Roundabouts and beer

The Downtown Couplet is complete, but we’re just starting our celebration of craft beer

As I sit writing this column, gazing out the window every so often to the corner of Second and Flume streets, I’m well aware that I’m witnessing the calm before the storm. It’s Tuesday afternoon and the major construction on the First and Second Street Couplet project ended last week with the remainder of the resurfacing work. Most of the detail work, such as road striping, has been completed, too. It’s down to the fine details now—landscaping and signage work.

On Thursday (Aug. 8), the streets outside the CN&R office will once again be buzzing with the sound of vehicles. That’s the date the intersection—now a roundabout—is scheduled to reopen to traffic.

But it certainly won’t be the first time cars have gone through the area. Despite closed-to-traffic signs at all entry points over the past couple months, I’ve watched a handful of drivers head into the area, right over compacted dirt roadways teeming with awestruck—and very patient—construction workers. D’oh!

One of my colleagues told me she’d seen a driver traveling the wrong way on the roundabout—clockwise. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen once the street has reopened. Signs with right-pointing arrows are in place, signaling which way to go. And even the decorative-looking outer ring of the roundabout has an arrow-like pattern. (In the middle of writing that last sentence, someone in a green Ford Explorer took an early tour.)

Some people hate change, but I have to think this is a good one. I cannot count how many fender-benders I’ve seen or heard over the six years I’ve worked at this corner. The roundabout should provide a much safer way to get in and out of downtown, once people adjust to it. I plan on getting to the office a little early to see how some of the first drivers handle it all.

Speaking of firsts. This week is our first-ever Beer Issue, the inaugural year of what we hope will become an annual celebration of craft beer. Thanks to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico is pretty much the epicenter of the craft-brewing revolution. The brewery—one I’d never heard of until I adopted Chico as my hometown 15 years ago—has been an inspiration to many brewers-in-the-making, as well as beer drinkers, including me.

I grew up in the Livermore wine country and already had an appreciation for the grape, but I wasn’t fully aware of the world of craft brewing until I was introduced to Sierra Nevada’s signature Pale Ale. I’m still more of a wine drinker, but I know what I like when it comes to beer—the craft varieties.

We’re well aware of the irony of the issue hitting the stands at the same time the city and other groups grapple with ways to curb Chico’s drinking culture. For our part, craft brewing is an art that we don’t associate with binge drinking—the real problem (see Editorial, page 4). Nevertheless, we scheduled the issue weeks before classes begin at Chico State and Butte College. We hope you see this issue as we do—a celebration of an industry with indelible and positive ties to our hometown.