It’s a unique experience driving through Northern states during the winter. We’re in day five of our eight day trip now, and just safety arrived in Rhode Island this afternoon. The weather is cold, but it’s not snowing. At this moment anyway. We realized, most suddenly today, that we’ve lived in the South for too long to remember that frost clings to trees in the wintertime, in long, thick icicles. That ponds freeze over. That snow storms drop out of nowhere. That people own boots, and several pairs of ski gloves, and say things like, “They’re out salting tonight.” It’s astonishing and slightly absurd how fast it’s all slipped from our Midwest memories.
Jackson asked what that “tepee looking thing” was, while driving east from Buffalo to Syracuse. I explained it was where they kept the salt. He hmpf’d and went on about his business. I thought nothing of it, then a few moments later he said, “Wait, what salt? Table salt?” I guess he thought they liked all their meats brined here. I mean, that’s not wrong, but what I meant was the salt for the roads.
Because in New England and in the Midwest, from Maine to Missouri, Kansas to Connecticut they still salt the roads. They roll out in big trucks, hours, sometimes days before a storm is expected and they lay down a coat of salt. It’s funny how easily I forgot about the way the lines form in the road from the backs of trucks. How K-Mart parking lots turned into makeshift salting HQs. How men smoking cigarettes, with snow plows fastened to their old Chevy trucks, run up and down the road in the dead of the winter and layer this protection on our roads.
Geez, I’m sure there are ramifications. Of course there are. The rusting from the salt. The money for infrastructure. The tax dollars. The equipment, the salt “tepees.” It adds up. And probably, likely, there are safer, more cost-effective, more environmentally-conscious ways. And maybe I’ll investigate more one day. But for now, for tonight, I’ll lie in my hotel bed and remember the men and the trucks. The salting and the K-Mart parking lots. And I’ll miss the Salt Belt a little more.