US Road Trip Travelog: 19th March 2005

Today we are going to play in the mountains and forests of south California. Leaving Joshua Tree the route is an awkward one until Palm Desert (which seems to be a giant retirement community). After negotiating the traffic there its time to find the 74, 371 and 79 down to near San Diego.

The Santa Rosa Mountains
The Santa Rosa Mountains. The wind farm here stretches off for miles to the left.

Highway 74 is a wonderful piece of road. In the traffic jams of Palm Desert I was expecting a long queue of traffic but it's free and clear after the old folk trundle off to bingo or wherever. The road is like a better-surfaced and less severe version of the drive up Route 66 yesterday, and it's a great opportunity to have some more fun. Imagine choosing a Mini Cooper for the Monte Carlo in 1963 when you could've had a Buick Riviera instead. Ok so you wouldn't win in the Riviera, but then you wouldn't have to sit inside a baked bean can working like a navvy either.

Highway 74
Highway 74, part of the way up. Is that road as good as it looks? Er, yes.

The 371, which goes down a bit but is basically still along the top of the mountains, is not as exciting. Especially when you're stuck behind giant RV's with cars on tow. Thankfully we've the power to get past them when a straight piece of road presents itself.

Once on the 79 the scenery changes again. Green fields and trees abound, and I must admit it reminds me of home. Unfortunately, like at home it's raining quite hard and is too misty to get any decent photos. The last part before joining the I-8 towards San Diego is a painful single-file procession behind a few slow-moving vehicles with an annoying tendency to panic brake mid-corner.

The I-8 into San Diego is a 3000 ft drop in about 40 miles. I'll reserve judgment on the California Interstates for now (bet that's a big relief for them) but it isn't a whole lot of fun. On the outskirts of San Diego the Riviera desperately needs some gas so I think we'll find some then drive through the city. Big mistake. After filling the tank I find Palm Avenue, which is the road where the motel is. Except, of course, it isn't. There are two - maybe more - Palm Avenue's in San Diego, and I've got the wrong one.

Having driven around most of San Diego I can tell you that downtown looks very nice, the port area is nothing much and the US Navy base is off limits to civilians. Eventually I find the I-5 and head south to Imperial Beach.

The Super 8 motel is grotty and the view from my room is watching people root through dumpsters. The Super 8 directory says the motel is 1 mile from the beach. After walking for a few miles there's no beach in sight and when I ask a guy in a shop he tells me it's at least another half hour away. As it's getting dark by then, I give up. I'll wait til tomorrow to say hello to the Pacific. I chose to stay here because it's the furthest point south in California but I think I should've stayed in central San Diego instead.

Another reason I chose this motel is that they offered wireless internet access in the lobby, which I double-checked when I called to book yesterday. This access turns out to be a machine with a keyboard and mouse called 'Wireless Internet' which needs feeding dollar bills to get you online. That, in my book, is deceit. Supposedly there is real wireless access available but none of the staff know how it works and, even if they did, it would cost $4 per hour. Thieving useless bastards.

Nothing for it then but the initial run of Jon's Junkathon. All the fast food places do cheap deals as loss leaders to bring in customers, and as there are plenty of them around here I think I'll have enough choice. The only rule of the junkathon is that nothing must cost over $1.25.

First up is a Wienerschnitzel hot dog with mustard. Pretty good, as hot dogs go, but there's not much of it. Then a Taco Bell 'value' (= you are poor) taco. Not so good. A bit of mince - minced what I don't know - with some dried-out vegetables and something that may have once been in the cheese family but I doubt it. All in a taco shell. Very good for inducing burps, however, so recommended for families with small children where this may be desirable. Next up a Rallys spicy chicken sandwich, or burger to you and me. A bit more substantial than the first two, in the same way that eating a lot of cardboard can be substantial, and any resemblance to chicken is purely coincidental.

I gave up at this point, which I know is pathetic. As well as getting looks of derision from the staff in the fast food places, I had the burps too bad to be sure I could order and wait for delivery without letting one out. If I ever feel the urge again (frankly, unlikely at this point) I'll try the junkathon again.

US Road Trip Travelog: 20th March 2005 >