Drivers beware! In New England this is the frost heave season when the contrast of daytime warmth and evening cold cause a rash of bumps, bruises and pimples on even the smoothest, best constructed roadways. The bane of highway crews and a boon for alignment shops, heaves alter the expectations of a journey. The familiar road you could sleep-drive through and may often travel in a fugue is suddenly different. If you stray into your normal mode of driving, a hump or a dip is sure to awaken you to a changed world.
“The main thing that causes soil to heave, or swell,” Mariana Gosnell writes in Ice: The Nature, the History, and Uses of an Astonishing Substance, “is water being sucked through fine soil channels to scattered sites and being converted into discrete bodies of ice, which push soil particles apart to make room for themselves.” Regardless of their origin, frost heaves give us less chance at this time of year to fall into a somnolent routine while on the road. There’s no getting entirely used to the changes because the weather has the wherewithal to surprise us with variations over night. It can be a rockin’ and rollin’, horse-bucking, rollercoaster, corduroy-rattling ride and the unwary might require some car repair or worse.
Frost heaves may be a nuisance and in some cases an outright danger, but I like the way they upset expectations and force us to look at the dull daily drive a little differently. They’re part and parcel of a season that demands we get used to the unexpected.