with Steve McCarthy
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 http://www.visitjulian.com/ for more info.