Woog's World / I'm in your driveway. Where are you?
Published 3:35 pm, Thursday, March 10, 2011
GPS is great -- but hardly infallible. We've all heard stories of drivers who follow dashboard instructions straight over a cliff or into water. Recently, a man listened confidently as his GPS woman chirped instructions down a narrow canyon path. He could not turn around, and was rescued by helicopter.
Westporters living on High Point Road have learned to instruct visitors not to type that street name into their destination box. For some reason, GPS directs drivers to "Hillspoint Road." Time after time, folks call High Point Road residents and say, "I'm in your driveway, but I don't think this is your house." It isn't. It's someone else's, on Hillspoint Road.
Westport encompasses only 22.4 square miles, but we've managed to devise some confusing place names all around town, everywhere you turn (and turn again).
For decades, "Gault Park" referred to one of the many small streets coursing through what at one time was Morris Ketchum's Hockanum Hills estate (or "Hokanum" Hills, depending on whom you believe). Whatever. Despite living here all my life, I still get lost in those side roads off Cross Highway, and Weston, Easton and Coleytown roads.
Now, however, "Gault Park" also refers to the housing development built on the site of the former Gault Co. gravel pit off Imperial Avenue. (Gault Park was once the name of the Little League Field on the other side of Imperial, adjacent to the river. It too fell prey to the home construction boom.)
New Gault Park houses are on Gault Avenue, plus side streets with names like "Wheeler Gate" and "Sandhopper Trail." I have no idea why a road is called a "Gate," nor can I figure out why anyone would name a road for (I am quoting the dictionary here) "small amphipod crustaceans that hop like fleas; common on ocean beaches."
Not far away, also off Imperial Avenue, is Franklin Avenue. It's not really an "avenue," just a small side street with a few houses. However, right across the Saugatuck River -- less than half a mile, as the sandhopper flies -- sits Franklin Street. It's a short, one-way road; you may know it as the route of the Italian Festival parade, when every July Italian musicians like drum-and-bugle-corps and bagpipers march the wrong way down it, from Saugatuck Avenue to Luciano Park.
Franklin Street is a throwback to the Saugatuck of old -- it's got some of the last remaining two-family homes in Westport -- and I can only imagine how confusing it must be for residents, FedEx drivers and GPS voices to have two such similarly named places, separated by only a river.
The Deepwood and Deerwood Lane folks must get mixed up a lot too. The first is on Easton Road, way up in the boonies near the Fairfield and Weston borders. The second is off Roseville. Well, technically, it's off Deerwood Road, which is off Roseville. That, too, must make things tough for anyone who relies on modern technology to find their way around -- in other words, everyone.
A couple of hills away on Roseville lies another side street, Hitchcock Road. That's funny -- there's another Hitchcock Road off Cross Highway, around the corner. Maps -- even Google Maps, which is to your laptop what GPS is to your dashboard -- show the two Hitchcocks as one road.
They're not. I'm sure at one time the idea was to build one road, but someone, some day, parked a house right in the middle of the street. Today the only way to make sure your package gets delivered, or your guests arrive, is to indicate whether it's the Roseville Road or Cross Highway street. Why neither street changed its name is a mystery worthy of, um, Alfred Hitchcock.
One of the quirkiest, most confusing road situations occurs off Weston Road. A series of winding streets are named, variously, West Branch Road South and West Branch Road West. Of course, the main "West Branch Road" branches off in mid-turn, and South and West branch off each other, like the family tree of a very dysfunctional clan. Muddling the waters even more ("West Branch" refers to the Saugatuck River, hence the very clever allusion), West Branch is actually in Weston, before returning to Westport.
I've always wondered what the call center people in India think when someone ordering by phone gives this address: "West Branch Road West, Westport."
Other close-but-not-quite street names must also give UPS drivers (and police and firefighters) fits: Canal Street (near downtown) and Canal Road (Saugatuck Shores); the Blues (Blue Chip Lane, Blue Coat Lane, Blue Ribbon Drive, Bluewater Hill); the Broads and Brooks (Broad Street; Broadview Road; Brook Lane; Brooklawn Drive; Brookside Drive, Park and Place); Reichert Circle and Reimer Road.
And don't get me started on Greens Farms -- or is it Green's Farms, or even Greens' Farms? That's a whole other column. I'll start researching it right away, just as soon as my GPS figures out where it is.