Monthly Archives: September 2014

Where the Streets Have Too Many Names

We’ve been living in our new town for about a month and a half, and I have yet to drive anywhere. I’ve been driven, you see, but I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car myself. Partly it’s because Dave knows his way around town and I don’t, and partly (mainly) it’s because his only ear with some hearing is on his right side, so if he drives then we can still carry on a conversation. (If I drive, his deaf ear is next to me and it’s very difficult for us to talk to each other.) But there’s another reason: I can’t figure out the street names.

I had no problem tooling around in my Chicago suburb, with the traffic from hell and crazy drivers on the expressway who get exasperated if you’re only driving 80 mph in the slow lane. You’d think moving to a small town bordered by farmland, with dirt roads here and there, would be super-simple. You would be wrong.

Every street seems to have a minimum of two names, and most have three or four. And all the names are used interchangeably. We had a couple of streets near us in Illinois that had two names – Rt. 53 was Rohlwing Road, for instance – but nobody ever used both names. We called it ‘53’ and that was that.

I tend to be a lazy passenger, and I’m terrible with directions to begin with. I mean, I can follow directions with no problem and work a GPS like a champ, but if you tell me to go west or east, I will just stare at you. Then I’ll say, “Um, so do you mean turn left? Which way is east?”

When we drive around (and believe me, we spend a lot of time driving around because it’s fun checking out the area), I don’t pay any attention to the roads Dave is taking. I don’t remember, ever, how to get somewhere. Now, this isn’t totally my fault because Dave has a habit of taking a different route every time we visit a specific destination. “Hmmm,” he’ll say, “I wonder where this road goes?” And off we go, until we reach a road familiar to him. He says it’s his way of figuring out the street layout in town. It just confuses me, so I enjoy the scenery and trust that he can get us where we need to go.

Yesterday, though, I decided to pay more attention to how we get to town. I mean, if I ever had to run to Shelton’s for some groceries or go to the pharmacy in town, I would have no idea how to get there. NONE. I’d have to look up the address online and then rely completely on the GPS.

I pulled out my notepad as we headed to Goodwill to look for funky lamps for the living room. “I’m going to write down how to get to some of the places in town,” I told Dave confidently. “I really should know my way around by now, you know?”

I carefully noted whether Dave turned left or right (no east, west, north or south for me) and the street names. A couple of times I had to catch myself because I started daydreaming and gazing out the window, not paying attention, but all was well until we got near town.

“So this is Oak Street?” I confirmed as I wrote.

“Well, it’s also Main Street.”

“Oh, like Main Street where downtown is? Okay.” I added ‘Main St.’ in parentheses after Oak Street.

“It’s also M-51,” Dave continued.

At this point I was getting confused and a little frustrated as I said, “And isn’t 51 the same as North Fifth Street?”

Let me just pause here. As I was writing this, I asked Dave to confirm that North M-51 and North Fifth Street were the same. He said yes, and then added that it is also the same as 11th Street.

See what I mean?!

My directions stop at that point, not only because I was getting a little excited as I argued my point that it was ridiculous for one street to have three or four names, but also because Dave did another one of his detours to find out if we could get to Broadway Street from there.

Did I also mention that M-139 is the same as 51?

Even the GPS gets confused. When we punched in the address for Lehman’s Orchard, she directed us to a home about a quarter mile before the actual destination. “You have arrived!” she announced cheerfully, and Dave obediently turned into the driveway while I said doubtfully, “Um, this looks like somebody’s house.” As we pulled up and stopped, their (very large) dog trotted over and stuck his head in Dave’s window. We carefully and nervously turned around, continued on up the road (no longer expecting to find the orchard) and … there it was, just a little ways up.

When Dave tried to enter the address for the Battle Creek VA Hospital (we’ll talk in another post about how I feel about the VA’s handling of his appointments), Maggie the GPS refused to accept it. According to her, there were no addresses above 5100 on that street, even though the hospital was pretty darn sure their street number was 5500. “I bet the street has a different name that Maggie doesn’t know,” I said helpfully. In the end, I printed some directions from Google Maps for Dave to use.

So anyway, at least I can get myself out of my general neighborhood. Anything beyond that, I just hand Dave the car keys and enjoy the ride.

Let's see where this road takes us ...

Let’s see where this road takes us …

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A Little Bit Country

Yesterday we went for a visit with Dave’s sister and her family. It’s so nice to be half the distance from them compared to when we lived in Illinois, and we took advantage of the shorter drive by staying way longer than we planned. (I hope we didn’t overstay our welcome!) Consequently, it was dark when we were driving home – dusk at first, and then the kind of black, dark night you can only get out in the country.

We hadn’t been on the road for long, and it was still dusk. I was looking around at the houses and scenery when Dave came to a complete, unexpected stop. I looked at him curiously and he gestured to the road in front of us. Just then, a deer ambled in front of car. She turned and looked at us for a second, then continued on to the other side of the street. Just as I, in all my city-girl glory, was squealing, “Oh my GOD — a deer,” her fawn trotted across the street after her. “A BABY!” I gasped, grabbing Dave’s arm. We watched them walk off into the woods, then he took his foot off the brake and we continued on.

I’ve seen deer before, but they were always far off on the distant side of the road as we whizzed by at high speed. I’ve never seen one that close up, and never expected to see one in what looked to me like a fairly residential neighborhood. I was also shocked that I didn’t notice the deer at all until Dave stopped. I asked him if they just appeared quickly, out of nowhere, or if they’d been right there all along and he said that yes, they’d just been right there; it wasn’t like we barely missed hitting them or anything. Just goes to show how bad my powers of observation are. (Dave does that a lot, by the way – we’ll be driving down the expressway and he’ll yell, “Hawk!” while I whip my head around and say, “Where? Where?” I never notice the wildlife that he so easily sees.)

The rest of the drive was fairly nerve-wracking because I kept expecting deer to leap out in front of us. Once it became fully dark it was especially tricky, because our entire drive was on a road through the country (not a major highway) with no streetlights. Eventually Dave remembered that it was easier to see with the brights on, and he commented that he couldn’t even remember the last time he used the brights when he was driving. It didn’t take long to get used to the ‘turn the brights off when another car approaches’ dance (although he did long for the days when the control used to be on the floor instead of by the steering wheel).

Adjusting to small town life hasn’t been that hard for me, partly because I have always preferred small towns – it wasn’t like I was dragged here kicking and screaming. I love hanging my laundry on the clothesline; never encountering traffic when we drive around is another big plus. We are in an unincorporated section outside of a fairly big town for this area, so where we live feels like the country (we have well and septic, but we do have natural gas instead of a propane tank for heat). It only takes 5 or 10 minutes to drive into the area of town where the stores and restaurants are; a 20 minute drive takes us into South Bend or Mishawaka, Indiana where it feels just like the area we left behind in Illinois, with every kind of store imaginable as well as a shopping mall.

One of the biggest surprises to me was how painless it was to get used to a much smaller house. I really thought I’d feel claustrophobic or constantly be comparing this house to the one in Illinois, but that hasn’t happened at all. I love this house, and although it would be nice to have another half bath and bigger bedrooms, the adjustment has been completely painless. Probably the hardest thing for me was giving up central air. We did buy a window AC unit but I’m loathe to turn it on unless it’s super hot in the house; even though it’s Energy Star compliant and isn’t supposed to cost much to run, I have this fear of getting a huge electric bill if we use it too much. (I know – central air would cost WAY more, but I never said my fears were rational!)

I knew we’d have a hard time finding a grocery store like the one we used in Illinois, which had really low prices and a huge variety of ethnic food, along with a massive deli and produce department. (For anyone in that area of Illinois, it’s Valli Produce – if you have one near you, cherish it!) We had a lot of fun checking out the grocery options in our little town, and after trying all of the stores we’ve narrowed it down to two right in town, as well as Aldi in South Bend and local produce stands in our area. We tend to get all of our produce from the farm stands (farmer’s markets haven’t been as successful, which has been a surprise) and shopping every other week at Aldi helps keep our food bill down.

But one thing we just haven’t found is a deli department that even compares to Valli. The selection at the delis here is very, very small and, oddly enough, when we have anything sliced it is always sliced in super-thick pieces. They do hold it up and ask if it’s okay, but from far away it looks fine. Then we get it home and realize the slices are like a quarter of an inch thick. That doesn’t sound like much but in lunchmeat, it’s huge! It’s become a source of amusement with us, because every single deli does the same thing. Today we went to a deli that had a little sign on the counter with examples of thickness, so we used that – it helped, but the meat is still far thicker than we’re used to. Not a big deal, just funny. (And we just use less meat on each sandwich!)

Dave got to meet one of our neighbors, when the guy needed a jump for his tractor. He’s very chatty and friendly, so Dave quickly found out that both the house next door and the one across the street are empty, which explains why we’ve never seen neighbors there. You’d never know, because the lawns are meticulously maintained and there’s no For Sale sign up. (We’ve also noticed that everyone out here, even people far out in the country with acres of lawn, keeps their lawn mowed and perfectly maintained, whereas in our old Chicago suburb, with postage-stamp sized lawns, half the people rarely bothered to mow until they got a ticket from the village.)

I also found turning 50 to be completely painless – that happened last week. Seriously, turning 30 was much more traumatic for me than turning 50. I’m not sure if it’s just that I’m less neurotic now, or maybe the 20 extra years of wisdom have mellowed me out or something. (How is it that it’s been 20 years since I turned 30? See, now that freaks me out more than knowing I’m 50!) I think it also helps that I feel better, physically and emotionally, than I did for all of my 40s. Plus, I get to grow old with my cute husband, whom I didn’t know when I turned 30.  🙂

On my 50th birthday – Aug. 28, 2014

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