Street Maze

I hate your streets Vancouver, Washington. Hate ‘em. Well, I guess your streets are lovely but the forefathers that designed them are not. I hate them instead. I’m sorry Vancouver, it’s just when I drive a hundred miles of your roadway, in the rain and all I see is numbered streets crossed with numbered streets I get a little cooky. I never thought it would be possible to be on the corner of 97th and 97th. That doesn’t make sense, if I was lost and needed rescuing I’m pretty sure I would die of massive blood loss before the paramedics found me. I thought I had regained my sanity when I saw lettered streets with actual names, but this was only a facade meant to confuse me. Many of your named streets turn into numbered streets! How was I supposed to know that White Pine Lane is another name for 38th ave? The gas attendant said to turn right on white pine so I didn’t think twice when I blew past 38th ave. I hate your road namers for that one. It seems impossible (and these are actual directions my dear readers) to head east on 76th, south on 94th/Covington (take your pic!), west on 63rd, and north on 76th……….wasn’t I just on heading east on 76th? Damnit.

Why can’t you be more like your bigger brother to the south, Portland? His streets are set up in a nice grid-like fashion. Streets heading North to South are numbered and East to West are named streets. The street numbers get consecutively larger as you travel away from the river that runs through the middle of Portland, thus rendering a ‘west side’ and a ‘east side’. So, NW10th tells me I’ll be going to the west side of the river. Simple stuff and!!! (this really is the kicker) if you are north of Burnside (the most major road running east to west) all the streets are alphabetical! Amazing stuff right? Plus Matt Groening used some of Portland’s street names for character names in The Simpsons and you know that what that means!? Neither do I, except Portland Streets are better than your streets, Vancouver.

Our company is changing it’s name so I’m having to drive around Vancouver to swap out the signs, simple enough, just not in Vancouver. I should consider myself lucky. I have a decent amount of direction, and a sense as to where North is. My sister on the other hand….not so much. I have fond memories of her not knowing how to get to the store that was located a mere three miles away from our house. In my early teens I put my life in my sister’s hands as I sat in the back of the car and watched her navigate my dad’s Caprice. She wasn’t overly scary when she actually drove, the only weird thing she did was to turn her whole body around to check her blind spot. I still don’t know if she realizes how many old people she ran over during those learning years. Her 10 second turnaround-blind-spot-check left many walkers in her wake.

I remember one particular time when we filled up the gas tank and Chantella* was at the wheel. I sat in the back, day dreaming about when I would be able to drive. In my afternoon gaze I saw the street that led to our house whiz by the window. I was about to mention something to the driver but I got the feeling I should just sit and wait it out. It wasn’t until we were 5 miles down the road that Chantella woke up from her own day dream, and realized she had no idea where we were. She turned to my dad in exasperation and said, “where are we?????”. He calmly looked at her and said, “I don’t know, you’re the one that’s driving.” And thus began a 30 minute trek for Chantella to find her way back to our house. I’ve thought about getting her a GPS for her car, that way she would never be lost. Well, almost never.

I went back to Vancouver this morning to finish swapping out signs that I did not finish yesterday. Y’know what’s even better then twisty numbered streets? Not popcorn, not a cheetah, you’re close with the ‘table tennis’ guess….give up? Black ice! I know huh? Silly fun. I was innocently listening to my Chipmunk Christmas CD when I turned off the main drag onto a side street and quickly found myself peregrinating perpendicularly down the avenue. Fortunately for me there were no other cars on the street and I was able to calmly straighten my car out and return to Alvin, Simon and Theodore before I reached the next 4-way stop.

My conclusion remains steady, I hate Vancouver’s streets.

*Names changed to protect the bad drivers.


  1. Phil said,

    December 21, 2006 @ 9:56 pm

    Yikes! A coworker of mine crashed his bike on black ice this morning. I went down a one way street yesterday…for about 10 feet before I fixed that problem. I sure felt like Chantella!

  2. normaljean said,

    December 21, 2006 @ 10:00 pm

    I try to avoid Vanabama as much as possible. Kinda blows my mind that i can drive 10 minutes from my house in lovely, liberal Portland and i feel like i’ve been transported to rural redneck Wyoming. (and i’m from there, so i know!) I swear… they’re just trying to be different on purpose. Those crazy Coovians.

    And you driving around listening to the chipmunks… lol. :P ALLLLLVINNNNN!!!!!!!

  3. Mego said,

    December 23, 2006 @ 10:08 am

    i was wondering who chantella was :)…at least i’m a safe trip… i feel your pain. i’ve gotten lost a number of times in vancouver, even after asking the gas attendant for directions…

  4. Pamela said,

    December 23, 2006 @ 9:31 pm

    I’m not going to defend Vancouver streets since I lived here for years before I could go anywhere beyond my basic four corners without a map, compass, cellphone and patience and I still get confused around Van Mall HOWEVER, I had a hard time learning to get around Portland as well. That whole Highway 8 and 10 and Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway and 26 / Sunset Highway, caused me a lot of grief when I first moved here. Why didn’t anyone ever explain that the number and name meant the same thing? And there were times when I wanted to just drive around the block and try again and next thing you know I’m on a dirt road or a bridge or something and ended up whoknowswhere. And I once got lost in the hills in SW Portland, at night, in the rain, and the nice locals could not get enough of the honking and brights flashing — as if we wanted be lost in the hills in the dark and were trying to ruin their night and hey, flashing your brights and honking is always helpful to lost people.

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