Mt Wilson Observatory Geology Talk

Lectures

On Saturday, June 16, at 5:30 pm Mount Wilson Observatory will be hosting a talk by Dr. Tanya Atwater, professor emeritus of geology at UC Santa Barbara. Dr. Atwater played a major role in piecing together the plate tectonic history of our part of the planet. She will talk about how the motions of the Earth’s crust created the current topography of southern California (including the perfect site for astronomers to explore the Universe). The talk will be followed by a rare chance to look look through Mount Wilson Observatory’s 60-inch Telescope, which revolutionized telescope design and allowed astronomer Harlow Shapley to find our place in the Milky Way Galaxy. Tickets are only $20 and proceeds will all go to the maintain the Observatory.

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US 99 – Tipton to Tulare

In doing some research recently, I found an original section of US 99 from Tipton to Tulare. It had been a while since I looked at maps of this section, as most of my research has concentrated between Los Angeles and Bakersfield. The map below shows the alignment of US 99 in 1926.

Portion of 1926 Division of Highways map showing former alignment of US 99 between Tipton and Tulare.

Until 1931, US 99, and by extension Legislative Route 4, went on the west side of the Southern Pacific tracks from current Ave 164 north of Tipton to Bardsley Ave in Tulare, following Tulare County Road 112. This section was most likely paved with a 20′ concrete slab around 1917.

1928 USGS map showing the original alignment of US 99 at its crossing at Ave 164.
A short section of the original concrete at the southern connection to the current alignment is also visible just north of the canal crossing on the left side of the railroad tracks. Current State 99 is at center. Ave 164 runs to the right.

The roadway also retains three original bridges.  The two North Branch Tule River bridges (46C-0004 and 46C-0010 respectively) are from 1917 and retain their original pipe railing. Two other bridges, Elk Bayou and Bates Slough are also original, with the former dating to 1916. The telltale cracking of asphalt over concrete is also visible near the northern North Branch Tule River bridge to near Ave 184 at Octol.

The realignment in 1931 eliminated two railroad crossings without the use of bridges at the tracks. The new road was also built a little higher to help ease flooding problems that were common in the Central Valley. Today, some of the bridges built at that time still remain, albeit widened or otherwise modified.

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US 466 Tour Expansion

Fairly deteriorated paving east of Mojave.

After a long hiatus, my US 466 tour is getting expanded. I recently went on a motorcycle trip covering the roadway and most of the old alignments from Morro Bay to Barstow. Watch for updates in the coming weeks as tour stops get added. At this time, the tour is more than half complete.

Virtual Tour of US 466

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New San Diego County Wine Tasting Room

Congratulations to Malcom, Nancy and Michael Gray on the grand opening of their new wine tasting room and production facility in San Marcos!

Twin Oaks Valley Winery recently celebrated their grand opening weekend in March with over 200 guests on Saturday alone!  This was a family affair with several family members on board for the weekend’s festivities which include live music and food both days.

Yet another fine winery in San Diego’s North County pouring several year’s releases of many different varietals and blends.  You can find them Fridays through Sundays at 1575 Mulberry Drive in San Marcos.

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Featured Image – March 12 and 13, 2018

St Francis Dam site in 2003.

This featured image covers two dates for a reason. The St. Francis Dam, a former dam in San Francisquito Canyon above Santa Clarita, California, collapsed at 11:57:30 pm on March 12, 1928. The ensuing flood caused a great deal of damage along the canyon and the Santa Clara River Valley. Over 500 lives were lost that night in, even in 2018, the second largest disaster by loss of life in California. The even had repercussions throughout the world. Following that event, dams, as well as other large projects, no longer were approved by engineers. Geologists had the final say, not engineers. Both geologists and engineers also had to be certified by their state government to work as professionals.

The head engineer on the project, William Mulholland, was a great engineer. He oversaw and helped design the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which was the largest and longest project of its time. It is still an engineering marvel today, more than 100 years later. The disaster ruined his career and during the investigation, he not only took full responsibility for the event, but also was said to have “envied the dead”. The collapse took a big toll on the “Chief” and he died a few years later.

This post is in memory of both those that died that fateful night in 1928 and to William Mulholland. A man that went from the “Savior of the City” to a pariah in just a few years.

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Highway Tour Coming in April

I am putting together another highway tour, this time in San Diego County. On April 28 (weather permitting), I will be hosting a tour of US 80 from El Cajon to the Desert View Tower. Various stops will be made along the road at important locations, including the Wisteria Candy Cottage and the Desert View Tower. If you’re interested, please RSVP prior to April 25th. There will be no cost for the tour as well. I look forward to seeing you all out there on the highway. More details will follow as the tour gets closer.

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New Post Coming Soon – Imperial Fault and the infrastructure it crosses

I am working on a new post that will discuss the Imperial Fault in the Imperial Valley and how it crosses and interacts with the infrastructure in the area. I recently went on a trip that way to check it out in person and had a lot of fun. Look for the post in the next couple weeks.

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Featured Image – 2/27/2018

Irrigation canal offset by the Imperial Fault on Chick Road just west of Barbara Worth Road in the Imperial Valley.
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New Ridge Route Website

Recently, I became a board member of the Ridge Route Preservation Organization. This group is dedicated to helping preserve and promote the historic Ridge Route in southern California. One of the first things I have done as a part of this group is to create a new website for the group. This site is an offshoot of the “RidgeRoute.Com” site, hosted by Harrison Scott. The new site will give updates on the progress we make regarding the roadway as well as any other news pertinent to the Ridge Route. Come take a look at “http://ridgeroute.org“.

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Highway Tips #2 – Signs

Road signs come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. Each one carries a specific meaning to help guide you down the road in a safe manner. This installment will discuss each of the types of signs and what they mean. Road signs come in a variety of colors. Each color has a meaning, which can be quite important to know. The colors run from red, yellow, white, blue, green, brown, and orange.

Old stop sign along Topanga Canyon Blvd in Los Angeles, CA.

Red signs mean something is prohibited. Only a few signs use this color – stop signs and wrong-way signs are the most common of these. Stop signs are also the only one that is octagonal. The color red was not the first choice, however. Stop signs used to be yellow with black lettering. Color might depend on where you were. Eventually, stop signs became standardized with a red background and white lettering. Yield signs and some no parking signs also use this color scheme. While yield signs don’t prohibit movement, they are there to warn you of opposing or side traffic.

High wind advisory sign along State 41 in central California/

Yellow signs are advisory or warning. Things such as upcoming intersections, curves, and other roadway hazards are generally marked with yellow signs. Curves are a good example of this. The speed signs at curves are advising you of a safe speed for the curve. They aren’t a speed limit for the curve. It is a generally good idea to travel at the advised speed. Depending on many conditions, you may be able to go faster that the posted speed. With this in mind, I have found that 25 mph seems to be a breaking point for curves. Curves posted at 25 mph or higher can generally be driven faster. When they are posted lower than 25 mph, slowing down is highly advised. I’ve seen speeds as low as 5 mph posted on some roadways. I’ve also seen speeds as high as 60 mph. A curve with that high a speed is not a problem, but may be in an area with few curves and it is nice to know you don’t have to slow for it. Upcoming intersections are also posted with yellow signs. These signs tell you not that one is coming up but what type it is. Some signs are customized to show specific intersections, especially if it is a blind intersection in a curve.

Signage heading southbound toward Solemint Junction. Hwy 14 used to turn here to head east on Soledad Canyon Road from 1963-1972.

Black and white signs are regulatory signs, meaning they show some sort of rule that must be obeyed. Speed limit signs, for example, use this scheme. This is different than the curve advisory signs, which also show speed, as these signs show the maximum limit, not the advised limit. Parking signs are also generally in black and white as they limit or restrict parking in an area. Other signs in this category include bike lanes, passing, and other signs restricting either the movement or type of vehicle allowed in an area or lane.

Next services sign in Utah, which are located in Hinckley.

Blue signs are very specific in use. They act as guides to hospitals, telephones, and where services can be obtained. Roadside services can include gas stations, food, and lodging. These signs can be quite helpful for roadway users that are unfamiliar with the area and are not sure what sort of services can be obtained at a particular exit. Use of these signs varies by state as well. Some states show specific businesses, where others are more general, e.g. “Gas, Food, Lodging – Next Exit”.

Signage at a roadway junction.

Green signs are also guide signs. These give directions, by use of an arrow, to locations such as cities and roadways. They also give mileage to locations along a route. On freeways they generally show distances to the next exit, where others show distance to the next three cities. They may also mark things such as bike routes, which are roadways where there is no marked lane specific for bicycles but may be easier for bicycling in general.

Historic US 6 signage at Acton Junction.

There are also brown signs which mark recreation and historic area, such as beaches and parks. Park lands, such as national monuments, are marked with brown signs as well as forest areas. Beaches, such as the various State Beaches along the coast are marked with these brown signs as well.

Another view of the HOV bridge with a new exit sign below over I-5 north.

The last signs covered here are orange. These are for construction areas. These signs perform a wide variety of tasks but always mark a construction area. These are to be heeded in part to ensure the safety of construction workers. Detour signs also use this color scheme and mark an alternate route in case the main route is closed. Always use caution in areas marked with orange signs. In addition to construction workers, roadway quality may greatly vary as well. Well-paved roads may be turned to dirt for a time during the construction and speeds may be greatly reduced from normal.

As you can see, road signs come on many shapes and colors. Each help roadway users get to their destination in all sorts of ways. So, next time you’re out on the road, keep this in mind and it may help you on your journey to wherever you may be going.

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