Potholes: a depression in a road surface where traffic has removed pieces of the pavement (or caused ruts in the dirt). They are usually caused by water, freezing and thawing.
This is Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) definition. Mine is: massive holes in the road that will swallow up small cars, rip off hubcaps, flatten tires and destroy a vehicle’s alignment.
My friend was traveling from Flagstaff to Los Angeles on Interstate 40 in her Mini Cooper. I begged her to reconsider, because 40 is the beast of all potholed, messed-up, frightful roads. Perhaps an Army tank might make it OK.
Well, off she went, and sure enough, her poor little mini had to be realigned afterward. Interstate 17 is also a nightmare, especially in the north country.
Where did the word “pothole” originate? In 15th century England, pottery makers would take advantage of the ruts that wagon wheels gouged into the roads. Looking for a cheap source of raw materials for making clay pots, the potters would then dig into the deep ruts for the clay underneath. Hence, the ruts were called potholes. If you are a pottery maker, Arizona roadways have plenty of material for you, just be careful when you try to dig it up.
ADOT has to manage 6,800 miles of state highways and will have their hands (or shovels) full this spring trying to repair the enormous ruts, holes and cracked pavement that became much worse this winter. They might need some help. I do know some of my rural friends who live on a dirt road, put loads of horse manure in some of the portholes and tamp it down, which seems to work. Also, a man was found throwing a mattress on I-40 in a pothole that was the size of a crater. I would say, don’t do this!
Potholes are annoying and costly! According to AAA, 1 in 10 drivers have sustained vehicle damage significant enough to warrant a repair after hitting a pothole. With an average price tag of $600 per repair, damage caused by potholes costs American drivers a staggering $25 billion in 2021. Yikes, maybe we need that horse manure. Cowpies, too. Anything to fill those holes!
I do recall when State Route 51 in Phoenix was just built, the city contracted with an artist to create and install brightly painted concrete massive teacups, pots, kettles and bowls for about a 5-mile stretch. One man became incensed that the city spent almost $500,000 on “freeway art,” while his own street was full of potholes. He spray-painted a toilet gold and carefully placed it alongside a huge teacup. This was decades ago, but it did make a statement. It was called the “Freeway Flush.”
I did laugh at a handmade sign stuck on the side of I-17 that read, “For the love of God, fix the holes.” Yep, we are frustrated! If you have vehicle damage due to a pothole, get a police report, then file a complaint with ADOT. And wait for a refund. It may be a long road ahead.
Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor. Have a comment or a story? Email her at email@example.com.