Until Monday, I thought I had driven on all — or most — of the roads in Knox County. In a longtime newspaperman’s search for stories and photos, you have to drive and search. Over the years, that can take you to some pretty remote corners of our county.
Monday morning, I received an email that the Knox County Highway Department was replacing a culvert on Moniger Road. Moniger Road? Huh, never heard of it. Out came the trusty Knox County highway map.
An essential component of my career as a photographer is looking up obscure places on a Knox County map. Wait — make that two maps — one beside my desk and another in the door pocket of my car.
I scanned down the road index, locate the name and cross reference numbers, and there was Moniger Road. It’s a one-lane gravel road in the very southwestern corner of Jefferson Township in northeastern Knox County. Yes, there are still a few gravel roads in the county where traffic is so light there is no reason to pave them.
Moniger Road is one of these. Beware, there are a couple of traps on narrow gravel roads. One is the road surface. Driving on loose gravel is like driving on roller bearing, there is little to no traction for your tires. On Moniger Road there are two tire tracks that are packed down, which leaves the center of the road and both sides with, well, loose gravel.
Then approaching a hill crest is a chancy exercise. Another car may be coming up hill on the other side, which means you have to drive as far to the right to give that car room to pass. Tricky. Pulling over means driving in the grass and maybe hitting big rocks or tree stumps.
This won’t happen very often as these roads are lightly traveled. But when you do encounter an approaching car at a hillcrest you could meet with a heart stopping surpass. How do I know this? It’s happened to me a couple of times.
Driving down Moniger Road on Monday, I came across three hillcrests.
Double clutching the Subaru back into second gear I eased over the tops. Of course with all that loose gravel, the speed limit is tops 25 miles per hour.
Now there is a good side to these roads — beautiful scenery. In the fall season with leaves changing over the countryside, the sights are spectacular. And that calls for a Saturday ride to show your kids the beautiful rural side of Knox County. Why not take a home-bound parent or neighbor for a ride, too? Two hours would make a nice afternoon.
You don’t need a road map. Just drive north on Wooster Road and take a turn off to the east at any road north of Amity. Even turning onto other roads as you drive won’t get you lost for very long. The back roads come out on familiar roads.
The trees are not the greatest this year but the view should be around for a couple of more weekends. Just watch those hillcrests and the loose gravel.