Missouri: Where The Potholes Form

Fake News written by Martha Throebeck on Tuesday, May 1, 2001

from the better-than-watching-grass-grow dept.

IRONTON -- Move over baseball, Missouri has a new favorite pasttime: watching roads crumble. Thanks to Missouri's shoddy highway system, people all across the state are lining up along busy roads to place bets on when and where the next pothole will form.

Pothole Watching originated last year in Ironton, Missouri when bored residents discovered that Highway 21 was the perfect place to watch pavement buckle right before their eyes. Now the spectator sport has spread throughout the state, spawning a whole cottage industry of "pothole bookies".

Last summer, Sam McGlergle won a $100 prize for placing a bet on where the next pothole would form on the aging Highway 21. "Yep, I just knew that section of concrete 510 feet north of the McDonalds in Pilot Knob was going to buckle in the summer heat. Boy was I right! Unfortunately, I had to spend that prize money -- and then some -- to get my wheels realigned."

Another pothole enthusiast, Bob Verdofen, explained, "You see, one day this large truck came by and a huge section of concrete just crumbled as I watched. From that day I was hooked. I've always been told that watching grass grow was the most boring thing you could do. But watching roads crumble is downright exciting!"

Highway 21 around Ironton isn't the only aging Missouri highway that bas become a target of pothole watchers. An overpass over Interstate 70 near Columbia has become ground zero for pothole watching and gambling, with small crowds of gawkers congregating to watch as large trucks produce potholes, cracks, and upheaveals in the ancient pavement.

The most popular stretches of I-70 have been given nicknames like "the Axle Grinder", "Blowout Byway", and "the Airbag Deployer". One hard-core pothole junkie expects 2001 to be a banner year for pavement destruction. "What with all the freeze-thaw action this winter, and the hot summer approaching... well, we could see the Big One this year."

The 'Big One' is a jargon term referring to the complete collapse of an expansion joint resulting in the formation of the Mother Of All Potholes. One pothole bookie we interviewed claimed that he saw a monster pothole swallow "a whole Festiva" several weeks ago in Pennsylvania, but many chalk that up as a tall tale. "Everybody's got a pothole story about a pothole they witnessed that was 'this big'," said Bob Verdofen.

Naturally, the engineers at the Missouri Department of Transportation are less than thrilled about the new sport. "It's bad enough that hordes of people show up to gawk at the scene of an accident. Now they're gawking before an accident even happens!" ranted an anonymous MoDOT engineer.