Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Driving by Number


    Growing up in California, I've spent a lot of time on California freeways.  Although I've lived in other states, I've not encountered any place in which travel is identified by numbers as much as here. Sure, other places have numbered roads and highways -- but maybe by virtue of the size and density of California, so much travel here involves taking one freeway to another to another.  While I was thinking about how to approach this map challenge, I had occasion to take a road trip with my daughter to Los Angeles from our home north of San Francisco (101 to 1 to 280 to 85 to 101, in case you're wondering) and that caused me to settle on this concept for my piece. 

   The culture of "freeway-speak" is something that has always intrigued me.  As a child, I liked that freeways had names as well as numbers.  Perhaps it's a generational thing, but it doesn't seem to me that people use names to refer to freeways any more.  I miss that!  I found myself wondering about freeway names, which caused me to look them up, discover so many I'd never heard (did you know there's a Sonny Bono Memorial Freeway?), and hand-write many of them on the fabric for the background.

   As I made this, I added the freeways I've traveled on over my life, with heavy prominence to 101, 5, and 1 which run north-south through the state, and the 80 freeway which crosses east-west and is the route from San Francisco to Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, and points further east.  Almost all of these have strong associations of specific times, places, and memories for me. 


I couldn't help but include a few typical seen-from-the-freeway signs. Oh, shoot -- it just now occurred to me that I could have marked the very spot where my sister and I would shout "There's the Matterhorn!" when we saw its peak from the nearby 5 freeway. 


Here's another thing I always think about.  Up here in northern California, we say "take 101" or "take 680."  In Southern California, they say "Take the 101 to the 55 to the 210."  I wonder why?

I knew I had to include the caution sign showing silhouettes of running immigrants, which I've only seen on the freeway near San Diego. 

 
I wonder if there are other signs like it in other states, on other borders?  It's a clear, if somewhat jarring, warning to freeway drivers of the possibility that people might dash out onto the freeway as they ran to evade border patrols.  There were a number of deaths on the 5 freeway in the 80's and 90's from that very scenario, and that's why the signs were erected.  You can read more about the Immigrant Crossing signs here. 

This is a whole cloth piece.  I drew onto white fabric with black fabric marker, then used inktense pencils (from the Derwent Pencil Factory itself!) and textile medium to color the large areas.  It is machine quilted with monofilament thread. 

16 comments:

Diane said...

Love your piece! Here in Wisconsin we have lots of county roads that are named by letters and often double letters, so you would take PB to HH to B. I don't think I've seen lettered roads anywhere else.

Kristin L said...

I just visited my dad in California and was amazed that although I grew up in LA and was pretty freeway savvy, there are now even more, and more numbers to remember. It used to be we'd talk about the Hollywood Freeway and the San Diego Freeway, but now it's just 101, 134, 405, etc. Going to my dad's I was all discombobulated trying to sort out the 10, 210, 15, and 215! Anyways, I like your whimsical take on the craziness.

Del said...

This really speaks to me - it is what my mind displays when I think "map". I think one reason for the decrease in naming freeways is that the names are not generally shown on a map or GPS. Numbers are more concise.

Karen said...

This is so recognizable as home to me Diane, I think I've traveled most of these freeways. I love the writing with all the names, which are less recognizable.

Gerrie said...

As one who has travled all these highways as often as you, maybe more, I got this and loved it right away. We always love making it to SoCal where we can say The 210, etc. One of our fave landmarks is coming over The Grapevine and seeing the Magic Mountain amusement rides.

Brenda Gael Smith said...

My Californian husband drives by numbers but is stymied by Australian road systems where only a handful of major motorways have numeric names. I think he enjoyed our recent trip tp theSouth Island of New Zealand where numbers made an appearance. Now if only he knew left from right,we might get there without turning around!

I enjoyed the road signs and symbols incorporated into your composition. Part of the fun of travel is seeing the signs in different places and marking your progress on the journey.

Terri Stegmiller said...

I love this! I think your quilt and my quilt have almost the same colors along with handwriting.

Nikki said...

I love all the numbers. Around here, we usually just say "the highway" or it's name. If we use a number, we would include "highway." On our last trip through your state we were able to make it to Phoenix on just 5 and 10, although on the way home we added a couple extra driving through LA because we got stuck in the carpool lane and missed the interchange.

The people dashing across the road makes me laugh and reminds me of when I was in labor with our first baby. We went for a walk through the arboretum near the hospital and came to a place where we had to cross the freeway offramp or backtrack more than a mile. I don't know what we were thinking, but we managed to dash across safely.

Brenda Gael Smith said...

Oh, and I meant to say, that I love your choice of black & white (median lines?) binding.

Terry said...

OK. I love this. It is so quintessentially "California"--at least the popular cliche perception. It reminds me of that old Johnny Carson routine where the TV pitchman uses a map and gives directions to some discount store--"Take the Slausen cutoff, then cut off your Slausen!" It also reminds me of the Saul Steinberg cover illustrations for New Yorker magazine, many of which were maps. http://www.prattlibrary.org/uploadedImages/www/locations/central/periodicals/New%20Yorker%20001.jpg

Love the changing sizes of the freeway signs and the handdrawn letters and the very maplike color scheme, and the binding is perfect.

When we moved to Portland I kept hearing the radio drivetime traffic reports referring to traffic on "the Banfield" and "the Sunset." These names appeared on none of the maps of Portland. It took me months to learn that these were the old names for Highways 84 and 26. The radio people still refer to these two highways by their old names. All others by their numbers. Go figure.

imquilternity said...

I love this map/quilt. I'm very familiar with all of these highways/freeways as I've driven them repeatedly. I love driving on our highways here in California since there is usually always something to see along the way, but I miss the way they used to be when I first moved to CA in 1965...way less crowded.

Renate said...

I love this piece. Having just returned from a trip to Asilomar for Empty Spools Seminars, I can appreciate the way you have incorporated all of the various highways. I especially like how you added the "beach", "gas", and "palm reader" signs. And how unusual to have a caution sign with people on it. I've seen one with turtles on it, but never people.

kirsty said...

Diane, one of my favourites of yours! I especially like that the writing is quiet enough to be a second-look feature. Of course, the binding is perfection. Most intrigued by the immigrant crossing sign - my goodness! How bizarre is that?!

Deborah Boschert said...

Palm Reader!! That's just so funny. I can totally imagine the many random houses with neon "palm reader" signs that seem to be open all day and all night long. So odd.

Your technique is so perfect for this quilt. You did a great job with the fabric pen and filling in the color.

Françoise said...

Love this quilt Diane. This was in another life, but I still remember the 1, the 5 and the 101 so well!
Here, we also have numbers, and letters as well, like E411, N5 or A12. ;-)
(I had never heard about these immigrant crossing signs!)

Helen Conway said...

Did you have the ISpy books for kids in the USA? They were small pocket money priced car journey books aimed at keeping kids quiet by letting them looks for things out of thecar window and tick them off. In similar vein, i feel compelled to print a copy of this quilt off, come over with a car and colour the signs in as I see them. With my pencils from the actual factory of course. And I want one of those immigrant running signs for my studio wall :)