Meandering through the streets of lower Irvine I decided to take the 5 north up to Tustin. There was a small gap next to the southbound lanes that I’d always wanted to hit: a tiny little oasis of fencing in the middle of miles and miles of sound walls between Santa Ana and the 405 merge.
Turning around in Tustin, I head back south and see the fencing, just underneath a rampless overcrossing. I quickly scan the base of the support columns for stenciling, finding it on the far left: “Yale Av. Ovrhd”. Yale Avenue is now my destination. The next exit is Irvine Ranch Road, two and a half miles away. This distance, of course, only adds to the beauty of the spot. If the way back to Yale Avenue was in any way convoluted, my sign could stay up for a long, long time.
I get off at Irvine Ranch Rd. and quickly find myself lost in the dark heart of Irvine California. Composed entirely of planned developments, Irvine is a bit like Stepford on a budget: nothing but townhomes, apartment complexes and strip malls with names like Deer Creek and Heritage Meadows. Everything is clean, homogenous and orderly, though notably lacking in deer, creeks, meadows and heritage.
I suppose if I were truly living up to my potential I’d have a navigational system, or street maps of all these places, but I actually enjoy the process of dead reckoning. Seeing a spot and finding your way back to it - using tell-tales like powerlines and terrain, or simple guesswork - is part of the fun… part of the game.
My sense was that I’d been veering west from the freeway, so I made a right and went east for a couple of blocks and then north where I finally reach my holy grail: Yale Avenue. After a few exploratory forays down side streets I’m there: a shrub and bramble covered embankment that led to the fencing next to the Interstate. Immediately in front of the embankment however was a sign that read "This Area Is Being Monitored For Illegal Activity.”
I looked around for cameras but didn’t see any. Not that it mattered much – the sign said “Illegal Activities”, not the patriotic posting of free political speech. I pulled a “The War is a Lie.” sign out of my truck, folded it over and headed up the embankment, wondering what it was that made these bushes so special. Were they a teenage hangout? Gay trysting spot? Homeless encampment? What seedy subversive activities took place within these bushes to warrant such surveillance? I figured it was probably meant primarily for the homeless, but in a way for all the other things too. Every other part of the surrounding area was spoken for: whether it was a sidewalk, street, store, walkway, school, park or bike path: practically every square inch of Irvine California was being utilized for something… Except these bushes. If you were looking for a place to sleep, screw, or just smoke a joint, as far as Irvine was concerned, these bushes were pretty much it: the only place that remained off the grid, the last little bit of wilderness left. As the final holdout from the municipal panopticon, maybe it was possible the bushes actually were being monitored. “Come and get me then…” I thought to myself as I bungeed up the sign. “The day this becomes illegal is the day America dies.”
The sign stayed up next to I-5 for about three weeks.