcendence. Sometimes the future just doesn't work out. It's not just the flying cars and "highways in the sky"; the former never got off the ground and the latter were built too low (the bridge under which the Fremont Troll sits, and similar nice-looking elevated highways many tens of meters up, prove that). Sometimes we build a technology, get it working right, and then discover that we just don't have what it takes to keep it going.

    Case in point: there's a sign on the back of each seat on the Boeing 737s I flew to Seattle and back on. Right underneath the Airphone, it reads "Service disconnected effective March 31, 2002".