Saturday, November 10, 2012

U-Turn Tracking

I'm trying to make good on a promise to my old doctor to walk a mile every other day.  It turns out that from my house to the end of the street and back is exactly one mile.  So far I've been doing better -- more like one or two miles a day.  These walks are giving me a chance to learn subtle things about my new neighborhood.

There are houses lining one side of the street, and public desert land on the other side.  So far I have just been walking the pavement so that I can spot rattlesnakes in my path, but I can also walk the bridle trails up and down the length of the street.  Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between a stick and a snake, though.  The walking is strengthening my legs so that I can be a stronger horseback rider.  I hope to start taking my horses on these daily walks with me once I get really familiar with the types of activities that go on along the way.  So far I've just been walking the horses close to home, and my dogs are too old to walk with me and keep up.

Anyway, I noticed some interesting things on these walks.  The public land side of the street has turnouts interspersed along the way for drivers who don't notice the NO OUTLET sign at the beginning of the street and need to turn around, as well as for people who need to park to access the trails. The street itself is very narrow thanks to an overgrowth of natural desert shrubbery.  These turnouts are nice, because they offer people an alternative to turning around in private driveways, which is something we all know that I abhor.  At my old house I had a U-shaped driveway just like I do at the new house.  Also, my old house was right on the road to a popular tourist spot, so tourists who got lost predictably ended up at my house either turning around in my driveway or asking for directions.

This was a problem for multiple reasons.  These drivers took up a lot of my time when you added up how often I had to give directions to different people, they got my dogs barking, they spooked my horses when I was riding them, they kicked rocks up onto my lawn where the rocks banged up the blades of our lawn mower, they cut it so close to our parked vehicles that they risked hitting and denting them, when my kids were little these drivers almost ran over them by driving too fast around the driveway, and some were even rude enough to drive on my lawn, narrowly missing sprinkler heads.  They took away my freedom and comfort of letting my kids and dogs play out front, making my own property unsafe.

When a subdivision was being built down the road, my driveway became Grand Central Station for all the truck drivers.  Some even parked their trailers on my front lot without permission and drove off.  I called the sheriff's office and told them that this trespassing and noise pollution of trucks was getting to be a habit, and they put an end to it.  The foremen at the construction site learned to tell his crew to steer clear of my place.

After one incident in which a stranger in a big, black suburban pulled into our driveway and honked at me to get my attention while I was riding Lostine, sending Bombay into a rearing fit because he felt cornered in his pen, which in turn sent Lostine into a nervous frenzy while I was on her back, resulting in me doing an emergency dismount, my husband installed poles and chains across one end of the driveway to keep the idiots out.  I think the rude driver who caused that scene was honking because he expected me to just ride my horse up to his car and give him directions like he was some privileged fella pulling into Sonic and expecting his food to be brought to him without him having to get out of his car.  That's what gas stations are for, even if you have to exit your car now and actually go inside the mini-mart to ask for directions or buy a map.  Leave people in their private homes alone.

Anyway, in my new neighborhood I saw evidence of other neighbors trying to put a stop to lost drivers and trucks turning around in their driveways.  One neighbor keeps a trash bin positioned right smack in the middle of the end of his driveway whether it's trash day or not.  Another neighbor who lives across from one of these turnouts planted rows upon rows of cacti spaced a foot apart from each other right up against the road, forcing drivers to swing deep onto the shoulder and complete their turns on public land.  Sadly, two of the neighbors have broken fences where trucks backed too wide.  In one case the fence was metal rods and barbed wire.  In another case it was concrete posts.  Only a truck driver could back over something like that and not know it.  I mean there were two concrete posts in a row knocked down.

The other day I saw an 18-wheeler roll down the street.  For some reason, these lost drivers ignore the NO OUTLET sign and the DEAD END sign, and then get to a point where they see a house in the middle of the road, and they slam on their brakes right in front of my house.  Then the head turns and they study my driveway.  Fortunately, most truck drivers realize there isn't enough overhead clearance because of low-hanging power lines, and they look for some other avenue to make their turn, but I know one of these days some driver is not going to be attentive and take down those power lines.  This guy made several attempts to turn between the turnout in front of my neighbor's house and their driveway.  He finally gave up, and backed the big rig all the way up the street until he found a turnout deep enough for his vehicle.

I suspect that part of the problem is that there are two streets with the same name, only one is South and one is North, and a house in the middle of the road divides them.  Drivers who think they can get to the North road from the South road and vice versa are wrong.  They have to go all the way around the "block", which means following main roads since most of the residential roads are dead-ends.  The block is probably a four mile trip.  The roads in our city are built around natural washes, so they often abruptly stop, and then begin on the other side of the arroyo.  That's why you can't trust GPS directions in my town.

When we moved in, our movers tried turning the moving van around in that same spot and backed right into the neighbor's mailbox.  They had to buy them a new one.  The neighbors were understandably miffed, because they have this problem with truckers thinking they can turn there all the time, but there isn't enough room.

I came across one house that had piles of dirt and large rocks blocking the middle of their driveway.  I wondered why they did that, and then saw that there was a gate to public land right at the end of their driveway, so I'll bet they had problems with hikers and horseback riders cutting through their property at one time like we do now.

We've laid down some rocks, rolls of fencing, clippings, manure piles and dead trees ourselves, but people still come through.  They just make new paths.  One lady must be riding through our yard in the dark, because I see her on her horse scrambling up the cliff in my back yard just after the sun rises, heading back home.  She's too far away by the time I spot her for me to talk to her, but now I'm really concerned about liability issues if people are riding through my back yard under the cover of darkness.  We leave tools lying around, dig holes and trenches, and move things, so a horse could easily step on or in something that wasn't there before and get hurt or throw the rider and have the rider end up hurt.  I certainly can't see anything out there without turning on all the flood lights, so I don't know how a horseback rider can see where she is going without a full moon, at least.  Perhaps she attaches a flashlight to the horse's breastplate.  I'll bet someone makes breast collars with headlights.  I know they make tack with reflectors.

One unfortunate side effect of the public land turnouts is that anyone can park there under the guise that they are going hiking, but instead they sit in their cars drinking beer and leave the bottles and cans behind for those of us who live here to clean up.  I'm just relieved that there isn't a turnout right across the street from my house, because with our glass door, I'd feel uncomfortable wondering who's parked out there looking in at night.  Especially with everything I went through with the Peeping Toms and Peeping Nancy's at my last house.

The desert yards around here are a far cry from the sidewalks, paved driveways, planter walls and front lawns I had where I grew up.  The places I live just keep getting more and more rural (which is good) with less and less defined space (which is bad when your area is quickly growing and attracts tourists).  When we moved into our old home in Nevada, there weren't many fences defining the boundaries of our property, but it wasn't a problem until everyone started vacationing and moving there.  Then we had to start putting up fences, because the people didn't use common sense and respect our space.  With our new house, we have no fence between our yard and the yard of our neighbor to the south.  We just know that we own the land that is 50 feet out from the garage, so when we back our cars out, we are careful to stay on our side of the proverbial, and non-existent fence to be polite.

However, when the previous homeowners' mail started arriving here because their forwarding order expired, and I had to leave it in a secret spot for them to pick up, they didn't respect our neighbor's property line and just drove right onto his lot, making a U-turn in his front yard.  This embarrassed me, because he could clearly see tire tracks leading from our driveway and circling around his front yard back to our driveway.  So, my husband told the mail carrier not to deliver their mail here anymore.  We know most of the neighbors were really happy to have the previous owners move out, and we finally got a taste of why.

Then one day I felt and heard a large vehicle on the side of my house that had no windows.  By the time I got outside to investigate, the vehicle was gone, but I could see tire tracks cutting right through my neighbor's front yard to our garage, and then turning up our gravel driveway to make a U-turn.  That's just about the rudest that anyone has been yet.  I keep hoping to see this neighbor so that I can assure him that we are not the ones driving on his property.

Ultimately, it's an issue of respecting other people's space.  Drivers may think it won't hurt anything to turn around in someone's front yard if the yard is just dirt and weeds, but they are infringing on personal space.  They disrupt the peace of the neighborhood by causing dogs to bark, they vibrate houses, shine their headlights in windows and wake people up, and they sometimes cause damage to personal property, so why do it?  If you have to turn around, do it in a public place.

If you are on someone's private land by invitation, ask where it would be appropriate to drive and park.  Never assume that if it's dirt, you can drive on it.  It could be a freshly planted garden you're driving over or worse, the family cemetery.  We actually found an unmarked pet cemetery in a spot where we drive in the back yard of our new house.  How did we know?  Because bones started coming up out of the ground.

If you don't belong on a street that is a dead-end, don't go there.  Do your site-seeing on public lands.  There are plenty of places set up to entertain tourists, so there should be no need to cruise around in residential neighborhoods unless you are seriously in the market to buy a home that is up for sale on that street... and we have no homes for sale on our street.

I guess this comes with the territory when you live in such a beautiful area.  I had a chance to buy a house that was in the last row of homes closest to the mountain range with nothing to obstruct the view, but I chose not to in part because I knew I'd have a boatload of tourists turning around at the end of my street and probably in my driveway.  In fact, I could see all the tire marks at the end of that road in the satellite view.

The tourist problem isn't too bad on on the dead-end street in front of my house, but someone is turning around on the dead-end street at the back of my property just about every five minutes, and just about every other day I walk outside to find someone just parked up there sitting in their car.  I'm still not sure what's up with that.  Fortunately, the horses ignore it all.  It would be like Chinese water torture to me if I stood out by the barn all day and had to hear the repetitive sound of vehicle engines and tires on dirt turning around every few minutes.  It's different from the din of non-stop traffic in big cities.  You can tune out a sound if it is constant, but when you alternate between silence and noise, silence and noise, it's noticeable.

We actually only notice traffic in front of and behind our house when we are outside or when a huge truck vibrates our house.  Our windows are double-paned and tinted, which acts as a sound barrier as well as a sun barrier.

On this weekend's grocery shopping trip we experienced a definite shift in the population.  First off, if you like playing the State Game with license plates, you can get a whole lot of points in any Walgreens parking lot in Arizona this time of year.  We saw license plates from all over the United States and Canada.  The grocery store was so crowded I felt like a pinball being batted around in a machine.  My nerves were like lights and bells going off -- ding ding ding each time someone pushed me out of her way.

The people were all so different in many ways.  There were our local homeless along with the very wealthy and every financial comfort level in between.  There were many different accents being spoken.  The clothes were what really amazed me.  I saw a farmer from Wisconsin dressed in blue jean overalls and a plaid flannel shirt who seemed to be dressed for the cold and then all these other people who looked like vacationers wearing Bermuda shorts, Hawaiian tops and flip flops dressed for the heat.  I've been pretty much wearing nothing but blue jeans and sleeveless tops since I moved here, but yesterday I needed a sweater.

On the drive up our street with our groceries tucked in the trunk, my husband commented that at least where we live now, we can go home and get away from the crowds, but at our old house we were on a main road, so during good weather we couldn't escape the noise from all the extra traffic, the people asking for directions, and the drivers turning around in our driveway.  In fact, the silence on our new street is so pronounced that we can clearly hear the morning announcements at the schools in our area.  Yup.  I think we did good with this house we bought overall.  I hope this peace and quiet stays with us for at least a few years.


ellie k said...

Is your husband happy there and does he like his new job? It sounds like you made a good choice in this move,I don't think your horses are as jumpy and tense as before.

Cindy Durham said...

Ah the joys of Snowbirds! :)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

ellie k - Yes, my husband is very happy here and loves his new job. I chose the house, but he chose the location first.

achieve1dream said...

I'm glad you guys are enjoying your new house and the quiet. I hope it stays that way for a long time.