Category Archives: Highways

April 2010 Baja Earthquake – Part 1

On April 4, 2010, a 7.2 earthquake struck the northern Baja California and Southern California region. I was in Oceanside at a friends house at the time. Initially, I didn’t feel it and thought the others at the party were joking. We had been talking about the Northridge Earthquake earlier in the day. Once I stepped out onto the patio, I felt the ground moving. I knew it was large but farther away. My first thought was – What just happened to Los Angeles? Instead of Los Angeles, it was the Mexicali/Calexico area that got hit the worst as it was much closer to the epicenter.

Map showing the earthquake and affected area.
Map showing the earthquake and affected area.

Wanting to survey the damage to the roadways in that area and see if any of the old bridges were damaged, I headed out the following weekend. As it was also springtime, parts of the desert were in bloom. The ocotillo in particular had a beautiful display of flowers. To get out there, I followed Hwy 80 out to the Desert View Tower. After talking with Ben, the owner, I headed out to Calexico following Hwy 80 and Hwy 98. I was hoping to see cracks in Hwy 98 from any fault movement but did not find any.

Blooming ocotillo along Hwy 98 in the Yuha Desert.
Blooming ocotillo along Hwy 98 in the Yuha Desert.
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Closeup of the blooms.

In Calexico, many buildings were damaged with a large portion of the older downtown area closed off until the buildings could be stabilized. The biggest damage I saw was at a hotel in the northwestern end of downtown. Parts of the walls and roof had collapsed.

An empty and closed off downtown Calexico.
An empty and closed off downtown Calexico.
Partially collapsed roof and wall in Calexico.
Partially collapsed roof and wall in Calexico.
Damaged Hotel De Anza in Calexico.
Damaged Hotel De Anza in Calexico.
Front of Hotel De Anza showing some damage.
Front of Hotel De Anza showing some damage.
Partially collapsed facade of the Hotel De Anza.
Partially collapsed facade of the Hotel De Anza.

Returning from Calexico, I stopped at a few bridges to see the fill on each side had settled, causing some cracking in the pavement. Additional cracks were spotted at the New River crossing on old US 80. Overall, the highways were lightly damaged with some concrete broken at some bridges.

Typical settlement repair at the Westside Canal bridge on Hwy 98.
Typical settlement repair at the Westside Canal bridge on State 98.
Settled dirt at the edge of the Westside Canal at State 98.
Settled dirt at the edge of the Westside Canal at State 98.
Both sides of the New River trench show settlement on US 80.
Both sides of the New River trench show settlement on US 80.
Cracked pavement on old US 80 at the New River.
Cracked pavement on old US 80 at the New River.
Cracking in pavement and soil from settling at the edge of the New River trench.
Cracking in pavement and soil from settling at the edge of the New River trench.

US 99 in Lake Shasta – October 2008

In October 2008, Lake Shasta was dropping to near historic lows. I took a trip up there to hike many of the exposed alignments. I also got out in the water in my wetsuit when I needed to. The whole trip was a lot of fun. Here are the photos from that trip.

Salt Creek Inlet and Lakehead Area:

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Pit River Area:

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Where US 99 goes into the lake on the south bank near the Pit River Bridge.
Where US 99 goes into the lake on the south bank near the Pit River Bridge.

Exploring old highways

One of my interests is old highways. I’ve followed old US 99 and US 6 in Southern California for many years. A trip on the old “Ridge Route” between Castaic and Gorman was always a treat. I got be curious about how they looked when they were new, why they were built, and who built them. The journey that has taken me along has greatly increased my knowledge and understanding of both the history of the highways and of Southern California. It has become something much greater to me as a result. I understand why the cities and highways are laid out as they are.

However, in searching for some of the old highways, things can get tough. Realignments can sometimes take a roadway far from its original alignment, making the original harder to find. Sometimes its very obvious where the old road went. In Southern California, a massive megalopolis exists where there was once farmland. Old alignments may be ripped up and replaced with shopping centers. Using various tools available to me, including the Internet, old maps, highway logs, and topographical maps, I’ve been able to track down quite a few alignments that you’d never know were anything special today.

You just never know when you’ll find something! Exploring old highways and byways can be a great adventure. Come join me!

Swimming to a 1901 Southern Pacific Railroad bridge and tunnel in Lake Shasta near Lakehead. October 2008.
Swimming to a 1901 Southern Pacific Railroad bridge and tunnel in Lake Shasta near Lakehead. October 2008.
Swimming old US 99 in 2005 at Salt Creek in Lake Shasta.
Swimming old US 99 in 2005 at Salt Creek in Lake Shasta.
Out on old US 395 in the June Lake area in March 2009.
Out on old US 395 in the June Lake area in March 2009.

Ride to Campo

On Sunday, February 24, 2012, I went out for a ride to Campo on my motorcycle. I wanted to take some photos of the old sections of Hwy 94 and the weather was great for a ride. Starting out, it was a quick freeway ride to Campo Junction, where the two lane portion of Hwy 94 starts. That is where the fun begins. It was also where the first stop was, at the 1929 Sweetwater River bridge.

1929 Sweetwater River Bridge

After I left the bridge, my next stop was at a section of old concrete I had discovered on a previous ride. With a camera in hand, it was time to get photos and explore some more. I didn’t find any date stamps, but I did find lots of old striping. Still pretty cool.

1920’s concrete near Jamul

After Jamul, there was an old creek crossing with concrete I had found recently. It appears to be an Arizona type crossing instead of a culvert. The new crossing is now a culvert. I’m not sure its age, but I’m going to guess it is from the 1930’s. Also in the area is a neat bridge crossing Dulzura Creek at Otay Lakes Road. It was built in 1947 and has a nice sleek look.

Original low-water crossing on Hwy 94
1947 Dulzura Creek Bridge

In Dulzura, I stopped at a 1930 bridge which had bridge abutments near it from an even older span. I couldn’t quite tell what sort of a  bridge the original one was, but was most likely wooden.

1930 Dulzura Creek Bridge at Dulzura

Further up the road at Cottonwood Creek, there are a few items of interest. The “new” Cottonwood Creek bridge from 1954 bypassed both the original bridge and large section of the alignment. Barrett Smith Road follows the old alignment up the steep grade out of Barrett Junction.

Cottonwood Creek crossing on Hwy 94 at Barrett Junction

At Dogpatch, Hwy 94 crosses the San Diego and Arizona Railroad for the first time under a 1915 bridge. Just after that bridge, there is another 1947 bridge. Adjacent to the 1947 span, there are abutments to an earlier bridge.

1947 bridge at Dogpatch
1915 Doigpatch UP where the San Diego and Arizona Railroad crosses

My last stop was Campo. I needed to fuel up and get photos of the bridge at Campo Creek. It is the last bridge with wooden railing on Hwy 94. After I stopped here, I headed back to town on Hwy 94. I enjoyed the ride and the scenery. It was the first time in a long time that I had stopped so many times on 94. The last few trips have been just riding or driving.

1930’s bridge at Campo, since replaced

Short motorcycle ride out east

I went for a motorcycle ride today (2/7/2013) out in the eastern end of San Diego County. I bought a new leather suit and wanted to try it out on a ride. On my way out of town, I spotted a Historic Route 94 sign on current Hwy 94 near Campo Junction. I seem to remember some legislation a while back that designated Hwy 94 as a historic route. I guess this was the result of that effort. Further down the road I spotted an old alignment with concrete, one of the three sections still visible from Campo Junction to Jamul. I’ll try and get photos next time. My suit was too tight to fit a camera and I didn’t take any with my phone.

Historic Route 94 signage on Current Hwy 94
Historic Route 94 signage on Current Hwy 94

A ride in the San Gabriel Mountains

On my way home from a friends in Los Angeles on January 8, 2013, I decided to take the long way home. It was a beautiful day and I had plenty of daylight left. So, I took a turn into the mountains. It was the first time in a long time I had taken Hwy 39 – San Gabriel Canyon Road – and it was time to ride it on my motorcycle. I wanted to see where it was gated, it seems to change often how far up you can go. This time it was open through to Crystal Lake, which was good to see. I had a great time, even chatted with another motorcyclist at the gate for a while.

Gate just above Crystal Lake
Gate just above Crystal Lake
Toward Crystal Lake and Mt Hawkins
Toward Crystal Lake and Mt Hawkins
Down the mountain and into the canyon.
Down the mountain and into the canyon.

Once I headed back down the mountain, I headed over to the Glendora Ridge Road to meet the valley in Upland instead of Azusa. I wanted to see something different. Glendora Ridge Road is quite a lot of fun on a motorcycle, at some point I do want to bicycle it though. I saw quite a few cyclists (motor and pedal) that day, more people on two wheels than four. The snow on Mt San Antonio was a grand sight to see riding along the ridge. Winter in the San Gabriels is always a favorite of mine.

On Glendora Ridge Road with Mt San Antonio in the distance
On Glendora Ridge Road with Mt San Antonio in the distance
Fun section with lots of curves
Fun section with lots of curves

Mesa Grande – WPA Bridge

I know it has been a while since I’ve posted anything. Many things have happened. I’ve done a lot of traveling, some by train, some by car, some by bicycle, and now a new addition. Travel by motorcycle. I never saw myself on a motorcycle. I could easily talk myself out of one. I don’t own a car anymore, not since August 2011. I’ve been riding a motorcycle since November 2012 and I’ve put many miles on it so far. My motorcycle is a 2005 Kawasaki Ninja 500R. Now, before you all think I’m some crazy sportbiker… mine is a bit different. It has a more upright riding position and hooks for a cargo net. It does go fast… its name is “Leonardo”. The bike is a lot of fun and is great to travel with.

Skipping a lot of travel… though I will try to post more photos from my trips as I can… I recently was on Mesa Grande Road near Lake Henshaw in northern San Diego County on my motorcycle. It was there I found this neat WPA bridge with brass letters still in place. Adjacent to it was the original bridge, or what was left of it. I figure it was from the 1910’s or earlier by its construction.

Original bridge. It looks like it was just wooden beams laid across.
Original bridge. It looks like it was just wooden beams laid across.
Real nice WPA brass lettering still intact. A rare sight indeed.
Real nice WPA brass lettering still intact. A rare sight indeed.
Stonework along the side of the WPA bridge/culvert.
Stonework along the side of the WPA bridge/culvert.
My motorcycle... a 2005 Kawasaki Ninja 500R.
My motorcycle… a 2005 Kawasaki Ninja 500R.

Redlands and old US 99 – Sunday, March 20, 2011

On Sunday, I went to the Redlands area to drop off a friend. I figured, why not see some old highway in the area and make the trip back more fun? So, after dropping him off, I headed over to Redlands Blvd. This is a section of old US 99 that still retains its concrete paving from the late 1940’s. I never really got any photos of it before, so it was good to see it still there. From Citrus Ave east, the roadway is more of an expressway, with a wide median and limited access.

After Redlands, the next section of old highway would prove a bit more interesting to get to. It was a short section of concrete paving, from the 1920’s most likely, and was located adjacent to the 10 freeway.  I had to actually pull off the freeway shoulder to drive the short section. It was pretty neat, seeing as how this had been realigned so many times since that concrete was poured. I was hoping to return to the freeway by simply driving through. That idea was quickly thwarted when I found a tall curb at the shoulder. I had to back up and get on where I pulled off. So much for trying to be inconspicuous!

Redlands Blvd, "in town"
Redlands Blvd, “in town”
Divided section of Redlands Blvd, like an expressway.
Divided section of Redlands Blvd, like an expressway.
Some of the concrete visible... seen just to the right of the shoulder.
Some of the concrete visible… seen just to the right of the shoulder.
More paving, both lanes now visible.
More paving, both lanes now visible.

My next stop would be Robert Rd, near Cherry Valley Blvd. This section is threatened with removal or repaving as it is adjacent to a new large housing tract. So far, it is still intact. This nice concrete section dates to about 1928 and is one of the last sections of intact concrete around here. I took many photos here, hoping they wouldn’t be my last. The economic slowdown seems to have helped here, as the housing tract construction has slowed dramatically. At this point, I figured, I’ve gone this far… might as well go to the 60 junction and look around. So, I got back on the freeway, and took the San Timoteo Canyon Road exit. A frontage road heads east here, on the south side of the freeway. A portion of it is old US 99, complete with a 1939 bridge over San Timoteo Creek. Upon closer inspection of the bridge, I found that the eastbound I-10 bridge was also a part of old US 99. It was the original westbound bridge for the expressway, built in 1951. Now traffic is going the wrong way over it, from a historical context. One final stop was to be made, the old US 99 / US 60 / US 70 junction at the edge of Beaumont.

Short section of Roberts Rd that is now a driveway.
Short section of Roberts Rd that is now a driveway.
Roberts Rd, fairly pristine 1920's concrete.
Roberts Rd, fairly pristine 1920’s concrete.
San Timoteo Creek Bridge from 1939
San Timoteo Creek Bridge from 1939
Old westbound bridge from 1950, now eastbound I-10.
Old westbound bridge from 1950, now eastbound I-10.

I’d seen what appeared to be bridge piers and concrete approaches to an old bridge just north of the current SR-60. It turns out, that is exactly what they were. In 1936, the current westbound bridge for SR-60 (old US 60), was built. It replaced an earlier bridge, the one that I had been seeing pieces of. Today was finally my chance to walk around and see the old pieces. I was rather amazed at how much was left, considering how long ago it was all torn out. A fair amount of the eastern approach to the bridge remained, most of it buried under a thin layer of dirt. There wasn’t anything left of the western approach. I also got some photos of the exit sign for the 60 West from the 10 East. The sign was from 1960, and was overlaid with a SR-60 sign. Yes, there is a US 60 shield under there… just hope the overlay panel falls off at some point! After hiking around, it was time to head back. The approaching storm was getting worse, and the winds were picking up. I had a long drive ahead, and didn’t really want to do it in heavy rain. Thankfully, all I had to deal with was heavy winds and dust at times. I finally got to see some sections of old US 99 that I either hadn’t seen before, or weren’t sure were still around. More trips will be made up this way, just not during summer.

1936 Beaumont Overhead, now westbound SR-60
1936 Beaumont Overhead, now westbound SR-60
Remains of the earlier Beaumont Overhead
Remains of the earlier Beaumont Overhead
Some of the old approach still exists, with concrete.
Some of the old approach still exists, with concrete.
The SR-60 shield is on top of a US 60 shield.
The SR-60 shield is on top of a US 60 shield.

San Juan Capistrano Ride – Saturday, January 30, 2011

I haven’t gone on a long bike ride in a while. I felt I needed to, and really wanted to. A nice ride up the coast would be fun, and allow for a train return. So, I decided to set San Juan Capistrano as my goal. It seemed “easy” enough. The ride would be 70 miles in length and without many large hills.  Originally, I was going to do a more narrative description of the ride. However, as I wore one of my skinsuits, which have no pockets, so I didn’t bring a camera… I’ll just do a shorter summary.

The ride started off fairly nice. The weather was decent, a bit warmer than I had thought it would be. When I passed through UCSD, there was some sort of a protest or rally going on. People with signs… couldn’t really tell. I was busy with my ride. In the Torrey Pines area, there was a golf tournament going on which made for heavier than normal traffic, until Torrey Pines Grade. After that, the ride was much more relaxed. Del Mar and Solana Beach were fairly light, but traffic got heavier again near Cardiff.

Overall, I seemed to be seeing more cyclists on the road than I usually do. Most of them were going southbound. Some were alone, others were in groups. I left all those groups behind though, once I got into Encinitas. I decided to take a different way through town, going to the west instead of staying on 101. It was a good choice. I stayed off of US 101 from Swami’s to within a couple of blocks of La Costa Ave. No traffic, few stops, nice road. It was so much better than the 101. The trouble, Neptune Ave is one-way northbound. So… southbound I still have to take 101. I made it through Carlsbad fairly quickly, which was nice. It tends to get busy on nice days such as this. After the turn towards Pacific St, I stopped for a short break. While there, quite a few more cyclists past me. It was a really busy day. Who could blame them, the weather was great! It was also getting closer to decision time for me – go through the military base or take I-5. I got to the point I had to decide… still wasn’t sure. After a minute, I decided to take I-5. Why not? It had a nice wide shoulder, good paving, and had less steep grades. It worked out nicely. Because of the traffic, I had a fairly steady tailwind pushing me north. I took another short break at the rest stop, had some soda and a candy bar.

Finally heading north again, the tailwind continued to push me along, well, at least help me along. Reaching the Las Pulgas exit was good. I was glad to leave the freeway behind, and now ride the old US 101 expressway. In keeping with my old highway theme, I stayed on the old northbound lanes, instead of the “bike path” which follows the old southbound lanes. Some of the northbound side has a few weeds, and isn’t really the place you’d take a road bike. All the more roadway for me! Getting through the parking lot for San Onofre State Beach was nice and quiet too.  Near the San Onofre Overhead, I noticed that the roadway had new markings. Sharrows had now been painted northbound; a bike lane had been painted southbound. It seems the State had restriped the roadway, allowing more room for bicycles, specifically southbound. It was a great sight to see.

There were less surfers in wetsuits than I had hoped for near Trestles, but there will be more next time I’m sure. After doing a bit of searching beforehand, and riding through last time, I had found a rather nice western bypass of San Clemente. It is well signed and marked on the south end. Once you get to the north end, things change. Signage becomes poor, as do road markings. I still found my way through, always a different route each time. I’ll figure it out eventually! After getting through all that, it was time for some fun along the cliffs. From San Clemente to Dana Point, the roadway has a nice shoulder, with bike lanes. The roadway is usually in good shape, and the winds this time were to my favor. I managed to pass through relatively quickly, keeping a pace somewhere around 20mph most of the way.

At Dana Point, US 101 turns inland. The scenic portion was done, and it was more a city street here. There was, however, one short section of original concrete that I got to ride, right near I-5. Further north, the roadway varies from wide to narrow, bike lane to none. Overall, it still wasn’t bad. I enjoyed the ride into San Juan Capistrano. I reached the train station about 1:45, far earlier than I had anticipated. I finished with an average speed of 18.5 mph, quite fast for me. It was very enjoyable. I would highly recommend the route I took, but would need a better one through the north end of San Clemente.