ATWATER -- It's like driving over a railroad track for two straight minutes.
The ridges and valleys along Castle Street in Atwater jostle cars, creating an uneasy metal-against-metal rattling noise each time an auto judders down the residential road.
"It's very raggedy. I try not to drive down it unless I'm in a real hurry," a neighbor driving a large truck told me, when I stopped her along the road. "I go the other way, just because it's more comfortable."
The stretch of road between Juniper Avenue and Elm Street looks like the dried-out scales of a reptile. And the bulges and gaps in the asphalt are so severe "you practically need a mouth protector so your teeth won't come loose," as you drive, my original tipster told me.
I called Dave Church, Atwater's director of public works, to get the skinny on this scaly street.
The street doesn't belong to Atwater, he said.
So I called the county, who said they'd check a map, said Richard Schwarz, assistant public works director.
"It's ours," Schwarz said when he called back a few minutes later.
Turns out Castle Street is an island unto itself: a small strip of county land fully surrounded by Atwater territory. How does that happen? When the city annexes places, residents in the area have to vote whether they want to be included in the annexation. So that's what happened along Castle. It was county land. It still is county land; but it's surrounded by the city of Atwater.
The road condition, Schwarz said, was unknown to his department before my call. "If we don't know about it and it's not an area we normally go to, we rely on residents to call into the road division," he said.
After I gave a brief description, he described the condition on the road as "alligatoring." It happens when pavement's lost all of the oil in the asphalt.
Because of the cracking, the base could be failing as well. "When you get cracks like that and water penetrating through the cracks to the base and sub-base, that could cause it to deteriorate even more rapidly," Schwarz said.
He noted that the county is also struggling to make road repairs because of a state raid of the county's gas tax fund. It's a $1.75 million hit, Schwarz estimated.
"Right now, we're just patching potholes. We're not doing major -- or even minor -- improvements," he said.
No matter the hamstrung budget, residents should continue to call in problems to the county's road department at (209) 385-7601. All reports will be surveyed and logged for later repair, unless the problem is urgent.
What's wrong: Castle Street is "alligatoring."
Who's responsible: The county public works department, or the state legislature. You choose.
What's being done: A county Public Works Department worker will survey the road first thing this morning, Schwarz said.
Tip off the tip list!
If you see something broken or in need of repair in your neighborhood, call the Sun-Star Tip List reporter, Danielle E. Gaines, with your tips at (209) 385-2477 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.