Sunday, April 29, 2012

Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy
Indio-Part TWO! 

Ok, you’ve had a good night’s sleep and are raring to hit the road for day two. I really hope you’re doing this in early spring (although in early spring, it might still snow in the mountains you drove on day one! Timing is indeed ‘interesting’ for this trip!), if not, get an early start because we’re talkin’ HOT DESERT and I don’t mean Baked Alaska! 
We’ll be heading south along the shores of the Salton Sea, that oddity that used to be part of the Gulf of California until a turn of the last century earthquake raised the land south of there and cut off this arm, making it a land locked salt sea (hence it’s name). At one time it was touted as a Wondrous Resort, but as the salinity has increased (imagine this, an Ecological Bad Thing, NOT caused by either humans OR Republicans OR Big Oil), the fish die off more frequently and really stink up the place. Sadly, it’s pretty much closed up, taking people’s dreams of living on the New Riviera with it. There’s a kinda hard scrabble flint edged attitude amongst the inhabitants in their scruffy trailers and sometimes engine-less motor homes. It’s a bargain for Snowbirds on a Budget. 
About half way down the western edge, your gonna turn west, through the Anza Borrego Desert. This place gets REALLY hot, so if you’re a top down kinda traveller (like us), plenty of sun screen and even long sleeve shirts that have SPF protection and some kinda hats are deregiuer. Just like Death Valley, if there’s actually been some rain, the little wild flowers, eking out an existence are marvelous. Even without the flowers, there is an awesome beauty to the landscape. Lunar is the term that usually comes to mind. 

Heading south out of the Borrego, you’ll hit the town of Ocotillo. This road was part of the Great Overland Stage Route, and it’s hard to realize what that must have been like. Long, hot, dusty, and unbearably slow, it took some special people to travel this route regularly. Make sure you gas up in Ocotillo. There isn’t much opportunity along I-8. Yeah, OK, I said it. The “I” word. You know I wouldn’t send you on the Dreaded Interstate unless I had to, but, there is no other way through Carrizo Gorge. Even though it’s Interstate, it’s a pretty neat drive. Deep rocky canyons and spectacular rock formations are the order of the day. Just past the gorge, we’ll get onto the Old Road. This is the remnant of US Hwy 80. It’s less travelled, has no trucks and obviously is preferable to I-8. If you want, you can keep on I-8, they parallel each other. Old 80 is just more interesting. About where the interstate shifts a bit north, we’ll head for the hills and lunch, by taking the back way into Julian. Most people have at least heard of this old mining town that’s now famous for it’s Apple Pies. Yep, another Pie Stop! There are a couple of places in town, but to me, Mom’s is THE place. They were the first and make all their pies from scratch! If you time it right and hit Julian early, you can smell the baking pies as you hit town. MAN, there isn’t much better than that! The only equal would be hitting Gilroy at Garlic Pickin’ Time! See, THIS is why I love an open car! The ability to smell the world around you is far superior to our usual air-conditioned-bottled-air-’freshener’-scented isolation in modern cars. Now Julian is tiny. Parking is a pain. A lot of the shops have the usual happy crappy in them, but there are some neat ones. In addition to Mom’s, there are other eateries, B&B’s and places to get organic honeys and jams. Check out for more info.

Now if you have a group, or don’t want to fight the parking, here’s a tip. Mom’s has a place just north of town in Wynola. It’s on the highway and is hard to miss. Wynola actually looks even neater than “downtown” Julian. There are some antique places and even a guy who makes HARD CIDER! Tough to beat that. The Mom’s in Wynola is really just for pies, but hey, pie for lunch? What’s wrong with that? 
After Julian, we’ll be heading east again, back through the heart of the Anza Borrego to a town called Borrego Springs. To do this, we descend Montezuma Pass. This is a Montezuma’s Revenge of a different sort. This is a really great road, but be careful of the Motor Home Idiots. A month or so ago, one went “sailin’ on out there”. I guess it’s not an irregular occurrence. 
Through Borrego Springs we’ll head back to the Salton Sea, then back north to Indio for night two. Although it’s been a short jaunt (under 200 miles), it’s been a challenging trip, and one where you actually have time to dawdle and still get back to the joys of a cool motel pool in time for the real heat of the day. 
Next month, in part three, we’ll hit a couple of museums, Joshua Tree, and lovely Mecca. Until then, keep the shiny side up and the greasy side down. 
Day 2
Tropics Motor Hotel
82297 Indio Boulevard
Indio, CA 92201-3129
1. RIGHT on Indio Blvd toward Palm St 2.9 mi
2. CONTINUE onto CA-111 S/CA-86
Continue to follow CA-86 18.2 mi
3. LEFT ON CA-86 N/81st Ave 0.3 mi
4. RIGHT ON CA-86 S 27.4 mi
5. RIGHT onto CA-78 38.5 mi
6. LEFT onto County Route S2/Great Southern Overland Stage Route of 1849
Continue to follow Great Southern Overland Stage Route of 1849 29.4 mi
7. CONTINUE onto County Route S2/Sweeny Pass Rd
Continue to follow County Route S2 17.8 mi
135 mi – about 3 hours 0 mins
Ocotillo, CA
8. SOUTH on County Route S2 toward Opal Rd 0.3 mi
9. RIGHT to merge onto I-8 W toward San Diego 23.5 mi
10. TAKE EXIT 65 for Ribbonwood Rd/CA-94 toward Campo Blvd 0.4 mi
11. LEFT onto CA-94 W/Ribbonwood Rd 0.6 mi
12. RIGHT onto CA-94 W/Old Hwy 80
Continue to follow CA-94 W 12.6 mi
13. RIGHT onto Buckman Springs Rd/San Diego County Rd S 1 9.6 mi
14. LEFT onto Old Buckman Springs Rd 0.9 mi
15. SLIGHT LEFT onto San Diego County Rd S 1 27.1 mi
16. RIGHT onto CA-79 N 5.8 mi
17. LEFT onto Main St (signs for Julian) 0.3 mi
18. LEFT onto Washington St 0.2 mi
19. CONTINUE onto CA-78 W/CA-79 N/Julian Rd
Destination will be on the right 3.8 mi
84.9 mi – about 2 hours 12 mins
4510 California 78
Julian, CA 92036
20. RIGHT on CA-78 W/CA-79 N/Julian Rd toward Springview Rd 2.8 mi
21. RIGHT onto CA-79 N 11.4 mi
22. RIGHT onto County Route S2/San Felipe Rd 4.7 mi
23. LEFT onto Montezuma Valley Rd 17.4 mi
24. RIGHT onto Palm Canyon Dr 1.4 mi
25. At the traffic circle, continue straight to stay on Palm Canyon Dr 4.4 mi
26. CONTINUE onto Pegleg Rd 2.4 mi
27. CONTINUE onto Borrego Salton Seaway 13.1 mi
28. CONTINUE onto Borrego Salton Sea Way 7.5 mi
29. LEFT onto CA-86 N 14.9 mi
30. LEFT onto CA-86 S/81st Ave 0.3 mi
31. RIGHT onto CA-86 N/Harrison St
Continue to follow CA-86 N 19.6 mi
32. CONTINUE onto Interstate 10 Business W-INDIO BLVD 1.7 mi
33. Make a U-turn at Sun Gold St
Destination will be on the right 0.1 mi
102 mi – about 2 hours 36 mins
Tropics Motor Hotel
82297 Indio Boulevard
Indio, CA 92201-3129

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Drive to the Black Lagoon-Part One

Road Trippin’ 
with Steve McCarthy

Ya know, it’s been a long time since I’ve written up a proper trip. This one is a dandy, and any part can be done as a one, two, or three day jaunt. In some ways, it’s a variation of the Eastern San Diego County one I wrote about a few years ago, but this one has some definite twists to it, and not just twists in the road.
If you do the whole three day tour, not only will you get a good dose of California’s variety of landscape (mountains and deserts in particular, and as an added bonus, a land locked lake), but you can compare apple pies and get some really good Mexican food! What’s not to like? 
We’ll start in Montrose/La Canada at the UA Theatre where the 2 and 210 freeways meet. Many of you will know it as the place car guys meet on Saturday mornings. This is the logical place, because we’ll be going over Angeles Crest, all the way to Wrightwood. 
The beauty of this part is, of course, you have choices for breakfast. There’s of course Newcomb’s Ranch, where all the bikers stop, then several choices in Wrightwood, depending on what time you set out and how long you want to wait for food. Newcomb’s is a neat place, and now that the Crest is open again, they need the biz! The brutal Station Fire really trashed the whole area and their business is still trying to recover. If you go on a weekend, watch for the crotch rocket guys. Some of them are really boogieing! Also, always be on the alert for Mr. Chippy! They are still watching, especially on the weekends, so don’t do anything stoooopid! Also, on weekdays, remember that this is a commuter route and the oncoming traffic can be heavy. Stick to realistic speeds going up, stay the heck on your side of the road and enjoy. 

From Wrightwood, the route will take you across the I-15 (a good place to gas up) and up to Arrowhead, the back way. This is a killer road with enough switchbacks to give you achy arms! Past Arrow head is of course Big Bear. This whole section can be crowded on a weekend, so I’d do this mid week if I were you. Big Bear and Arrowhead also offer plenty of places to eat and stop, but hold on, the real food treat is up ahead. 
You’ll be taking the back way down from Big Bear, roads that I remember well from the old Bus Driving Days. Man, it seemed like every weekend, we’d be hauling Girl Scouts, Campfire Girls, YMCA kids, or even the odd (very odd) Women’s Christian Temperance Union campers up and down that hill. For the latter, I always wore my trusty Loch Ness Monster Pub T-shirt. The tales I could tell! Anyway, this route is a lot of fun, and will wind up in Oak Glen, above Yucaipa. This is where you want to stop for lunch. Oak Glen is known for it’s apple orchards, and apple orchards means Apple Pie! 
Now I gotta tell ya, I’m an Apple Pie Freak. To the point where I have Apple Pie instead of birthday cake! Oak GLen has great pie, and although you have several choices, Law’s Oak Glen Cafe is probably the best. It’s of course debatable, but believe me, it’s good! You can also stop and get fresh squeezed cider at a number of places. Add a little brewer’s yeast and…

So, after lunch, you’ll drop down for a brief jaunt on the I-10 (get gas now, NEVER in the mountains!) and quickly back up into the mountains. This time it’s the San Jacinto’s, past the little community of Idylwild then down to Palm Desert over the Pines to Palm (or is it the Palms to Pines-I guess it depends on which way you’re going) Highway. This is another really twisty bit that will guarantee the need of some kind of relaxing beverage at the end of the day. The last bit is through some city streets to Indio and our stop for the night. 
Indio is an odd place. It was at one time a major stop on the southerly route across the country, and has become a pretty large city, but it’s still mostly bypassed by travelers. Every spring there is the huge music festival at Chowchilla, just down the road, so watch your dates. Motel rooms are impossible to get at that time! 
We found a classic on Indio Boulevard called The Tropics Motor Hotel. Frank the manager is a great guy, and the place is proper old time roadside motel. There are a couple of others nearby so you do have a choice. 

The best part of stopping in Indio is the El Mexicali Cafe. 82720 Indio Boulevard, Indio, CA (760) 347-1280. This place is family owned and run, been there since ’82, and has the most wonderful appetizer! It’s a fairly mild yellow chili, stuffed with shrimp onto which you drizzle (of all things) soy sauce! Weird sounding but REALLY good!!!  When we stopped there, the waitress was so insistent that we try it, that even when we passed (stooopid us!) she brought us a couple on the house! MAN was this good! The rest of the meal was exceptional as well. This is some of the best Mexican food we’ve found. Ever. 

Next month, I’ll take you on a southern tour past the Salton Sea, through the Anza Borrego Desert, and then to Julian for Part Two of the Great Apple Pie Challenge! 
UA La Canada 8
1919 Verdugo Boulevard
La Canada, CA 91011
1. LEFT out of parking lot on Verdugo Blvd 0.6 mi
2. RIGHT on Foothill Blvd 0.3 mi
3. LEFT on Angeles Crest Hwy 64.3 mi
4. SLIGHT RIGHT toward CA-138 E 0.1 mi
Think Seriously about gas when you cross I-15! Gas gets REAL expensive as we head to the mountains! 
5. SLIGHT RIGHT on CA-138 E 27.7 mi
6. LEFT to stay on CA-138 E 1.1 mi
7. RIGHT to stay on CA-138 E 0.3 mi
8. LEFT on CA-138 0.9 mi
10. SLIGHT LEFT onto Hilltop Con 89 ft
11. Hilltop Con turns slightly right and becomes CA-18 N/Hilltop Blvd
Continue to follow CA-18 N 12.4 mi
12. RIGHT on CA-18 N/Big Bear Blvd 0.5 mi
13. LEFT to stay on CA-18 N/Big Bear Blvd 3.5 mi
14.LEFT onto Big Bear Blvd 6.6 mi
15. RIGHT on CA-38 W/Greenspot Blvd
Continue to follow CA-38 W 39.2 mi
16. LEFT on Bryant St (signs for Yucaipa/Oak Glen) 2.4 mi
17. LEFT onto Oak Glen Rd
Destination will be on the left 5.0 mi
179 mi – about 4 hours 21 mins
LUNCH STOP! You MUST have the Apple Pie! We will conduct a survey and judge whether Oak Glen or Julian has the Best Pie! A coveted The Drive Award will be given to the BEST Place! 
Law's Oak Glen Coffee Shop
38392 Oak Glen Road
Yucaipa, CA 92399-9749
18. LEFT on Oak Glen Rd toward Hideaway Ln 7.6 mi
19. CONTINUE ONTO Beaumont Ave 2.0 mi
20. LEFT on Oak Valley Pkwy 0.6 mi
21. RIGHT on Pennsylvania Ave 1.4 mi
22. LEFT to merge onto I-10 E toward Indio 4.4 mi
You might want to think about some gas! 
23. TAKE EXIT 100 for 8th St/CA-243 toward Idyllwild 0.3 mi
24. RIGHT on CA-243 S/S 8th St 0.1 mi
25. TAKE FIRST LEFT onto W Lincoln St 0.5 mi
26. TAKE 2nd RIGHT on CA-243 S/Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Hwy
Continue to follow CA-243 S/Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Hwy 28.8 mi
27. CONTINUE on CA-74 E/Florida Ave
Continue to follow CA-74 E 36.7 mi
28. RIGHT on CA-111 S 9.5 mi
29. LEFT on Monroe St 1.0 mi
30. RIGHT on Fred Waring Dr 449 ft
31. TAKE 1st RIGHT on Interstate 10 Business E (Indio Blvd)
Destination will be on the right 0.2 mi
93.2 mi – about 2 hours 17 mins
Tropics Motor Hotel
82297 Indio Boulevard
Indio, CA 92201-3129