Invisible Trajectories

Rolling Thru Redlands

Modernist urban landscapes were built to facilitate automobility and to discourage other forms of human movement. Movement between private worlds is thru dead public spaces by car.
--John Urry and Mimi Sheller, “The City and the Cybercar”

On Saturday we headed out to Redlands to meet Lisa T. The plan was to have her show us around the area, mostly by car since we had a lot of ground to cover. We arrived at her house around 12:00pm and found ourselves on the road shortly afterward.

We headed out of her housing development and down the street towards Mentone. Passing through Mentone’s little main street we saw a bindery and other little repair shops, remnants from some recently forgotten era. A few minutes later we were moving past orange groves, varied terrain, and stretches of dusty land covered with boulders. Lisa pointed towards the dam on the Santa Ana River and we looked out the window to be sure we caught a glimpse. Beautiful landscape passed us on both sides as a cool breeze streamed in the windows. It was in the low 80s and sunny. Ideal weather.

Our vehicle passed by places quickly. Lisa pointed out spots of interest as we zipped by them. We looked down into the Santa Ana and saw kids sitting in pools of water. We looked up, at another bend in the road, and saw a strange house topped off with the head of the statue of liberty and a rearing horse sculpture by the mailbox.

The world’s most famous jerky was being sold at a store we speeded by. The temptation to prove them wrong, or right, was resisted. We moved on.

Lisa then transported us to the Kimberly Crest House and Gardens. We roamed around there for a while, spending a few minutes gazing at the fish and frogs amongst the lily-pads. Coming down a winding path we came across a quinceañera group ready to have their pictures taken. The young girls looked very uncomfortable in their dresses, but it must be stated that they came in a huge stretch limo that I’m sure had the AC blasting on the way over.

I talked with the driver of the long white beast, and even asked him the mpg for his rolling party wagon. 8 miles-per-gallon. We walked on, eventually coming to a vantage point that allowed us to look down into rows of orange groves and an endless wall of smog that kept us from seeing more than 5 miles into the distance.

We headed into downtown Redlands and stopped to look at the now abandoned Sante Fe railroad station. It was boarded up, but not beyond repair. And the tracks were not in use. Aside from that, many of the old buildings in the downtown were well maintained. An entire array of shops occupied the old structures. The little downtown even supported a pet shop for little dogs with all kinds of tiny clothes available for purchase. The big surprise was the used bookstore we walked into. You see so few of these in this electronic age.

After walking for about 40 minutes we went back to the car and headed out to look at some of the older Victorian homes. Needless to say, most of them were fantastic. Others, on the wrong side of the tracks, needed work, but few were beyond repair. Some streets were a veritable hodge-podge of housing types. We saw houses from every decade starting from the 1880s to the present.

I lost track of our routes, but Lisa always knew exactly where she was going. She took us on a number of paths that cut through even more orange groves. We saw signs of road construction, new housing construction, and even some old waterways that cut through the landscape. Lisa seemed to know the area well. Every twist and turn was calculated, and we never felt lost.

Redlands is clearly a semi-rural city still in touch with food production and its history of urban design. It’s clearly auto-centric, and its extremely wide roads often dominate the town’s land-use, but the place does have a very human feel to it. Even the 1970s suburban style single-family homes have their charm. They seem to mesh well with the town’s past, but how the new development will mesh with Redlands’ future is still to be seen. --CW