Notes from Windward: #69

Rocking the Road

bring the new entrance on line


     I'm delighted to report that one of Windward's long term projects is nearing completion!

     We originally started with sixty acres of undeveloped forest land that lacked direct access to the county roads that run to our south and east. Since then access to Windward has involved turning off the main road and traveling a quarter-mile on another county road before turning into our driveway. Even then, you'd be traveling on an easement that ran alongside a neighbor's property for an eighth of a mile before you actually came onto Windward property.

     From there, the driveway ran a quarter of a mile before you arrived at "The Landing," the start of Windward's developed area. All in all, it made for a very long driveway--inconvenient in summer and a real problem in winter. When your driveway is half a mile long, shoveling isn't an option.

     A few years later, we were able to purchase the pasture that separated Windward from the county road. That acquisition made it possible for us to create a new entrance directly off the main county road, one that would be much shorter, but it wasn't going to be easy or cheap.

     The first step was to meet with the county road department to obtain the necessary permit. We put up some flags where we wanted the new entrance to connect to the county's road, they came by and visually inspected the site, and we were good to go.

     That was the easy part. In order to create a new, shorter entrance, we'd have to bridge the creek that runs down Windward's eastern border. It's a dry creek most of the year, but when the snow melts in early spring, there's considerable run-off.

the creek in early April

     In 2004, I'd been scouting around for some used 24" culvert when the county road crews launched a major reworking of the county road. They brought in heavy equipment and started straightening out some of the sharp, blind turns and generally widening the road, work which involved removing a lot of dirt and rocks, fill material that needed to go somewhere. I figured, why not here?

     I met with the foreman of the road crew and was able to work out a deal in which they'd dump the fill dirt they were excavating from along the road across our creek where we wanted to create our new entrance. That worked for them since the shorter the distance they had to haul the dirt they were digging, the less the job would cost the county.

     I jumped into the work truck and hauled home twenty feet of used concrete culvert--huge heavy pipes that the work crew set in place with the massive track-hoe that was big enough to load a cubic yard per scoop of the huge bucket. With a proper culvert in place, the huge dump trucks started hauling in load after load of dirt and rocks. After a few days of that, we were delighted with a berm across the creek bed that was more than a hundred feet long and twelve feet high where it passed over the creek bed.

another 10 cubic yards of fill
for the new entrance

     While all that was going on, I kept busy driving our relative small dump truck hauling 5 cubic yards of fill dirt that we placed at various locations around Windward so that we could do more landscaping. That story is back in Volume 64 of the Notes under the title of Backfill Bonanza.

     And that's where the project has stood for the next five years. For much of its life, Windward has been "land poor" in the sense that much of our cash flow went to paying off the debt that had come with the land. We weren't willing to go into debt in order to develop the property since mortgages make people do all sorts of things that are inconsistent with that they set out to do.

      Instead, we hunkered down, made do with what we had and took comfort in knowing that relatively soon, we would be free to build what we wanted, rather than settle for what we could afford.

     Our being able to finish the new entrance is a positive sign that our Jubilee Year has arrived.

September 15:

     The first step in finishing off the new entrance involved using a D4 bulldozer to level out the road bed. Over the five years since the dirt was trucked in, rain and run-off had created some ruts that needed to be fixed so that we could put down an even base. It was a treat to watch as the dozer level off the ground and then used its weight to compress the scrapped dirt into the ruts.

the road bed scrapped level
and ready to take the shale

     The next step involved hauling in loads of shale from a pit about eight miles away. The base rock is a type of layered stone that fractures into flat plates under heavy loads. The resultant sharp angles create an interlocking base that will hold up well under heavy usage.

a cell phone gives scale to the pit run

     At ten cubic yards a load, it took a dozen runs to bring in enough shale to connect the county road with the old driveway. We'll also be resurfacing the steep part of the old driveway--the part just before you turn onto the Landing--but the existing base was good on that so it will only get a new top coat.

Opalyn gives scale to a
10 cubic yard pile of shale

     It took some 45 minutes to fetch each load of shale, and then another twenty minutes for the D4 bull dozer to spread it out and pack it in. Since the ground here in September is dry and hard, there's only so much that can be done to compress the shale for now, but the D4 got the process underway.

spreading out a load of shale

     With the shale in place, the new entrance was useable by our heavier vehicles, but the sharp rock would have been rough on two wheeled vehicles with the smaller tires. The city cars need to wait a little longer, until after the next step in the process.

working the base into place

September 16:

     Windward takes care to operate by consensus as much as possible. One important area where consensus isn't appropriate is when people have widely varying levels of experience. When someone brings key expertise in some field, we take care to listen to what they have to say. In the case of the neighbor who hauled in our shale, we didn't hesitate to follow his advice that we hire another neighbor to use his precision gravel placement truck to finish our new entrance's surface.

our first good look at the
precision gravel placement truck

     We'd seen the truck he was referring to many times since it lives about three quarters of the way up the grade from the Klickitat river, and it certainly was an impressive piece of equipment even though we didn't have any idea how it worked.

     The plan was to top the shale base with a couple of inches of "three quarter minus," a form of crushed rock that contains everything from shards of rock that will barely fit through a 3/4" mesh down to sand sized particles. Because the material is freshly crushed, it's sharp and angular, and because it's a full mix of different sized particles, it packs together to form a strong surface.

     When you're just trying to keep vehicles from sinking into level ground, straight river run rock is okay, but that material has been rounded and lacks the holding power of crushed rock. Straight river run is much cheaper, so we use more of that than any other type of rock, but given the new entrance's slope, the crushed rock would help create an all-weather surface.

spraying on the topcoat

     The driver parked his fancy truck, got out and strapped on a remote-control belt that allowed him to both control the placement of rock and maneuver the truck. The remote control unit allows the operator to spray the rock in ways that cover the road bed in the same way one might use a hose to water a garden. When one area was covered, the operator used the remote control to drive the truck forward, steering it along our winding entrance--all by remote control. It was very impressive.

a close up of the three quarter minus topping

     It's going to take four loads of 3/4" minus to provide a smooth surface on top of the shale, but we're all in agreement that it's a good investment. As we drive on the new surface, the motion and pressure of the vehicles will cause the fine particles to sift down and fill in the voids in the shale, making the road bed that much stronger.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69