Claremont Insider: Kon-Tiki

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


The compelling subject of traffic median islands came up last week. Drive through Claremont on Foothill Boulevard and the trafficy-ness is relieved by these accomodations to the natural world, with large eucalyptus trees growing from the grassy greensward. The Claremont Courier, in an obituary on October 15 of the estimable former Claremont Mayor (1968-1970) Marjorie Spear, cited her as the mother, if you will, of the Foothill medians: "Ms. Spear's daughter, Kimberly McIntyre, recalls that her mother played in instrumental role in the installation of the median strip on Foothill Boulevard, where many trees grow. 'She always felt that she was responsible for that,' Ms. McIntyre commented. 'That's the one that sticks out.' "

Ms. Spear might have been a little surprised at the stubby islands that rose from the asphalt in the recent re-paving of Baseline. It seems that there are only a half dozen or so small mounds plunked down in the two-mile stretch between Monte Vista/Padua and Towne. They seem to have been downsized in all dimensions, sitting awkwardly well inside the double-yellow lines defining the left lanes. If City Manager Jeff Parker spent all the money he received from CalTrans to repave and landscape the road, then too bad he didn't negotiate for more to do the job right. If he actually received enough from CalTrans to do a complete job, and diverted some of it to other projects in the City, then his legacy, if any, will not stand up to that of Ms. Spear.

It has been noted that these blobs of islands don't even contain what is referred to in the traffic biz as the "finger", that long skinny extension of the median alongside the left-turn pockets. (See image, above left) Please, Mr. Parker, give us the finger.

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The spirit of adventure, though, does live on in Claremont and a local group of intrepid explorers wondered if it would actually be possible to travel the great distance from one island to the next across the vast expanse of Baseline Road. Taking their cue from Thor Heyerdahl's 1947 voyage in the balsa raft Kon-Tiki (showing the possibility that the Polynesian cultures could have emigrated from South America), these Claremont explorers undertook the dangerous trip from one Baseline island to the next, just to show it could, in principle, be done.

We have pictures and a portion of their log from the trip:

August 28, 2008: Set out with some trepidation but confident our preparations would lead us to a successful conclusion of our voyage. Scanning the route ahead, we see no sign of our destination.

September 1, 2008. A new month, and laundry day: Our hearty crew is happily at work making fast the lines and setting the sheets.

September 8, 2008. The doldrums take their toll on the men. Will this voyage never end?

September 17, 2008. The vast expanse of Baseline now seems utterly boundless to us. Murmers below.

September 23, 2008. The watch imagined that he espied land. When the haze lifted we were yet alone. Time will play its tricks.

September 28, 2008. One month out. Celebrated our good health with the last of our grog. Eastward ever! But the wind is gone.

October 11, 2008. After two weeks, the wind again freshens. From the top of the mizzen we are nearly certain the island is in view on the horizon.

October 14, 2008. Land ho!, on the forty-eighth day. The undemonstrative inhabitants gather on the beach.

October 15, 2008. We make safe harbor in the lee of the point, avoiding the dangerous rocks, and having proven the practicability of reaching one island from another. We eagerly anticipate our intercourse with the native inhabitants of this land.