On a typical spring day, her house on at Center Court and Cypress drives would already be among Tracy’s most beautiful, boasting banks of golden poppies, purple primrose, innumerable cacti and an ancient rose that somehow survives despite a hollow knot in its middle.
But sometime last week, an Agave americana — also known as a century plant — sent up a shoot that as of Tuesday, April 23, was 15 feet tall and would soon burst into flower.
The cactus blooms only once in its life, which according to my trusty gardening book is from 10 to 40 years.
When the agave flowers, Churchill’s house will be a local must-see on the level of Candy Cane Lane around Christmastime.
But it’s only one of several character-laden corners that belong on the list of most interesting — or most infamous — intersections in Tracy.
Sixth and D streets
Not without reason, the roundabout at Sixth Street and Central Avenue got a good deal of hype leading up to its official opening in May 2012.
It was attached to a plan to turn the first block of East Sixth Street into a community hub, part of a downtown rebirth that began years ago with the streetscape project.
Eventually, that traffic circle will boast a bronze statue of a rail conductor and a farmer and will hopefully serve as a focal point for the downtown and a built-up Bowtie area, which is now just brown fields between Sixth and Fourth streets.
But for my money, the smaller roundabout on Sixth and D streets is far more interesting.
Not only does it have an appealing under-the-radar status, but I think it has more innate character.
It’s not perfectly round, it has no grand plan for a statue in its midst, and drivers can swerve over brick paving stones and not be considered outside the right-of-way.
Ninth, Eighth and F streets
It’s not often that roads with parallel designations intersect, but they do just east of downtown Tracy.
Drivers can thank the street grid that results from the bend of the Sixth Street railroad tracks to the south and the straight east-and-west course of 10th Street to the north.
When the two roads intersect with north-south F Street, it creates what you could call the Five Points of Tracy — a five-fingered meeting of the ways that would probably cause crashes if it weren’t in a quietly traveled section of town.
To top it off, there’s a gazebo on the tongue of land that juts northeast between Eighth and Ninth streets.
Anything that recalls the old gazebo of Lincoln Park gets points in my book.
Holly Drive-Central Avenue and 11th Street
Now we move from the interesting to infamous.
In a quirk of city planning that would not happen in a modern subdivision, this intersection is slightly offset — if you head west on 11th Street and turn north onto Holly Drive, you need to make a turn sharper than the standard 90 degrees.
That’s no big deal when you’re in the family sedan, or even the family Suburban. But if you’re behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer — well, there’s a reason City Hall hasn’t labeled this particular path a truck route.
In the past few years, at least two tractor-trailers trying to make the tight turn have taken out street signals at the awkward intersection.
At least the city goes after the trucking companies to pay for the replacement lights.
Tracy Boulevard, Sixth Street and Beechnut Avenue
Railroad tracks, two east-west streets and one of Tracy’s major north-south thoroughfares all wrapped into one intersection that actually functions? Cool.
I’ve taken many an evening jog and been thankful I don’t have to wait at the traffic signals, only to be a driver there a day or two later and find myself impressed at how relatively efficient the signals are.
What sounds like a mess on paper is actually a well-regulated confluence, but its design and timing makes it a must-mention when it comes to funky Tracy intersections.
MacArthur Drive and 11th Street
If you’ve driven west into town around the time Tracy High School gets out, this one probably doesn’t need explaining.
The traffic backups that reach south down MacArthur Drive and east on 11th Street over the bridge have somewhat improved since the city implemented a plan to time traffic lights on 11th Street to reduce gridlock. But the problem won’t be wholly solved until the intersection — including its railroad crossing — is completely rebuilt.
Fortunately, that project has traction, from city to congressional levels. Unfortunately, there’s no telling when it will actually be transformed.
Grant Line and Byron roads
Technically, this tangle of Medusa’s hair isn’t within Tracy city limits. But so many local drivers brave it every day — and it’s so terribly dangerous — that it gets the anchor lap on my list.
The intersection’s two stop signs are wholly inadequate to handle the commuter traffic that navigates its railroad crossing (notice a pattern with these?) and strange angle.
According to city of Tracy engineer Kul Sharma, city staff has worked with San Joaquin County for years to get the intersection expanded and have a signal light installed.
The design is essentially complete, Sharma told me this week. But there is no timeline for the county to actually construct the project. Evidently, the county must still acquire rights to adjoining land to expand the right-of-way.
For the sake of the town’s commuters, I hope the work begins soon. It’s a miracle the intersection doesn’t see more accidents.
• Second Thoughts is a personal opinion column by editor Jon Mendelson. Share your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.