Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Summer breaking

   It has been a full and rich summer, full of adventure and trying new things, as well as taking it easy.  Here’s a taste of what I’ve been up to, as I discussed in a recent Claremont Courier column. (I may not get back to regularly posting until next month.  Or I may start now.  We'll see!  This is what's called covering ass.)


  It turned out that Emma was taking us the long way.  What should have been a 17-minute trip ended up taking 45 minutes.  There were an awful lot of right and left turns, coming one right after the other, and we found ourselves driving one the same roads and the same highway several times.  After a while,  Reginald joined in, but he basically gave the same directions. 
   Not to worry, though.  My two friends and I had left early, so we were not late.  Instead of being super early and perhaps rude, we were right on time.  What’s more, all those right turns and left turns were quite lovely, bringing us down quiet roads lined with beautiful trees and charming cottages or through golden fields dotted with livestock and storybook barns.  Each turn was lovelier than the last, and seeing the same roads several times was no problem. 
   Even the highway was attractive, more like a verdant main road rolling over the hills than a state thoroughfare, easy on the eyes during our repeat jaunts on it.  But there was a problem – we were lost.  We had no idea how to get to where we were going and were going around in circles.  It was hard not to panic, especially with the phones and their GPS guides, affectionally dubbed Emma and Reginald – he is a bit more bossy, only giving directions without the street names (“Now turn right.”)– losing their connection or running out of power.
   It turns out, though, that Grass Valley and Nevada City, mashing up almost seamlessly along Highway 49 in the rolling foothills northeast of Sacramento, are an awfully nice place to get lost and go in circles and even panic in.  For the last five or six years, I have been going to Grass Valley in mid-July to attend and camp at a music festival at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. But it has been many more years since I took time to explore these “Gold Country” towns. And, ironically, I saw more of their neighborhoods on this misguided outing. 
   That’s the best thing about trips – the unexpected ventures, when we see things that people don’t usually see, even when they spend time on a visit.  That and meeting people and making new friends.  My friends and I were enjoying both – we were on our way to visit someone I had met a week earlier at a meeting in Marin County.
   It just so happened that my friends and I would be attending the music festival in Grass Valley.  So we would be in his neighborhood or in his neck of the woods, more or less literally, and able to see him before heading back to Claremont via Lake Tahoe and Bishop.  These sorts of unexpected side trips and stops are another bonus in traveling. 
   But another bonus in this side trip was how it provided another view of Claremont.  Yes, this little jaunt, getting lost and driving in circles in Grass Valley and Nevada City, opened a new window into our fair little city for me. 
   It made me appreciate Claremont even more and recognize how fair, how attractive, how beautiful and lovely our little city is.  We always like to say how wonderful and unique Claremont is, but it turns out more and more that that’s more than wishful thinking or civic pride. 
   As I learned not long before this trip and mentioned in my last column, Claremont has been named by, a travel website, as one of the 10 most beautiful towns on the west coast.  That’s not all, though.  In this list, it is one of four – only four – towns in California, and the other four includes, yes, Nevada City, as well as Cambria and Mendocino. 
   Think about it.  Claremont is seen by at least some to be as fair as fair and charming as these lovely getaway spots.  Is there any one of us who wouldn’t jump at the chance to spend a week, a weekend, even a night in Cambria or Mendocino?  Most of us savor a day spent in one of these idyllic burgs, especially when they’re aren’t so crowded.  The same goes for Nevada City, though it may not be as well-known. 
   So Claremont is now seen, or increasingly seen, as a charming, picaresque town, a getaway spot right up there with Cambria and Mendocino and the beautiful Gold Country. Is this surprising?  Is this a shock? Perhaps.  It certainly got a “wow!” out of me. But maybe it shouldn’t be. 
    After all, my last column – the one in which I mentioned the list on – was all about how Claremont is like one big park, ideal for a summer afternoon or evening respite. Not only are there an impressive number of city parks, there are the colleges with all their park-like acres.  Even with the fading lawns in this unprecedented summer of drought, they still offer a peaceful escape, complete with their noted trees.  Indeed, Claremont’s trees and urban forest was a major factor in the website’s citation. 
   And indeed, there are plenty of stories about people getting out and enjoying Claremont and its urban forest, not to mention its cultural opportunities and its unique shops and restaurants.  In the same edition of the COURIER, there was not only an article about another new restaurant in town; there was a feature about the Claremont Senior Bicycle Group.  Sponsored by the super-active Claremont Senior Program – yet another stand-out in this community – the group plans and leads regular weekly rides on our pleasant streets. Longer rides further afield are also on the schedule, but, as Angela Bailey points out in the article, “There is no better place to be a cyclist than the City of Trees. With over 30 linear miles of bicycle infrastructure and organizations geared towards all ages and cycling skill levels, Claremont – which has been designated as a bike-friendly city by the League of American Cyclists – is a haven for cyclists.”
   What’s more, it turns out that, with all our trees, this is actually a healthier town. According to a study published in Scientific Reports analyzing two sets of data from Toronto, adding ten trees to a street can make a resident feel seven years younger. Furthermore, the study found also that residents on streets with a higher density of trees are less likely to have cardio-metabolic conditions such as hyper-tension, obesity and diabetes. 
   “Trees remove pollutants from the air, so it could be the cleaner air, or it could be that adding more trees on a street encourages people to get outside and exercise more,” said Marc Berman, director of the Environmental Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Chicago and the senior author of the paper. “Or it could be that  the environment is more beautiful, and that contributes to health.”
   We should be pretty darn healthy here with more than 24,000 trees.  That’s right, there are over 24,000 trees in Claremont, and, in a project carried out by students in Pomona College professor Char Miller’s Environmental Analysis 190 class, they are all “mapped” online.  For information on any of the trees lining Claremont’s streets or in its parks and other public places, visit http://claremontsurbanarboretum.
   I wonder if Nevada City can beat that.