Friday, October 29, 2021

Graminia Crackseal


I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t notice them myself, even though I’ve cycled along that road dozens of times and like to think of myself as having an observant eye. It was actually my dentist pal Joe who pointed them out one day on a road ride: swooshy lines of black tar all along the road surface of Graminia Road, southwest of Edmonton. 

This is a favorite route for Edmonton roadies: newish, well-kept pavement, fairly wide shoulder, and not a lot of car traffic. Any given summer Sunday, you’ll see dozens of cyclists chuffing along Graminia. I wonder how many of them have noticed what I failed to--the work, nay, the masterpiece, of a true crackseal artiste.

We’ve all seen the work of cracksealers: those black lines of tar used to fill in cracks and small fissures in the asphalt. According to Asphalt Pro Magazine, crack sealing is essential maintenance for keeping out water, thus eliminating sub-base erosion and reducing the impacts of the freeze-thaw cycle. Cracksealing improves the ride quality of the pavement and extends the service life of a road, says APM. 

Most crackseal work is relatively linear, following straight-line cracks in the road surface. But sometimes, especially with curvy cracks, the patterns can look remarkably like a piece of abstract art. To those with a certain eye, the artistic possibilities are obvious.

On Graminia Road, something’s definitely up. The mostly straight lines of tar almost always end with a swoopy flourish, forming a curvy, semi-circular tail, of sorts, on each straight line. At first I thought it was just accidental, perhaps from a residual bit of tar falling off the sealing wand when the flow of tar is turned off.

But the closer you look, the more you see that virtually every line has the same distinct flourish. It can’t be an accident; rather, I think it’s some kind of deliberate touch, a conscious squiggle at the end of a signature. The cracksealer who worked this road has a recognizable style, like some kind of Pavement Picasso. For this guy or gal, it’s not just about filling the holes. It’s also about making art, transforming the functional into the beautiful.   

Now when I ride Graminia, I have to make a point of watching for cars else I find myself so distracted by the asphalt art that I stray unwittingly over the solid white line. How did I ever not see this before? 

Maybe it makes sense that Dental Joe, of all people, noticed these gems first; the work of cracksealers isn’t all that far removed from the work of dentists: cleaning up and patching holes in hard surfaces. 

I imagine many an excellent dentist sees himself or herself as a kind of artist of the functional, combining the practical with the elegant, content knowing that only a few will ever truly appreciate the art of their craft.

1 comment:

  1. Well, it still seems like a bit of a stretch that this is intentional to me, Jasper. But I hope it is--and I hope the artist-cracksealer whose handiwork you're enjoying finds this post! Did you let Joe know you wrote this? I'm sure he'd love to read it!


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