Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Landmark That Wasn't

June 23, 1993 Riverside County CA
It’s a new day and after a stay and fantastic breakfast at a Temecula B&B and a morning balloon ride, flying low past the local wine country and up through the overcast to the brilliant sunrise above the clouds at 4000’ (a gracious comp from a client) it was time for some real adventure; more state landmarks. First, a comment on ballooning.

One would think that at 4000’ thoughts would dwell on the fact that the only thing preventing a 4000’ fall is hot air and wicker, yet the serenity is overwhelming. So like images of trusting babies suspended from stork beaks and flying through pale blue skies with puff clouds, we ride, viewing the landscape in the scenic slow pan of a John Ford Western. Periodic bursts from the burners assure continued flight to those short of stature, but standing 6’ 4” at burner height, it’s a bit like having one’s head in a foghorn. Thoughts during this flight turn to an autobiography by aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky read many years before of his wish in those early years of avionics to build ever greater sized, but slow flying aircraft. Though he envisioned planes with pianos and dance floors, his largest effort was a craft called ‘The Grand’, a four engine passenger plane built about the time of the great war in Jules Verne fashion with etched windows, flower vases, and a sprial staircase to the roof walkway where Igor would stroll and smell the fresh Russian air. Elegance lost. The thing only went about 60 miles an hour. He must have felt like my Brittany spaniel with his head out the window of the DeSoto at full tilt. In the basket of a balloon however, it isn’t windy, it can’t be, but it’s a good bet that the free standing rush of a view is much like it was for Igor. Perspective is actually much better as the balloon flies low to the ground in what could be called Peter Pan range. Deft flap control by our pilot yields a soft Oz-like landing and we’re on our way to the first landmark.            

By now a reader may ask; “Who decides what becomes a California state historical landmark?” Well, research into this shows that landmark approval is lengthy and complicated process accomplished by an appointed panel of Hottentots and Potentates consisting of a doctor and a lawyer and an Indian Chief, and led by Way Out Willie, the historian. You submit your information to them and if they dig that crazy beat, they do the hand jive and the application is approved. A new landmark is then christened by the rockin’ Billy Holcomb chapter of E Clampus Vitus. 

The first stop on this day would have been number 1005, the Santa Rosa Rancho site in Murrieta. However, the California landmarks guidebook only went to 986 and the recently established landmark wasn’t listed. Nor was there, or is there to this day. an actual landmark plaque for this site. Apparently, the E Clampus Vitus boys were sitting this one out, as it would be later understood that they were all over most recent dedications and monument construction for as it turns out, the state doesn’t do it.

Old 1005 was the first heartbreak, unable to find on multiple attempts until 1998. There would be a good many others in those days before GPS and turn-by-turn instructions for the common man. On occasion, breaking the golden rule of male drivers everywhere became an option; asking someone for directions. To feel the humbling realization that at some point one has to throw in the towel and move on to fish elsewhere was a bitter pill. Blame then was easy, it was the map’s fault. Not enough detail from the AAA maps in rural areas was often a legitimate case in the attempts to regain masculinity, but after getting Thomas Guides, that dog would no longer hunt. Still, suburban sprawl marches on, often changing the face of these destinations with new or diverted roads, gates, and no trespassing challenges.

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