On the Road, a new window on Claremont

by John Pixley


It turned out that Emma was taking us the long way. What should have been a 17-minute trip ended up taking 45 minutes. There were an awful lot of right and left turns, coming one right after the other, and we found ourselves driving on  the same roads and the same highway several times. After a while, Reginald joined in but he basically gave the same directions.

Not to worry, though. My two friends and I had left early, so we weren’t late. Instead of being super-early and perhaps rude, we were right on time. What’s more, all those right turns and left turns were quite lovely, bringing us down quiet roads lined with beautiful trees and charming cottages or through golden fields dotted with livestock and storybook barns. Each turn was lovelier than the last, and seeing the same roads several times was no problem.

Even the highway was attractive, more like a verdant main road rolling over the hills than a state thoroughfare, easy on the eyes during our repeat jaunts on it. But there was a problem—we were lost. We had no idea how to get to where we were going and were going around in circles. It was hard not to panic, especially with the phones and GPS guides—affectionately dubbed Emma and Reginald, the latter of whom is a bit more bossy, only giving directions without the street names (“Now turn right”)—losing their connection or running out of power.

It turns out that Grass Valley and Nevada City, mashing up seamlessly along Highway 49 in the rolling foothills northeast of Sacramento, are an awfully nice place to get lost, go in circles and even panic. For the last five or six years, I have been going to Grass Valley in mid-July to camp at a music festival at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. But it has been many more years since I took time to explore these “Gold Country” towns. And, ironically, I saw more of their neighborhoods on this misguided outing.

That’s the best thing about trips: the unexpected adventures when we see things that people don’t usually see, even when they spend time on a visit. That and meeting people and making new friends. My friends and I were enjoying both; we were on our way to visit someone I had met a week earlier at a meeting in Marin County.

It just so happened that my friends and I would be attending the music festival in Grass Valley. So we would be in his neighborhood (his neck of the woods) for a visit before heading back to Claremont via Lake Tahoe and Bishop. These sorts of unexpected side trips and stops are another bonus in traveling.

An additional bonus in this side trip was how it provided another view of Claremont. Yes, this little jaunt, getting lost and driving in circles in Grass Valley and Nevada City, opened a new window into our fair little city for me.

It made me appreciate Claremont even more and recognize how fair, how attractive, how beautiful and lovely our little city is. We always like to say how wonderful and unique Claremont is, but it turns out that’s more than wishful thinking or civic pride.

As I learned not long before this trip and mentioned in my last column, Claremont has been named by TheCultuTrip.com, a travel website, as one of the 10 most beautiful towns on the west coast. That’s not all, though. In this list, it is one of four—only four—towns in California. The other four include, yes, Nevada City, as well as Cambria and Mendocino.

Think about it. Claremont is seen, by at least some, to be as fair and charming as these lovely getaway spots. Is there any one of us who wouldn’t jump at the chance to spend a week, a weekend or even a night in Cambria or Mendocino? Most of us savor a day spent in one of these idyllic burgs, especially when they aren’t so crowded. The same goes for Nevada City, though it may not be as well-known.

 So Claremont is now seen, or increasingly seen, as a charming, picturesque town, a getaway spot right up there with Cambria and Mendocino and the beautiful Gold Country. Is this surprising? Is this a shock? Perhaps. It certainly got a “wow!” out of me. But maybe it shouldn’t be.

After all, my last column‚the one in which I mentioned the list on TheCultureTrip.com, was all about how Claremont is like one big park, ideal for a summer afternoon or evening respite. Not only are there an impressive number of city parks, there are the Colleges with all their park-like acres. Even with the fading lawns in this unprecedented summer of drought, they still offer a peaceful escape, complete with their noted trees. Indeed, Claremont’s trees and urban forest was a major factor in the website’s citation.

And there are plenty of stories about people getting out and enjoying Claremont and its urban forest, not to mention its cultural opportunities and its unique shops and restaurants. In the same edition of the COURIER, there was not only an article about another new restaurant in town but a feature on the Claremont Senior Bicycle Group. Sponsored by the super-active Claremont Senior Program—yet another stand-out in this community—the group plans and leads regular weekly rides on our pleasant streets. Longer rides further afield are also on the schedule but, as Angela Bailey points out in the article, “There is no better place to be a cyclist than the City of Trees. With over 30 linear miles of bicycle infrastructure and organizations geared towards all ages and cycling skill levels, Claremont—which has been designated as a bike-friendly city by the League of American Cyclists—is a haven for cyclists.”

It turns out that, with all our trees, this is actually a healthier town. According to a study published in Scientific Reports analyzing two sets of data from Toronto, adding 10 trees to a street can make a resident feel seven years younger. Furthermore, the study found that residents on streets with a higher density of trees are less likely to have cardio-metabolic conditions such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes.

“Trees remove pollutants from the air, so it could be the cleaner air, or it could be that adding more trees on a street encourages people to get outside and exercise more,” said Marc Berman, director of the Environmental Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Chicago and the senior author of the paper. “Or it could be that the environment is more beautiful, and that contributes to health.”

We should be pretty darn healthy here with more than 24,000 trees. That’s right, there are over 24,000 trees in Claremont and, in a project carried out by students in Pomona College professor Char Miller’s Environmental Analysis 190 class, they are all “mapped” online. For information on any of the trees lining Claremont’s streets or in its parks and other public places, visit claremontsurbanarboretum.wordpress.com. 

I wonder if Nevada City can beat that.


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