Rockford: City of potholes. The Register Star's Sadie Gurman goes for a ride on the torn-up streets and lives to tell about it -- even if her coffee doesn't.
For a speedy way to the moon from northeast Rockford, take Spring Creek Road to Alpine Road and turn left.
I took my own lunar trek for the first time Thursday after hearing horror stories of the treacherous state-controlled stretch of North Alpine Road and its unearthly craters.
Hard-bitten Rockford drivers, shaken after every winter by the city’s craggy streets, paint the stretch of Alpine as a place where sanity dies and is buried near the median — a graveyard marked by mangled hub caps.
I’m not from Rockford, so when Donna Stark told me about the potholes, I chuckled in disbelief.
“I swear to God some of them go to China,” Stark, 44, told me. “It feels like you’re going to fall right through them.”
Donna, I am sorry I ever doubted you.
After an hour back and forth on Alpine between East Riverside Boulevard and Spring Creek Road, I’m wet with splattered coffee. Though the northbound lanes have been patched recently, the ride is still rough and damaging. The southbound lanes are far worse.
My screams of shock and groans of pain are part of a growing chorus of outrage toward Alpine’s gaping crevices and whoever is supposed to be patching them. It’s a chorus that sounds something like this: “Ohhh! Arrrrggg! Ughhgg!” and in the Register Star’s Ford Taurus: “Holy (expletive)”
To Gov. Rod Blagojevich from Rockford drivers, the chorus also sounds like this:
“Fix it,” said Kathy Bachmeier.
“It’s outrageous,” said Jorge Navarrete.
“Tear it up and start over,” said Stark.
A ride down Alpine feels something like a trip on Disney World’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride, where forbidding signs and skeletons warn you and your shipmates to “abandon hope all ye who enter,” or proceed at your own risk. On Alpine, it’s a glowing marquee on the median, somewhere near a forsaken hubcap, that only alludes to “rough roads ahead.”
At Disney World, the signs scare you. On Alpine, they mock you. And on Alpine, there aren’t signs warning of motion sickness or potential for back injury and shock, all of which have to be real possibilities for drivers who hit the holes in just the right way.
Navarrete told me there’s a strategy to avoid the potholes, but it seems equally treacherous.
“You have to drive down the middle of the road,” he said. But when I did that, I struck a rugged, rhythmic patchwork of smaller scars and asphalt Band-Aids. You can almost keep track of your mileage by the “boom, boom, boom,” of your battered tires. There’s just no way around it.
I felt a pang of sympathy for a couple of bundled Rockford street crews who were hard at work repairing Alpine, especially after Navarrete told me he thinks their work is largely in vain.
Let’s hope all of our complaining — and spilled coffee and countless car repairs — is not.
Sadie Gurman can be reached at 815-987-1389 or at email@example.com.