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The Perils of Park Avenue

By James Utt
By James Utt

I travel Park Avenue to and from my home each day. It can be a perilous journey.

Sometimes I suffer just minor, but annoying inconveniences that rankle, such as the super slow driver plugging up the hill at 20 miles per hour, oblivious to the number of cars behind them. This week, it has been the repair crews reducing the road to one lane. But pokey drivers taking in the sights and necessary road repairs are things I am willing to endure. Other things, not so much.

I live on the street right below Thurston School, which seems to have a different starting time for certain days of the week. I really must learn this schedule. Every time I have a morning appointment in another city, there are the Thurston parents in mini van masses slowing things down to a crawl. When Thurston lets out a little after 3, things get even worse. Some parents think it quite alright to park on corners, or make illegal u-turns if it helps them get in just the right position to make it easy for their kids to find them.

If I am extremely unlucky, I come up Park just as the high school is letting out. First, I come to the dreaded five way stop where Park meets Legion, Short, and the parking lot exit. No one, I mean no one, waits their turn. Having negotiated this hazard, I come to a complete stop as the students casually jay walk doing their best to look and act cool. I can’t blame them. I was young once and tried to act cool, with very mixed results.

Finally comes summertime and there is no school traffic to block my advance. There are still plenty of things to put a driver in peril. There is the ridiculously narrow part of Park between St. Ann’s and Skyline that tests my driving skills, as I navigate between parked cars and people that don’t stay on their side of the road. Heaven help you if a large truck is coming the other way.  Those of you familiar with the area know there is a “yield” sign for the people coming down from Skyline as it merges unto Park. I don’t know why so many people on Skyline take the “Yield” sign to mean “drive really fast and you can beat the people coming down Park.”

Some years ago, there was a near tragic episode that happened on this small stretch of Park. Going up the street from St. Ann’s, Park makes a jog to the left. Late one night a careless young driver did not make the jog and drove straight into a house, crashing into a bedroom that was thankfully empty at the time. When driving on that section of Park, please remember the words of Simon and Garfunkel, “Slow down, you move too fast.”

I love to see the deer that roam Mystic Hills, but sometimes they decide to not look both ways before they cross Park. My late wife hit a deer, not because she was speeding up the hill. She had just left the stop sign at Wendt when a deer bolted in front of her. Fortunately, it was a glancing blow and the young deer managed to disappear into the brush under his own power.

I have lived in Laguna long enough to know not to be overly critical of skateboarding, but I must relate this incident. Again, if you are familiar with Park, you know that just below Thurston there is a bend in the road, kind of a blind corner. Two large houses sit on the left as you go up the street. On trash day, the residents put their receptacles on the curb. The trash trucks must stop on Park to pick them up, pretty much blocking the entire lane. A young skater flying down from Top of the World, made the turn at Tahiti and suddenly had to swerve into the left lane to avoid the trash truck. I was coming home and as I approached the bend suddenly there was a skateboarder in my lane. He had just enough time to get back into his lane. If I had been two or three seconds faster, he would not have had time to maneuver back to his lane. The chances are good he would be dead today.

Shaken by this, I decided to get to my home by taking the more circuitous route up Skyline. The first day I took this way, a young skater came barreling down the street in my lane. He fell off his board and it hit my car. Unhurt, he picked up the board and ran away. Why was it again that we didn’t build a skateboard park around here?

Please drive with patience and caution when on Park. And parents, don’t block my street or driveway when you pick your child up from Thurston.


James Utt swears he saw a chupacabra late one night at the corner of Park and Tahiti.

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