Editor’s note: Today is the debut of the second of the two new Eye on Isla Vista columnists, Henry Sarria. A longtime I.V. resident, Henry will be offering columns from the non-college student perspective along with Cat Neushul, who debuted last month. Sarria and Neushul will be writing once a month each, while UCSB student Nicki Arnold will be writing twice a week. Give Henry a big welcome and look forward to future coverage of I.V. goings-on from this team.
I first moved to Isla Vista in March of 1988. Before that I’d been living in Ellwood, but the quiet of that place drove me nuts. The real night life, as well as the bulk of my friends, were in Isla Vista. Besides, I always felt that’s where I belonged, so the move was appropriate for me.
The apartment that became my home for the next year sits on the corner of Camino Pescadero and Sueno Road, where Pardall Road empties out onto Camino Pescadero.
What made that intersection a lively one was the fact that it was a “bicycles only” throughway from Camino Pescadero to Pardall, with the northmost “slot” being the “out” path to Camino Pescadero and the southmost “slot” being the “in” passage to Pardall Road. These “in” and “out” slots ran either side down a tree-filled chunk of land at the edge of Pardall that prevented cars from being able to pass through the intersection.
As limited as this passageway was, it had to be the most busily traveled route to and from the UCSB campus throughout the week. And then there’s the fact that the “in and out rules” never really applied. This amounted to wrecks and near-misses being common sights.
I can remember my roommates and me rushing home from class or work before the “noontime loonies” would begin. We’d grab our lawn chairs, a couple of beers, and sit on our front lawn watching near disasters between bikes and people. This became something of a spectator event and soon all our neighbors were joining us for the lunchtime show of a lifetime.
If there was ever a more chaotic time on that road connection, it had to be at the beginning of the school year, when a combination of newbies to town and the forgetfulness that summer vacation brings to the grizzled Isla Vistan would be a recipe for disaster.
It finally ended up with us making judges’ scorecards and holding up scores for all the accidents and almost accidents. If we had video cameras, America’s Funniest Home Videos and Jackass would be sending my former roomies and me some royalty cash.
Yeah, good times I tell you.
It has been a while since my move from that corner of Isla Vista to a somewhat quieter and safer place down Sueno Road, but the near misses and direct hits continue.
I always said that if Charles Darwin were to visit Isla Vista, especially this intersection, he would feel that the theory of evolution and survival of the fittest is clearly proven at this spot.
Evolution relies on change, and just recently a change has occurred that is going to make the lunchtime demolition derby known as noon break even more of a show.
It all started with the appearance of construction equipment and detour signs a few weeks ago. Whenever I see these implements and machines the conspiracy theories begin to formulate in my head, in a place that my lovely wife refers to as “Hank’s World.” What the heck are they doing now?” I asked myself.
The sinister plan would eventually become evident upon my return from the National Bicycle League BMX Grand National Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, last week: The tree-filled “island” that limited the Pardall Road/Camino Pescadero passage to bicycles is gone and it is now a full blown intersection!
Sure, it is now easier to maneuver a car through Pardall to the west end of Isla Vista. Cool with me.
The flaw is human nature.
I am willing to bet that at this intersection, the number of unfriendly confrontations between cars and bicycles is going to increase exponentially. It was bad enough with the bike-on-bike near misses, but this latest change has just added another component of excitement to the already cluttered scenery known as downtown I.V.
Thus far, on a few travels through that intersection I’ve noticed a slight uneasiness between the bike riders and the car drivers. You can cut the tension with a dull knife. Near misses? Yeah, we still got them, but now cars are in the mix as well and this is going to be a true test of the Newtonian model of force = mass times acceleration.
Word had it that the “bike island” was going to be rebuilt and things would be back to “normal” in no time, but from the looks of it, Pardall Road to Camino Pescadero is going to stay a throughway for all kinds of madness. I also spoke with some of the construction job supervisors and when I mentioned about the island being rebuilt they just looked at me like I was crazy and asked, “What island?”
That was all I needed to hear.
The masses that flood the streets of Isla Vista aren’t fully back from summer break yet, but when they return to this lovely seaside community you can bet that the show will be on!
As for me, I’m going to play it safe and stay away from the carnage. BMX and downhill racing are dangerous enough as it is.
Maybe it is time to grab the lawn chair, a cooler with a few cold ones, dust off the old scorecards, and head on down to Camino Pescadero and Pardall Road for the show. Remember, the show starts at noon and the betting window takes trifectas. Win, place or show, it don’t get better than this.