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How well do you know your wife? The forest service road test.

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By BEN OLSON/For The Herald  —  Today the sun was shining and it seemed like a wonderful day for a cruise. With $5 a gallon gas, these cruises are going to be briefer than they have been in the past. Spring is a good time to monitor moving water. Has Hill Creek flowage filled up any since the last time I looked? A drive up to CT Beach will provide an answer.

Winter had been kind to the sunken grade section of the road, with the same sunken portion the same as last fall. Not much change in the lake level since the last time I looked three weeks ago. Another 45 feet of water and we’ll be able to use the boat ramp there again.

I made my way back down the hill. My next stop was Westfir. It’s been a while since I drove the FS5852, the road that travels along the south side of the Willamette. So that became the rest of my cruise.

Ben Olson, musician and Oakridge Resident, with his standup bass Ben Olson photo

The first time I traveled this road, my wife was with me, although not actually in the cab of the truck much of the time. Though I gently eased into and out of the ubiquitous potholes, she chose to walk much of the way. When she was in the truck, I was getting an earful about what I possibly could have been thinking, taking her on a road like that.

For the record, the road is no better, though no worse, than it was that first time I drove it.

The same can be said about FS5821, the road that runs between Lowell and Westfir on the north side of the Lookout flowage. It takes an hour and a half to drive that 15 mile stretch, and half of it is paved.

While checking out forest service roads, I always have, in the back of my mind, the question, “Could I take my wife on this road?” The answer is usually “no”, but from time to time I’ll find something that recently got graded and is relatively smooth.

It is just a matter of time, though, before the yahoos find it and fishtail up all the steep grades and turn it into bone-rattling washboard again.

When evaluating any gravel road for my wife’s approval, I have to consider steepness. Too steep is anxiety-provoking. For lack of a better word, exposure is the thing that will make her order me to turn the truck around, right now.

Being in a place where the truck could roll over dozens, if not hundreds of times if I happen to fall asleep at the wheel is what really sets her off. It doesn’t do any good trying to placate her by saying, “one of those big old trees will stop us before we roll over more than a few times.”

I’m sure that I’m not the only guy who has had to deal with this. Marriage is full of compromises and agreeing upon what kind of roads everybody wants to travel on is a key to a successful union.

My wife will only travel the paved roads, the ones with the occasional curio shop, quaint inn or bistro. I know this, and to keep harmony, I will gladly oblige her. My forays into the great forest that surrounds us will be done solo, or perhaps with a buddy whose wife won’t ride those roads with him either.

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