ALMANAC: The Queen of the Road
Longtime Claremont resident Karen Gastineau loves to be outside. “I love Mother Earth,” she said with a smile. So volunteering with Active Claremont’s Adopt-A-Roadway program was a perfect fit for the retired educator.
She has been picking up trash for about four years near her home on Scripps Drive. On the third Saturday of every month she starts off on Scripps, cleaning Towne Avenue north to Base Line Road, where she turns east, cleaning the north side of Base Line to the La Verne border. Her husband Lloyd drops a vehicle off for her at the border and then he cleans the south side of Base Line back to their home.
Unless he can’t make it and then she cleans the entire route.
Ms. Gastineau has been an athlete her entire life, including holding several national speed skating titles as a young woman. In the 1970s she and Lloyd, with their four children, Bob, Doug, Eric and Ann, climbed Mount Whitney, which is the highest point in the contiguous United States.
The young family also hiked the entire John Muir Trail, breaking the 220-mile route into several smaller hikes that they conquered over the years.
Ms. Gastineau continues a very busy hiking schedule. As an active member of the La Verne Trekkers, she puts in three to six miles a day. She also meets her sisters annually for hikes in the national parks.
An avid photographer, when Ms Gastineau hikes she often takes her camera and gets some pretty amazing pictures of wildlife. In 2013 during a hike in the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, she had a close encounter with a bear but kept her composure, snapping some action shots that were later published in the COURIER.
She has seen a lot while cleaning two of Claremont’s busiest streets. Like the time a motorist told her that an 80-year-old woman should not be picking up trash on the side of a busy road. To which she replied, “If people under 80 would stop discarding trash I wouldn’t have to.”
And about her age she is very clear: “Remember to tell your readers my age is 42 x 2, not 84.”
Ms. Gastineau looks sharp in her safari hat and reflective vest, with the handy “reacher” she uses to collect the garbage out of bushes. “It’s an unpaid job but I have found two $20 bills,” she quipped.
People have called the police on her twice—once because a passerby was afraid she was heading down the off ramp onto the 210 freeway and another person thought she should not be poking around in the bushes.
The worst litterbugs are hikers that park in the dirt lot at the corner of Towne Avenue and Base Line Road to walk on the Thompson Creek Trail, she said. Gesturing to the line of parked vehicles she remarked, “I once picked up 40 water bottles up there.” She also picks up a lot of cigarette butts.
She sees the value in what she and the other Active Claremont volunteers do. “If a place is clean, it stays clean, but if somebody sees a bunch of rubbish then they just throw trash out the window.”
She estimates that about a dozen people participate in the Adopt-A-Roadway program, which meets at St. Luke Lutheran Church, 2050 N. Indian Hill Blvd. at 8 a.m., the third Saturday of every month.
However, Ms. Gastineau is quick to point out that one does not need to be part of a group to help keep Claremont tidy. “Pick a street and clean it,” she said.