Yes, daily commuters, it’s pothole dodging time once again! As Winter haltingly relinquishes its grip to warming temps and the inevitable thaw, a challenge is presented to drivers across America’s Snow Belt. With Spring sitting teasingly just beyond the calendar’s horizon, snow and ice give way to blacktop that hasn’t been seen for months, trapped this Winter under layers of an impenetrable permafrost. The big melt reveals roadways that in spots are in a state of severe deterioration. Craters the size of Baltic countries, fissures capable of swallowing a Prius whole, and teeth rattling jolts from “puddles” hiding deep water glacier lakes!
Terror, Thy name is Thaw!
This year I dub this the Bent Tie-Rod Challenge in memory of the one destroyed just a week ago when I set out to forage for family sustenance at local pizza establishment. The jaw-jarring impact was exceeded only by the jaw-dropping cost of repair.
The mechanics of pothole creation are fascinating. OK … Maybe that’s a stretch. But it might be useful to keep in mind that it ain’t the snow that’s the enemy in this game of suspension system roulette. It’s water and the freezing, thawing, freezing, thawing cycle. Exciting, I know …
Anyways … The purpose of this post is to give you a few coping mechanisms in the form of games you can play as your car does The Dance of a Thousand Pep Boys. Your fingers clenched white-tight on the steering wheel; one eye searching the roadway frantically for tell-tale signs, the other watching the vehicle ahead for evasive maneuvers. Although these ideas cannot be guaranteed to reduce your stress level, they will give you something really stupid to think about as you sit panting from the stress and exertion at each red light.
Olympic Pothole Freestyle – This is a timely salute to the daring-do of the downhill skier and snowboard half-tubers. Visualize a treacherous downhill ski slope, full of hazards, danger, and emergency room visits. Your car is the downhill skier/boarder swooping gracefully between the gates and around the deadly edges of certain disaster. But instead of being happy to simply arrive at work with all your fillings intact, get graded on Skillfulness, Graceful Lines, and Number of Four-Letter Utterances (excluding those uttered in the Idiot Driver category). Just remember the Swiss judge can be brutal!
Pothole Asteroids – Take this favorite arcade game from the 1980s and make it a part of your morning commute. Establish a point system that recognizes the potential cumulative damage to your undercarriage and commuter sanity relative to the size of the divot, pothole, or moon crater you impact. Lowering scores are the objective. Half all points for commutes taken before sunrise and after sunset. For an added touch of Asteroid realism affix a weapons-grade laser to the front of your vehicle. It won’t improve the pothole situation, but you can use it on the idiot driving in front of you. (unless you prefer to let him continue to clear the minefield ahead of you.)
Name that Crevasse! This is a season-long challenge to name those memorable road bunkers you see every single day for weeks and weeks and weeks. It requires a slower approach to your commute which also allow you to appreciate the grandeur and majesty of Mother Nature’s work en asphalt! Look for those holes with iconic features and familiar looking profiles.
Suggested themes: Countries and Islands, National Parks and Monuments, Famous Profiles in Politics and Entertainment (Streisand, LBJ, Washington, Durocher, Durante, Hitchcock), States of the Union. Note the location of each road canyon you affectionately name, then swap and collect locales with your friends. For added fun try Bosses I Have Worked For, just make sure you have enough in the bank account to correct damages from the irresistible temptation to hit those road cavities on purpose!
Lunar Lander – This challenge would be the toughest of all! Another variation on a beloved arcade game where you land a Lunar Landing Module on the surface of a planet crowded with towering mountains and tiny plateaus with a very, very limited supply of fuel. Unfortunately in this challenge, consistent with a space vehicle that was paper-thin in many areas to keep weight to a minimum, any contact with a pothole means “death” and loss of the challenge (Houston, we have a problem!). Complete said challenge at night, and achieve Lunar Mission Commander status! (Tranquility Base here, the Eagles has landed!).