Greetings From: Arlington, KY

Encountering a low water crossing on a road we shouldn’t have been on in Arlington, Kentucky.

by Michael Boyink / mike@douglascountyherald.com

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Most people read these famous words by Robert Frost and apply it as a metaphor to their lives. 

One fall day in Kentucky we found it had a practical side as well.

We were following the Great River Road (GRR). The GRR isn’t one road. It’s a route mapped over existing roads, all designed to keep you as close as possible to the Mississippi River.

Starting in Minnesota and ending in Louisiana, the GRR travels through 10 different states. Each of them is responsible for GRR marketing and signage within their borders.

Some are better at it than others.

We didn’t always explore with the RV hitched up, but today we were – all 55 rolling feet of us.

Our bent spare tire mount.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.

And neither one had a GRR marker.

We stopped, deliberating.

Then chose the road that looked like it would take us closer to the river.

It was a good road.

For a few miles.

We passed a man, out in his front yard.

He did that thing where you take a quick look, then put down what you are doing, straighten up, and full-on stare.

A portent.

The road took us around a corner. And down a hill.

And got narrower. The shoulders disappeared. There were no driveways or intersecting roads.

We saw a sign on a tree.

Kentucky could have used at least one more of these Great River Road signs.

“ATV Route.”

Then another sign.

“Water over the road.”

I stopped again.

Now, keep in mind this all happened years before we ever heard of Ava or Douglas County.

You’ll probably laugh at what stopped us.

A paved low water crossing.

We had never encountered one before. 

I got out, and looked at it. 

I saw only two options.

Don’t cross the water. But that left me no room to turn around. I’d have to back up the trailer, uphill and around a corner. With trees close to the road there was little margin for error.

Cross the water. The pavement was short and steep, but our fifth wheel had good ground clearance. 

On the other side of the crossing was an open field large enough to turn around in.

But we were close to the Mississippi River. The field was rich, muddy river bottom land. My truck needed new tires. And it was only two-wheel-drive.

The challenges didn’t end there.

I was low on gas.

And the sun was getting low in the sky.

A wrong move might mean spending the night.

Rock, meet hard place.

I decided to try the water crossing. 

Going through it, the truck dipped down then back up. The trailer followed suit,  angling up as its wheels climbed out of the water crossing.

It all cleared. I was through.

Or not.

The trailer spare tire was mounted on the rear bumper. It hung down just low enough to drag on the cement of the water crossing. It made a sharp screeching sound, then MsBoyink made a similar sound after hearing it.

Now I had to turn around. And not get stuck.

I knew if I spun the tires, they’d cake up with mud and we’d be dead in the water. The only option would then be a tow truck.

I imagined an egg on the gas pedal and eased the trailer back into the muddy field. Shifting from reverse to drive was the moment of truth. Would we leave this spot under our own power?

The truck left ruts. The trailer left ruts. The trailer tires skidded as much as they rolled out of that field.

But I never spun a tire. 

I went back through the water crossing – again dragging the spare tire mount down the cement.

I stopped on the other side and assessed the damage to the RV’s spare tire mount. The dragging bent it, angling the tire forward. It had  just missed puncturing the rear fiberglass wall of the RV.

We’d need a new tire mount, but they cost a lot less than a tow truck would have.

We took a deep breath, got back in the truck, buckled up, and headed back up the hill.

We had taken the road less traveled.

And it certainly made all the difference.

But in this case, we were quite happy to choose the other option at the Y.

And stay on the road more traveled by.

Learn more about Kentucky’s portion of the Great River Road online at Kenkygrro.org.