February 26, 2010

California Dreaming

An abandoned Highway 101 bridge next to the modern road, 2008.

Himself: Swam, applied for jobs, helped his friend Norbert apply for jobs, stopped by an estate sale, read, and Olympiced after a high fat and high salt dinner.

Herself: Coughed, ate lite with the poetry ladies, estate sale’ed, et al. The poetry ladies, who are not all young, loved the poem and laughed enthusiastically. I am so pleased about this.

Reading: Nothing at the moment.

Gratitude: Productive coughs….as my doctor would say, G brought me coffee, I get to help sort at the Cancer Society store today.

If I don’t feel well, if my world is in pause mode, I read. One day this last week, instead of grabbing a book, I stayed here at the computer to read about the old California highways. I’m fascinated not only by the engineering and design, but by the vision that was behind the construction of these roads.

When you head east out of San Diego on old Highway 80, there are various layers of the old highway to be seen. I’m not interested in the fake plank highway off in the desert, but I am fascinated by the bits of thick, white cement road hanging from a mountain side, the gracious curve of an old guard rail off to the side of the road, or the rusting iron of a bridge span over a dry river bed.

If you head north, there are whole swaths of renamed freeway that stand almost empty next to the modern freeways. Kearny Villa Road is one. It’s a nice fat widening of Highway 395, with even a dramatic air plane gateway onto the Miramar Air Base. Or further north, there are truncated bits of 395 that leave you dangling where the new freeway has cut through far below the old one.

The old coast road, Highway 101 was another major artery to the north. Now superceeded by 5 then by the more direct, modern freeway 15, the original narrow 101 now quietly sleeps next to the surf.

Two narrow lanes across the bridge bracketed by the railway bridge on the left and the modern 101 to the right. 2008.


Historic 101: San Jose to Santa Barbara

The Ridge Route

Historic California US Highways

Highway Page: The design and history of Southern California highways

California Highways: Everything you ever wanted to know.


  1. Interesting stuff. I never thought about it quite this way.

  2. I am so thinking about San Diego, where I have not been since my mother's funeral. I would love to explore these places you write about.

  3. I like the old roads better. Superhighways are plastic and sterile.

    When I head up 'home', i.e., where I grew up, I take the longer way where I can dawdle a bit in the little towns and don't have semi trucks trying to devour Miss Ruby.


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