PUBLISHER"S NOTEBOOK: Nice weather seems to bring everyone out, but don't sweat it
Thursday, May 29, 2014 8:36 AM
Saturday, May 17, wasn't the first day of summer or even a real holiday, but it seemed like everyone was out enjoying one of the first nice days this year.
About 1,400 bicyclists departed from Spring Valley to ride the crushed rock roads of Fillmore County as part of the Almanzo 100-mile and related annual races. Hundreds of motorcyclists departed Chatfield to ride 125 miles of paved country roads as part of a cancer fund-raiser.
Runners and walkers departed the trailhead of the Lost Creek Hiking Trail for a 6.3-mile journey to Chatfield through the woods. Although the organizer wasn't expecting bicyclists to wander off the roads or runners to wander off the trails, she did check to make sure the transportation to the trailhead wouldn't interfere with the bike race.
People from near and far ventured out on all types of roads to attend the several celebrations in the area, including Trout Days in Preston, the Stand Still Parade in Whalan and Syttende Mai in Spring Grove.
Rushford hosted Expo Culinaria, which brought people out on the roads in the evening to experience gourmet food. Spring Valley also had a city-wide rummage sale, filling up the roads in and out of town as people made their way to the sales.
On top of that, farmers have been pushed back by a cold, wet spring, so they wanted to take advantage of one of the first nice days to get caught up, many of them moving equipment around to various fields. Then, because it was a nice day, people, even if they weren't involved in any of the activities, took off on the roads to various destinations to enjoy the welcome sunshine.
With all the congestion on the roads, it is ironic that the only serious mishap involved air space, which is never congested in our area, when a plane crashed near Mabel Saturday afternoon.
That's not to say that all the diverse traffic on roads didn't create some clashes - at least in the realm of philosophy.
Many of us who have lived here for a long time realize the importance of agriculture to our local economy, so understand their place of work extends to the roads at times when they must move between fields. Others, even local residents, aren't so forgiving when they encounter slow moving farm machinery on a highway.
Many of us also realize that tourism now plays a major role in the economy of Bluff Country. With the Rochester metro area expanding, more visitors will be finding their way to our area to play, and even live, which isn't always appreciated by some longtime residents.
At times, people from outside may appear to be arrogant or condescending of the local customs, but in many cases it is merely lack of awareness. They don't see the connections like we do.
People who live here may also look past the connections that brought them here - an appreciation of our way of life and beautiful land.
The conflicting views on the roads will likely continue as we experience another season of road construction. Although not as disruptive as the Minnesota 16 project last year, there is some work going on this year.
One of the major projects is Highway 63 from the intersection with Highway 16 to Stewartville. Although the official detour goes through Grand Meadow, the unofficial detour used by local people is from Spring Valley north on County 1.
It has been stated that County 1, even before the extra traffic due to construction, was already the most traveled county road in Fillmore County. Its condition is not the best as a major reconstruction project is slated to begin in 2016 and continue into 2018.
The curvy road has narrow shoulders, several narrow bridges and passes through agricultural areas that have access from the county road and intersects forested areas that are home to deer and other wildlife.
Added to that busy road are massive numbers of new commuters, always in a rush to get to work or back home. Also, added to the flow are semi drivers that have discovered the shortcut despite the impracticality of taking large trucks on that route. Even bicyclists, some local, some taking the scenic road for enjoyment, are added to the mix.
Those all add up to a real potential for problems.
There really isn't anything we can do about it, except become more aware. Everyone has a right to public roads and the rules of the road are the same for everyone. However, local customs may not be understood, even by local residents.
If the congestion starts causing stress, just think back to the white knuckles, momentary loss of control and close encounters with the ditch that were all too prevalent last winter with all the extra ice and snow.
Summer is our break from the brutality of winter and we need to take comfort in the nice weather, even if everyone else has the same idea. So just relax, enjoy the season and go with the flow, even if the flow isn't the usual flow you've grown accustomed to.