A hotel is a difficult place to keep children. There's only so much bed-jumping and complimentary-breakfast-eating and elevator riding that can be done before things devolve into catatonic television watching or wild running up and down.
Sunday morning came, and everyone went to church except me and the child who had inexplicably thrown up in the night. He was fine, the keeping him away was a precaution, so after numerous games of hide and seek (there are only so many places to hide in a hotel room and the two of us found them all) we went out for a walk.
What we found was far more interesting than another elevator ride. There's a strip of hotels here, newish, with nice landscaping around them, nice sidewalk running down the whole nice street in front. But step off the sidewalk and you find a whole network of streets-that-were before the hotels came. They're roads that don't go anywhere, or that connect to roads that dead end in the ground ten feet from the fancy new road. The hotels are steadfastly ignoring the streets' existence, their manicured lawns giving way abruptly to the wild overgrowth along the edges of the streets. A stop sign sprouts from the grass behind one hotel. It's been carefully trimmed around, but otherwise ignored.
There are wild blackberries growing rampant along the edges of the ghost roads. We picked a handful, being careful not to wade in too deeply lest we bring home chiggers along with our berries. I remember chiggers too well to want to deal with them again. There were concrete foundations with no buildings on top near the edge of one of the roads. Creeper vines shot across their surfaces, weeds grew from every crack. We probably wandered for an hour, picking berries and eating them, marveling at each new intersection left silent and crumbling, to be taken back by the aggressive, rain-fueled plant growth.
There was, at least for us, an unanswered question here. What in the world happened that would cause the abandonment of one set of streets and buildings for another set? And why hadn't the newcomers bothered to clean up? Of course we spun stories about everything from aliens to nuclear holocaust, knowing that it was probably simply progress and money and shifting neighborhood needs.
Back in our hotel room, we pulled up Google Earth and looked at past satellite images of this corner. The first image, taken in 1994, shows our roads intact and in use. The next, ten years later, shows that the recreation had already begun. As we pulled the slider up through the years, we could see where the end of the road that connected to the freeway had been cut off, then a Cracker Barrel had been built where it used to connect. The other end of the road had served as temporary access to a newer, fancier road, with a pretty median and landscaped roundabouts. We could tell whether the road was still in use at any given time by the cars that dotted it. But one more click of the slider, and the cars were gone. The fancy road had come into use, and the cars were gone from our old road. Now pulling the slider down showed the roads' steady decay into the ghost roads we saw on Sunday morning.
There's sure to still be a story here. We can see what is, we can see what the satellites saw (which is a major geek-out for me) but now we need somebody to tell us what happened.
Good thing I live here now. Maybe I can find someone who knows.