Invisible Trajectories

Marianne in the Moreno Valley

Americans have been living car-centered lives for so long that the collective memory of what used to make a landscape or a townscape or even a suburb humanly rewarding has nearly been erased. The culture of good place-making, like the culture of farming or agriculture, is a body of knowledge and acquired skills. It is not bred in the bone, and if it is not transmitted from one generation to the next, it is lost.
--James Howard Kunstler, The Geography of Nowhere

On Thursday, July 13th, we headed out from Alta Loma to visit with Marianne Elder in the Moreno Valley. She was working from home and said she had a bit of time to spend with us. We made plans to meet her at 2:00pm. Taking the 210 to the I-15 South to the 60 East, we exited at Heacock Street. From Heacock, the landscape went from desert to green belt as we approached Sunnymeade Road. The lush, green surroundings seemed out of place in such a dry land.

Marianne's development was clearly a couple of notches up from the other developments near the freeway. Her house was easy to find. It was a rental, one of the few in the neighborhood. The exterior of her home was not well maintained compared with the rest of the houses in the community that seemed excessively clean.

It was 100 degrees outside and Marianne was wearing all black. The air conditioner was on and the temperature in the house was quite comfortable. She was on a business call when we came in so we waited for her. When she finished, the three of us talked for 2 hours before taking a stroll around her community.

Marianne is from Windsor, Canada, across the water from Detroit, and she came here for graduate school. Currently working in Claremont, she moved here after her sister landed a job in Corona. As it turns out, Marianne didn’t know anything about the Moreno Valley when she located their future home, but she knew that since the place would allow their dog, Rumor, it would work out well.

Not dwelling on the absurdity of the greenbelt, she and her sister eventually found the place appealing. What makes her stay in the Moreno Valley is the winding country road she takes on her way home from Claremont. It's a wonderfully scenic route that crosses a man-made lake. Twisting and turning, it is the quintessential back road. Signs warn of crossing wild Burrows, but other drivers were the only things to look out for. Marianne gave us good directions so finding our way back to the 60 was not difficult.

The freeway she takes to work is like a river (the 60 between Riverside and Moreno Valley). Cars and trucks seem to float back and forth over lanes. The construction at the 60/91/215 interchange, which is currently going through a heavy reconstruction, is due to be completed in late-2007 so her trip to work might be less stressful in the years ahead.

Our plan was to get a sense of her daily travel paths so we walked around with her in her neighborhood and followed the route that she usually takes home. Marianne is not unlike many people in the I.E. who rely heavily on their laptops and cell phones, working from home and sometimes on the road. Her lifestyle was not unusual to us and her need to be connected to a place was as old as time. --CW