LIFE IN OUR MOUNTAIN TOWN: Taking short cuts when tourists hit town
A friend of mine called me the other day and the first thing she said to me was, “They’re H-E-R-E!”
“Who’s here?” I responded without thinking. It was the day after Christmas – a Tuesday during vacation week.
My friend elaborated. “Town is absolutely packed. They’re streaming in on the freeway.”
Until then, I had forgotten that it’s not only officially high season. It was in fact the highest day of the highest week of high season.
Later in the day when it was my turn to venture out, I realized that when I am faced with mobs of cars everywhere, and traffic that moves at a treacherously slow pace, I start thinking about which short cuts I can take.
It wasn’t long before I came upon a long line of cars backed up from the three-way stop downtown all the way to the Catholic Church.
Thinking that a detour along Church Street was the answer to getting through this traffic, I then hit a completely blocked intersection at the corner of Church and Bridge Streets. At that point, I decided that I had better resort to an alternate plan to my already-altered first-intended route.
Thinking quickly of the next best way to cross the railroad tracks, I turned right instead of left. I headed around the back way on Jibboom Street, got back on Donner Pass Road heading west, went through the roundabout and then took McIver’s Crossing down under the railroad tracks. I experienced a short-lived moment of relief as I turned easily onto West River Street. Why I was surprised when I came upon backed-up traffic on West River Street, I do not know. I came to a complete stop in front of the Humane Society building with dozens of cars stretched out in front of me, all wanting to make a right at the corner where Highway 267 meets West River Street.
The reason I was surprised to come upon this final wait in traffic was that I had deceived even myself. I navely believed that knowing a few short cuts might help me actually avoid getting stuck in a major holiday traffic jam. Boy, was I wrong.
So there I sat, begging for patience to sweep over me, because nothing else was going to help me get home.
I remember reading an editorial in the Sierra Sun several years ago in which someone suggested that McIver Crossing be named the Corbett Cut-off. I thought that was a pretty good idea considering that the late John Corbett was in my opinion a Truckee fixture who should be honored. He was locally known for his historic photo collection, and I think he was also known for skewing his dates and facts a little, but nonetheless, he had quite an impressive collection of old photos. And besides, he played the part so well of Uncle Sam in many a Fourth of July parade.
Now that we have the second railroad under-crossing in place, many of us really do use it as a cut-off. I suppose politics at a local level came into play because I believe the stretch of road that is called McIver’s Crossing actually does cross over the late Mr. McIver’s property. Maybe one of these days another short cut will be constructed, and we’ll name it Somebody’s Cut-Off, if not John Corbett’s.
This past summer I found myself traveling above downtown on High Street on a fairly regular basis to avoid the road construction delays. I had never before noticed the hillside of lilacs in full bloom just below the Veteran’s Hall. Between the incredible display of lilacs and the windy roads and quaint older homes up there, I started to actually enjoy that alternate route.
I imagine the people who live up there, or those who live along any short cut route, don’t appreciate the extra traffic. But as long as you are cruising at the appropriate speed limit, and not whipping around corners trying to get someplace more quickly, I don’t see the harm in it.
In fact, I see short cuts as a necessary piece of knowledge for just plain getting around.
My recent personal revelation regarding cutoffs and short cuts is that when our population swells to triple what is normal, you can try a short cut or two, but it may backfire on you in the end. In a small mountain town with a limited number of roads, there’s only so much room. We would all be better off if we could either just stay home, or if once out amongst the tourists, remember that these visitors come to our area not to personally annoy us. They come because they like it here, just like the rest of us.
Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.
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