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Steelhammer: Looking for the pothole of gold at the end of the rainbow

Like many West Virginia commuters, I’ve taken up a new seasonal sport this year that combines speed, reflexes, concentration and an element of danger — the pothole slalom.

Having practiced it at least twice daily for the past three months, I’m getting fairly good at it, although I’m not sure the suspension of my aging SUV would agree.

My most challenging training course is the three-fourths mile long, three-fourths lane wide secondary road leading to my home in the artists’ colony and greyhound racing mecca of Cross Lanes. There, I weave my way along the cratered blacktop surface like an aging, overweight, vehicle-operating male version of Mikaela Shiffrin, the American teen who took home the gold in the slalom at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Well, at least in my mind, I do. Drivers coming from the other direction as they zigzag their way through their pothole “gates” only to see me weaving my way toward them as rapidly as possible may beg to differ, even though I always manage to avoid colliding with them by at least a millimeter or two.

Personally, I think the challenge of dodging oncoming traffic, as well as potholes, makes the sport more interesting, and certainly more visually engaging than such official Winter Olympics sports as curling or biathlon. The pothole slalom may not be the sport of kings, but it could eventually become the sport of county commissioners.

But all in all, I’d like for pothole season to end.

While the owners of tire repair shops and tow truck services may be the only people harvesting cash locally from this year’s bumper crop of potholes, the entrepreneurial spirit has risen enough in the pothole hot spot of Chicago to jar loose a few intriguing ideas.

According to an article that appeared last week in the Chicago Tribune, imaginative Chicago resident Dave Stern has begun marketing certificates of ownership and the naming rights for the Chicago potholes of your choice, for $6.99. Stern said the certificates are great gifts for friends and relatives not important enough to have a star named after them through the International Star Registry.

Through his website, www.thepotholestore.com, Stern also sells cellophane quarter bags of “pothole,”an allegedly smokable blend of asphalt and aggregates. The most popular blend is “Skokie Tokie,”named for a Chicago surburb.

Davis boasts that all his products, which run from “Potholepourri” to pothole snowglobes, are sustainable, locally produced goods.

An even more important, and free, pothole service is available to Chicago residents this street crater season: Pothole Tracker. The online service allows residents to check the repair progress of potholes that have been reported to Chicago’s street department during the past week by opening a map of the city and clicking pothole clusters of interest.

As much as I’ve enjoyed honing my pothole slalom skills this season, I’ll be glad when the Division of Highways road-patching crews reach my neck of the woods.

I’m tired of complaining about potholes. It’s time to move on.

And start complaining about the needlessly long traffic delays caused by road repair crews.


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