US Road Trip Travelog: 29th March 2005

I headed to San Bernardino yesterday with the intention of going back to Rancho Riviera in the morning for some more work on the car. In the morning, however, I get a call from Larry saying that he has to go into hospital today for a check-up following a car crash.

Time, then, for a rethink. To be honest, the decision as to where to go isn't a difficult one. Since that night in Imperial Beach I've been nagged by the feeling that I have unfinished business back down south: San Diego.

Time for a word on L.A. Freeways, and all the others around any city in California. They are not nice to drive, but unavoidable as often there are no other routes in a given direction. The roads themselves aren't much different than elsewhere, some badly surfaced and some with dangerous ramps on and off, but basically the same. The problem is with the drivers.

When you see 'Worlds Wildest Police Chases', or some such, you may have noticed that at least half the footage comes from California. What I have now is a new appreciation for the men in the helicopter who manage to track just one car, because just about everyone drives like that. I think 'O.J. in the Bronco' must be used here as a driver educational video.

Cars and trucks weave from lane to lane, often straight across two or three at a time, without signaling. Unlike, say, Houston which was fast but felt safe, this doesn't feel safe. When you have traffic weaving from both sides with no indication it's a recipe for disaster and so it proves. Of course, the accidents cause huge traffic jams and then everyone's in even more of a hurry and so drive more dangerously and so cause more accidents and so on. It's no wonder they get gridlock. They deserve it.

In the Riviera I mostly just pootle along and let them get on with it - I think I'm driving slower here than I have anywhere else in the US. Sometimes, though, you have to get involved. I've had a few instances already where I've been signaling and moving lanes and, rather than allow me to just do it, I've had cars behind making suicidal swerves around just so they don't have to brake. Plus the usual attempts to intimidate by sitting right on the back bumper, which is never going to work with a car the size and weight of a small battleship.

I remember reading someone - I think it was P. J. O'Rourke - saying how he passed his driving test at the second attempt by driving like his Grandma rather than using his usual style. That's my way of driving in California through the cities.

Riviera on Highway 74
The Riviera has a rest near the top of Highway 74.

As soon as I can I get off the Interstates and find Highway 74. This is another one of the roads that California does so well. I've got a Bob Seger song in my head and it just won't go away:

They drove for miles and miles
Up those twisting turning roads
Higher and higher and higher they climbed

After the great drive up the way down re-unites us with the Pacific Coast Highway.

Encino Power Station
Typical California scene - sun, sea, sand and power station. Power station? Oh, sorry about that. I wonder what they were thinking of building it here. Water supply, maybe?

The way into San Diego means rejoining the lunacy of the I-5. Oh joy. Thankfully this time I don't get lost and manage to find my motel without hours of driving in circles.

Gaslamp District in San Diego
Gaslamp District in San Diego.

The 'Gaslamp Quarter Historic District' in San Diego (I think that's its full title) is, to be honest, nothing more than a long series of restaurants in some older buildings downtown. But it's walkable and the sun's out, and better still there are quite a few bars that deserve investigation. After a few beers and a great swordfish steak I tried to get a ride back in the cab in the picture above but they weren't impressed and I had to walk. How's that for hospitality?

US Road Trip Travelog: 30th March 2005 >