Invisible Trajectories

Lake Elsinore

On Thursday, June 22nd, Deena and I headed out in the Jeep to Lake Elsinore to meet with Ryan and spend some time poking around his area. We arrived at his house around 11:00am without any traffic problems.

Unfortunately, we opted for the ‘big picture’ tour and wound up spending too much time in the car and not enough time on foot. Ryan had just returned from Dartmouth, and during the time that he was away, his mom moved from Reseda to the house in Lake Elsinore. And though Ryan has a limited knowledge of his new town, he showed us some interesting things, letting us in on his perception of the place.

Ryan’s housing development is pretty much your typical Southern California subdivision: numerous cul-de-sacs, nobody on the streets, and very, very clean. After spending time chatting with his mom and his girlfriend, we hopped into the Jeep and headed out. We drove by the lake, which we all thought was artificial, but soon learned otherwise. The little downtown was quite nice. Not much different from downtown Redlands, that we visited a few weeks ago, just fewer Victorian homes.

Two large arterial roads dumped motorists into the town and then curved up the hillside like black ribbons stretched over the landscape. We parked the Jeep in a municipal lot and walked up and down Main Street. There were a few empty stores, some recently vacated, but life was there. We took a look inside a shop filled with nick-knacks, but purchased nothing. A few doors down we found the local history museum. The docent, an older woman who had grown up in Lake Elsinore, was very helpful. She answered most of our questions and pointed out some things she thought we’d be interested in. She even showed us a picture of the Lake as it looked when it almost dried-up in 1952.

After saying our goodbyes to the helpful woman, we walked down the road to get a closer look at the lake. I saw two pedestrian’s getting hassled by a cop, but didn’t think anything of it until we saw a woman at a bus-stop screaming at one of them. Heaven knows what the problem was. By this time it was as hot as blazes so we walked back to the car and got in. We drove out to the other side of the lake to get a better look at the earthmovers and the vanishing ‘protected’ area.

Needless to say, we got close but not close enough. A large fence obscured our view, yet we could still see the devastation going on. Seems some large-scale development is underway and the impacts on the local ecology can only be guessed. We watched the machines from the porch of a Mexican restaurant as our hunger got the best of us. We went inside, ate, and talked for a while. It was good to escape the heat.

We left the restaurant around 2:00pm and took the long way around the lake. I sat in the backseat and clicked off photos of the blurred landscape. We passed all kinds of lakeside development, both old and new. As we cruised by road construction teams and a host of new residential projects, we were getting closer to Ryan’s house.

This was the first city we had visited where any type of development was centered on a body of water. Aside from that, things seemed quite similar. The patterns of movement seemed much the same here as they were in Yucaipa and Redlands. Old downtowns were hanging on as the new construction went on at the periphery.

Movement seemed restricted here, almost like Lake Elsinore's inhabitants wanted to retain the mobility patterns of the past. Ryan told us that many of his neighbors were not commuters, but instead worked from home. Maybe the new residents wanted some kind of stasis in their lives even as they felt comfort in the automobiles parked in their driveways.

All in all, it was good to see Ryan and talk with him about his reluctance to be a new citizen of Lake Elsinore. During the hours that we were there, the entire city seemed to be in the background most of the time, with our conversation taking the main stage. Nevertheless, the place did leave a strong impression on us. --CW