Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart

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The Hole Shebang

golly, have you noticed how many potholes we’ve got?

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Ian Kloster

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It’s getting hard to describe the potholes around here. We’ve been talking about them for months and we’ve simply run out of good adjectives. We can’t even call them “potholes” anymore. Instead we say “sinkhole” or “crater” or “axle breaker” or “The Gapping Maw of Hell Itself.” Because they are getting big. And deep.

Finally, the weather has calmed itself down enough to where the city can get out there and patch things up. But now our streets look all spackled up like the walls of a Water Street student rental on moving day. And there are two ways to look at this.

Firstly, you could be annoyed. Wisconsin drivers who love complaining about the weather excel at this. I mean, we have to deal with the awful inconvenience of Planet Earth orbiting the sun in such a way as to make the Chippewa Valley all chilly and snowy, and just when you think it might be ending – wham-ka-blam – enjoy a nice bone-rattling pothole everywhere you turn, why don’t you? And now that they’re filled in with blacktop, the roads look all splotchy like an old banana. “Why can’t we have anything nice?” you think. And furthermore, “Ew.”

Secondly, you could just hold your head up high and be proud. Those fixed-up holes are just the battle scars of winter, letting Mother Nature know, “Yes, we can deal with this. Potholes are worth it for the chance to live in a place with real seasons, Lady. And hey, thanks for the flowers.”

At the end of the day, potholes and patchwork blacktop are just the price we pay for living here and relying so much on cars. Until some smartypants scientist invents a kind cheap, recyclable road material that can withstand Wisconsin’s flamboyant tango of freezing and thawing, this is what we’ve got.

At the end of the day, potholes and patchwork blacktop are just the price we pay for living here and relying so much on cars. Until some smartypants scientist invents a kind cheap, recyclable road material that can withstand Wisconsin’s flamboyant tango of freezing and thawing, this is what we’ve got. So maybe you drive slower. Maybe you realize we’re all in this together. Maybe you find something different to complain about, like local cable TV providers not showing the sporting events you want to watch.

For my part, I’ve developed a healthy respect for potholes, doing my best to skirt, juke, and/or straddle them on my daily travels. We coexist. I give little nods to the really big ones that block entire lanes of traffic. Yeah, I know they suck, and I wish they weren’t there. However, I accept the fact that we’ve yet to bend the laws of physics to do our bidding. If we could, we’d probably apply our awesome power to less mundane nuisances such as world hunger and global warming.

At least, I hope so.

One thing our motley streets have got me thinking about is my bike, which has been gathering dust for longer than I care to admit, the poor thing. We had a good couple of summers, but it needed some repairs and I neglected it – leaving it to dream of better days, its only friends a half-inflated beach ball and a handful of dead spiders. I’d much rather be out on the streets on my bike right now, as opposed to in my car. The only thing stopping me is my own laziness.

I realize that bicyclists don’t like potholes either, especially since they do way less to help create them, but it’s a lot easier to navigate around some of these craters on a two-wheeler.

This is also the time of year when we start breaking out lighter-weight clothing and realize exactly what happened to all that Halloween/Christmas/Groundhog Day/Valentine’s Day/Easter candy that kept magically vanishing over the past few months. So if you’re like me, a nice bike ride looks more and more attractive.

National Bike to Work Week is coming up fast – it runs May 13-17 – with many  Wisconsin communities hosting different events and incentives to lure the citizenry into riding bikes for their main transportation (and to reward those who already do). Maybe Eau Claire could host a downhill slalom course around all the craters. Maybe we could organize a biking/spelunking biathlon for some of the bigger potholes.

At any rate, this date range seems like a good (and achievable) deadline for getting bike back in shape, and perhaps later on, myself. I will not fear the potholes. Nor will I feat the dead spiders in the garage. If I’m careful, neither can hurt me.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

Chippewa Valley Technical College

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.