Over the past week or so, I’ve been working to add more content to the site. Not to avoid completing the existing pages either, just to fill in some gaps. Here are some of the updates:
New Website Feature – a new Discussion Forums feature has been added. It is an experiment, so we’ll see where it goes.
New Section – Civic Information – These pages give links to every incorporated city in Southern California and give a bit of information about each county as well. The links are finished, but the format is still being worked on.
New Page – Seeking Old Highways – A while back I was working on putting up a guide to looking for old roads, bridges, and signs. It is still a work-in-progress, but has now been more given its own page in the Highways section.
Additional Historic Photos – Old photos of US 101 in the Los Angeles area have been added to the US 101 page.
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.
It finally happened. On Saturday, my bicycle officially rolled past 10,000 miles. I wanted to make the ride a fun ride, so I went for a ride up the coast to Oceanside. It was a simple 40 mile ride with decent weather. Overall, it was a fun ride. I hit the 10k mark on Gilman Dr, just north of I-5. Rather nice, an old alignment of US 101, complete with old curbing. Could have been a more scenic spot, but at least it wasn’t AT I-5 as it was looking like it was going to be. All told, about 5,000 miles were just biking around, 4000 were commuting, and 1000 were touring. Not bad for a two year run. I wonder what the next 10,000 will hold?
We decided on another early start for the day, planning to get to Monterey about dawn. We had a long day ahead, with lots of rain forecast. How much rain, we didn’t quite know. Our route was simple at first, taking US 101 to SR-156 over to Hwy 1. We took the old road through Del Monte, which still has old concrete exposed, then continued to Monterey via the freeway. It was still dark by the time we got to the old train station in Monterey, but we got photos anyway. Jake had wanted to test his new camera and see how well it did with longer exposure night shots. If it was just dark, it would have been easier. Winds and increasing rainfall made it much more difficult. Some of the gusts got up to the 30mph range, quite a lot for a camera on a tripod! We had a couple more stops to make before heading through Big Sur, fuel for the car and ourselves. We managed to take care of both in the same parking lot. After breakfast, we headed out, time for Big Sur.
Just as we crossed the Carmel River, I noticed what appeared to be a piece of bridge rail. We turned back around to get a closer view and it turned out to be a lot more. The end cap for the original Carmel River Bridge was preserved here in 1995. That bridge was washed out in March, and rapidly replaced with the current span. The end cap was placed here, along with a plaque, to commemorate the quick replacement of such an important bridge. Among others listed on the plaque, was a local businessman – Clint Eastwood. A couple miles south of the bridge, Big Sur begins. Well, maybe not officially, but for me it does – at the Curves Next 74 Miles sign.
Heading south into Big Sur, the weather was quite varied. It stayed pretty decent most of the time on the north end, but wasn’t as kind as we got further south. We stopped at a few bridges to take photos, one of them being the famous Bixby Creek Bridge. After stopping at the Ripplewood Resort to get snacks and take a break, I decided we should try to see Pfeiffer Beach. I hadn’t been there in quite some time and had wanted to visit. Now, being a very rainy day with creeks running high, you’d think heading down a narrow road in a canyon would be a bad idea. Well, it was. Aside from all the debris on the roadway, we were stopped by a creek crossing. It may not have been too deep, but I didn’t want to chance it. So, back up we went. I’ll return again when it isn’t quite as wet. At the top of the big grade after Big Sur, we hit fog. Normally, there would be a nice view of the coast from the top, this time all we saw was the road. After a rather quick descent, we got below the clouds, and could actually see a fair distance down the coast. We stopped again to see McWay Falls, which is always a beautiful sight, even in this weather. It didn’t rain the whole time we were there, but started as we left. At various times, the rain got really heavy, but didn’t bring down the rocks that I had thought it would. After Lucia, we went through a couple of sections of the highway that were being reconstructed. One section, at Rain Rocks and Pitkins Curve, a new bridge and rock shed are being built. That project is expected to be completed in 2012. From there, the highway wasn’t too bad, with the weather ranging from fog to dry. At Ragged Point, we just had to see how expensive fuel was there, and we weren’t let down – $4.799/gallon. Just remember, if you fill up here, it is by choice. Much cheaper stations exist in Monterey and Cambria. A few miles further, about 74 miles north of the curves sign, the road hits a straightaway. With the Big Sur coast is behind us, the rest should be easy!
Near San Simeon, we stopped to see the elephant seals. It may have been raining rather steadily, but it was still worth the stop. At the south end, there was a new pup, very small compared to the adults lounging about. I didn’t stop here in June on my bike trip. I was enjoying the tailwind too much. This time, it would have been a headwind, plus the rain. Continuing south, I noticed that all the creeks we passed over were flooding. It would be a sign of things to come, which we would find out soon enough. In Cambria, we looked for an old Auto Club parking sign, but to no avail, it wasn’t there. We did get some good cinnamon rolls at Lynn’s however. We took the old highway through Cayucos, trying to follow more of old Hwy 1 when possible. At Morro Bay, we decided to skip the old road, but take another route around via Los Osos. Here we would encounter our first major flooding. The creek that runs into Morro Bay here, Chorro Creek was nearly up to the bridge. Just to the south of the bridge, it was lapping against the roadway. Yikes! Just a bit more and even this road would be underwater. Still, we kept on going, taking Turri Road instead of Los Osos Valley Road, which is a much more scenic alternative. I took the same route on my tour in June. Jake certainly enjoyed it, comparing various spots to Colorado and even Norway.
South of San Luis Obispo, we left the freeway for a while, or so was the plan. Ontario Road, old US 101 north of Avila Beach, was closed at San Luis Obispo Creek. The whole valley floor was underwater, much to the chagrin of the cows we saw standing in a flooded field. So, back onto the freeway we went. Even that bridge had only a few feet before it too would get inundated. After we crossed the creek on 101, we got back onto the old highway. The roadway to Avila Beach was also closed, and we could tell why. Half of the roadway was underwater here. We could only imagine how it was further down. Things seemed to be ok as we headed south, but that would soon change. Just south of Pismo Beach on Hwy 1, we were greeted with another closure. This one was passable, barely. Most of the cars ahead were going through, so we did too. Not the best idea, but we could see how deep it was at least. The adjacent campgrounds were well underwater here. After heading a bit further south, we found another closure. This time, we’d have to detour. I knew some of the ways through Grover Beach, where this closure was located, but needed help. For the first time in a long time, I called the Caltrans Highway Information number (800-427-7623). They listed five closures for Hwy 1, five! None of them for Big Sur much to my surprise, all of them in this area. So, with that knowledge, we found our way back to Hwy 1, and to yet another detour. The grade past Halcyon Road was closed, so we took El Campo Road around the closure, back again to Hwy 1. The next known closure was just a few miles ahead, at the railroad underpass. We went over to see how bad the flooding was, and found a car with water up to the top of the doors underneath. I guess the detour was just too long for them to take! From there, we headed south to Guadalupe, where we spotted a Union Pacific Track Inspection car. I hadn’t seen one before, so it was neat to find. The next closure was south of 166, so we headed east toward Santa Maria, taking some other roads bypassing most of town. At Hwy 135, we headed south, rejoining Hwy 1 for a bit south of Orcutt. Jake hadn’t taken the old Harris Grade before, so we took that instead of the main road. It was a bit steeper and rockier than the current Hwy 1, and for the first time in a while, we were on the hill side of the roadway. So, now we had to deal with rocks on the road. Not many, thankfully. Light traffic on the grade also helped.
At Lompoc, we continued south on Hwy 1, through fairly steady rain, but no more flooding. The trip south from Gaviota on Hwy 101 was also uneventful, with the exception of the ever increasing traffic and the larger potholes developing through Goleta. Overall, the trip was a success, except for the flooding, road closures, and heavy rain. I was glad to get back home, and it was good timing that we did when we did. I checked the Caltrans and CHP site for more information, found that a few of the roads we had taken were now closed. Floodwaters did indeed rise above the roadway around Morro Bay, and Hwy 1 had yet more closures. Still, what a trip! I enjoy a bit of adversity on a journey such as this. Taking those detours allowed for greater knowledge of the area and to see different areas. Some of the roads weren’t ones I had any plans to take, but now know where they go, and if they are useful to me in the future. Each trip is different. Perhaps the next time, the roads won’t be so flooded.
My friend Jake and I left San Diego rather early, about 4:30 am. Our goal was to get up to the San Luis Obispo area as early as we could, so that we could take our time north of there to the Gilroy / Hollister area. It seemed to have worked. As we were making pretty good time, we decided to check out some old alignments of US 101 a bit earlier. We followed some alignments near Gaviota and Buellton, both of which had good sections of old concrete. After that, we didn’t make any major stops until north of San Luis Obispo.
At Bradley, we stopped at the large bridge over the Salinas River at the north end of town. It was built in 1931, replacing a multiple through-truss span built in the 1910’s. Much to our surprise and enjoyment, we got a much needed break from the rain here. The break was just long enough to walk the span and take many photos. I hadn’t had the opportunity to really view the bridge, so this was quite welcome. Once we left the bridge, we took the old alignment of 101 south back to the freeway, taking a slight detour onto an even older alignment, bypassed in 1939. Most of it was still fairly well paved, complete with sections of double white striping. One spot, however, proved to be a bit trickier. Some years in the past, a small landslide took out a portion of the roadway. A short dirt bypass was made, which was rather muddy after all the rains. I got of the car to scout the roadway ahead, to see if it was passable. I decided it was, and the car was able to make it. It did slide a bit down the slope, but not to worry, it wasn’t a problem. By the time we got back to the main road, the tires had acquired a thick ring of mud, almost a new tire in itself. Hey, it’s a rental car right?
Getting back to current US 101, we continued north to San Ardo, where the old highway crossed the river again. The bridge here is very similar to the North Bradley Bridge, built in 1929, but without the old railing. In 2001, the span was seismically retrofitted and the old railing was removed. One thing that was not removed, and only discovered by us on this trip, was a 1929 FAP sign, complete with a CSAA yellow diamond. These are rare to find out in the field, so it was quite something to see. This section of the road, from San Ardo up to San Lucas, was the last section of two-lane highway on US 101 from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It was bypassed in 1971. It still makes a nice detour from the main highway, with little traffic to deal with. At the north end in San Lucas, there is another old bridge nearby, crossing the Salinas River on Lockwood-San Lucas Road. That bridge, from 1915, is a through-truss span. Some of the girders had Carnegie Steel stamped on them.
Still heading north, we arrived at Gonzales, where we diverged from US 101 to see another old bridge over the Salinas River. I first found this bridge in 2001 on my first bicycle tour. I wasn’t planning to take that route at the time, but had to make the detour as there was no other route available. The bridge, a 1930 through-girder span, reminded me of another bridge that was near where I used to live. Through-girder spans are rare, usually used by railroads not highways. Instead of returning to US 101, we decided to change course, and follow the River Road on the west side of the valley. I hadn’t been there before, and it took us north. So, why not take a different path?
We crossed back over the river near Chualar, and went back to US 101. We stayed on it until the south end of Salinas, where we exited onto Abbot St, the old alignment and business route. The southern end of Salinas had the distinction of still having old US highway shields in place until the early 2000’s. The signs are gone, but the porcelain business banners remain. We found two of them, one northbound and one southbound. Heading through Salinas started off alright, but as we got closer to the center of town, things went downhill – fast (or was it slow). Traffic increased, roads turned in confusing directions and we didn’t have a map. Still, we managed to get through town and onto the road we wanted – San Juan Grade.
San Juan Grade Road is the original alignment of US 101 from Salinas to San Juan Bautista. Having been bypassed in 1932, the roadway still retains most of its old feel. It wasn’t widened, and much of the original 15’ concrete is still visible. A few of the curves were straightened, but even that appears to have been done long ago. A lot of the old wooden guard railing is still in place, mostly on the north side of the summit. South of the summit, a few bridges with pipe railing are still intact. Rain and fog prevented a lot of good photos from being taken, but we still got a few. On the north side, in San Benito County, more of the old concrete was preserved. It was good to see such an old highway in as good a shape as this was. At the north end, where it met old SR-156, there was an old white directional sign from 1959 which was on our list of things to see. Having taken care of that, we headed east to Hollister. It was time for some geological tourism.
Hollister, not the town from which the clothing comes from, is a growing suburb in the southern Bay Area. It still has a lot of farms surrounding it, and still retains a lot of its old downtown. It also is well known to geologists. The Calaveras Fault, a branch of the San Andreas Fault, runs right through town. This particular segment of the fault creeps. Most fault move in large jolts, known as earthquakes. This moves along like a conveyor belt, but much slower. The results can still be quite dramatic. Along many streets in the northwestern end of Hollister, there are offset curbs and sidewalks. A portion of an old fault scarp is also visible, usually as an abrupt rise in the street. All the roadways crossing the fault have fractures, bumps, and lots of patching. The earth waits for no one, and is more than willing to show its power. Sometimes structures lie atop the fault, and they too have been made a bit askew. Some are just cracked, while others are twisted out of shape. I noticed one such structure, on Suiter St, that was so badly cracked, I wondered how much longer it would stay up. It was certainly proof positive why the Alquist-Priolo Zoning Act was created.
After seeing all we could see of the Calaveras Fault, we headed out of town, first following the new alignment of Hwy 25. The new bypass runs to the east of town, connecting two places that 25 used to turn at. From there, it was on to Gilroy, where we stayed for the evening. Another adventure awaited us the next day – the Big Sur Coast!