California History: The Ridge Route

 
Grapevine Grade looking north of original Ridge Route. Note this is Tejon Pass, not Tehachapi Pass

 

Early in my engineering career, I used to drive what was and still is colloquially called “the grapevine” to and from work every day for about five years. In fact, I rarely did drive the actual grapevine. I lived in Castaic , which is located in Los Angeles County at the southern end of the Tejon Pass, and worked on construction projects in the Gorman area and so drove I-5 “up the hill” and “down the hill” between these two points. The grapevine is the name for the grade at the northern portion of the Tejon Pass, which is in Kern County and connects Los Angeles with northern California.

In any event, back then I spent a portion of my free time investigating the history of the area and found out that the I-5 route over the Tehachapi Mountains I drove every day had been preceded by two previous routes, the first of which was considered an engineering marvel of its time. It turned out that I lived “just down the street” from the southern end from that first route – The Ridge Route – and I drove, bicycled and walked it a number of times and found what I could about it in local libraries. It’s been a long time since I lived in the area; but, I recently came across a couple of books which greatly increased my knowledge of the subject. Those books are Highway 99 by Stephen H. Provost and Ridge Route: The Road That United California by Harrison Scott. Scott, a retired engineer, spent years researching, studying and driving the Ridge Route. He also spent years working with federal officials to get that portion of the Ridge Route within the National Forest added to the National Register of Historic Places. Here is his website.

The Ridge Route and its successor routes over the mountains is an interesting story (or at least I think so) and I thought I’d briefly discuss a bit of that history here at Ricochet. The story will proceed in three parts. First, a brief history of the engineering and construction of the various routes over the mountains followed by a brief discussion of a few points of interest along the route and finally end with a short discussion of another important piece of infrastructure which further binds together northern and southern California.

The Ridge Route

LA Times Map of Ridge Route 1915

 

There are significant geographical barriers between northern and southern California. Namely, a series of east-west mountain ranges called the transverse ranges with few passes, none of them easy, thus preventing easy passage between the San Joaquin Valley and the Los Angeles area. By 1909, the State of California got serious about building a highway network throughout the state to allow for automobile traffic between towns. The state passed a bond measure of $18 million to begin this network including a route to connect the San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles.

The California State Highway Commission was responsible for the design and construction of these various roads including what would become the Ridge Route. At the time, there were no all-weather roads between northern and southern California. All that existed were two railroad routes – the first the Southern Pacific (SPRR) route over the Tehachapi Pass and it’s unique Tehachapi Loop. The other was a coastal SPRR route between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which was completed in 1901. In planing for the new road, the Commission looked at several different routes. One was to follow the SPRR route over the Tehachapi Pass and continue south to Lancaster and then proceed via either Mint Canyon or Bouquet Canyon. Another was to proceed up the Grapevine and over the Tejon Pass, then turn east to Quail Lake, which is just south of Gorman (the modern-day Highway 138) and then head south via the San Francisquito Canyon. A third potential route also proceeded up the Grapevine and over the Tejon Pass, but rather than proceed east to Lancaster, it would instead continue south through the Piru Gorge to Castaic. The fourth route, and the one eventually chosen, also proceeded up the Grapevine and over the Tejon Pass. However, after passing Gorman it would follow the mountain ridge line until it reached Castaic.

The aptly named W. Lewis Clark, a State Highway Commission engineer, was responsible for the route’s final alignment. The proposed route was broken into three contracts, each approximately equal in length, and put out to bid. State Highway Commission engineer N. D. Darlington oversaw construction. Work started in 1914 and was completed in October 1915.

The completed road was 20 feet in width and originally received a surfacing of oiled gravel. Later, from 1917-1921, the road was paved with a 20′ wide, 4″ thick layer of portland cement concrete which was reinforced transversely with a 3/8″ steel reinforcing bars 18″ on center. The design specifications called for a minimum curve radius of 70′ and, since the route followed the ridge line as much as possible, the road was very curvy. Between Castaic and Grapevine, there are over 700 curves with a total of 39,441 degrees of curve meaning that someone driving the route had to go around in a complete circle 110 times! Wheee, I’ll bet there were more than a few dizzy drivers! The work required about 1,000,000 cubic yards of excavation, the majority of which was performed with horses or mules pulling Fresno scrapers. The largest cut on the job was the 110 foot deep Swede’s Cut which was performed with a steam shovel. The overall cost for the Ridge Route was about one and a half million dollars.

Ridge Route Tour Map

 

As soon as the road was opened to the public, two things happened: First, the public took immediately to the new road. Trucks began delivering produce, construction materials and just about anything else to and from Los Angeles, and individuals took to the road both to travel to other parts of the state or as a weekend outing. This was not surprising as the new road shortened the trip between Bakersfield and Los Angeles by 45 miles. Bakersfield to Los Angeles could now be traversed in “only” 12 hours (today, it’s about a 2-hour drive depending on traffic). Secondly, a variety of businesses sprang up along the route to cater to the needs of the motoring public. Most of these businesses consisted of a diner and/or a restaurant, a gas pump or two, cabins or rooms for rent, camping spaces, and someone who at least called himself a mechanic available. A cabin or room with running water generally went for $2 dollars, a camping space 50 cents and 75 cents for a meal. The tour map posted above shows most of these enterprises.

Despite its popularity, the narrow, curvy road was very dangerous, and accidents and fatalities were a common occurrence. It did not help that fill slopes either had no protective guard railings or had wooden fences which worked about as well as you’d expect. A speed limit of 15 miles per hour was strictly enforced along the route, while the most numerous vehicle of the time, the Ford Model T, had a hard time making 15 mph going up the numerous grades along the way, but also had trouble keeping below 15 mph going down those same grades. The most dangerous curve was called “Deadman’s Curve” and is still visible from the freeway today (it is just to the east of the southbound lanes and 1/2 mile north of Fort Tejon).

Deadman’s Curve

 

Traffic counts on the road continued a steady increase – by 1925 more than 2,000 vehicles per day used the road which was beyond its capacity. In addition, car performance was improving, the 20 HP Model T would shortly be replaced with the 40 HP Model A. State Highway Department engineers began planning for an alternate route over the mountains to take the pressure off of the Ridge Route and in 1933 the Ridge Route Alternate was opened to traffic. The alternate was a vast improvement over the Ridge Route. In the Alternate, about 80% of the curves were eliminated, the minimum curve radius was increased to 1,000 feet and the length of the passage was reduced by about nine miles. It was designed for a capacity of 12,000 vehicles per day versus the 1,500 vehicles per day of the original route. The south portion of the Alternate continued south through Piru Gorge rather up along the ridgeline. By this time, the work was performed with modern earthmoving equipment, gasoline or diesel-powered scrapers, dozers, shovels and trucks with a total cost of $3.5 million. As per the it’s name, engineers expected the Ridge Route Alternate to serve that purpose, an alternate to the Ridge Route to be used mainly by truckers, salesman and the like with Sunday drivers still expected to make use of the original Ridge Route. However, that did not happen. Immediately, all used the new Alternate and business on the original route south of Quail Lake quickly dried up with most businesses closing within a year or two of the Alternate’s opening. Because of this, little is left of those establishments on the southern portion of the Ridge Route except for foundations.

Postcard of Ridge Route near Sandberg’s

 

Swede’s Cut
Tumble Inn Restaurant and Hotel circa 1926

 

Tumble Inn today

 

Car hits a “guardrail” on Ridge Route ca 1920

 

1920’s postcard of Ridge Route

 

Ridge Route horseshoe bend

 

Getting back to the Ridge Route Alternate, it was built with 3 lanes, one in each direction and a middle “passing lane”. At least that’s what the engineers called it. It quickly came to be called “the suicide lane”. And, it lived up to that name. Although the road was better engineered than the old route, the suicide lane led to accident and death totals that weren’t much better than that old curvy road. Due to the unacceptable accident rate and the ever-increasing use of the Alternate, the State was in the process of widening the new road to four lanes when World War II would delay that work for the duration.

Ridge Route Alternate in Piru Gorge 1934

 

Ridge Route Alternate near Grapevine ca 1937

 

Postcard of Ridge Route Alternate circa 1940

 

After the war, California passed the Collier-Burns Act of 1947 which provided a long-term funding system for state highway construction and these funds were rapidly put to use in widening the 3-lane Ridge Route Alternate to a four-lane expressway which was completed in 1952. Of course, California’s population continued its post-war boom and the expressway needed to be replaced with an 8-lane interstate freeway to meet the continued demand. That construction occurred between 1960 and 1970 in phases so as to keep the road open to traffic at all times. The alignment for the new interstate closely follows that of the 1952 Golden State Highway except for the need to around the Piru Gorge area which was submerged under the waters of Pyramid Lake, a recently constructed facility of the State Water Project (SWP). A table is provided below which provides some of specifications for each of the four routes discussed above.

Item ………. RR 1915ARR 1933 .. GSH99 .. I-5 1970

Compl Date 1915……… 1933……….. 1952…..1970

Lanes ……….2 ……………3 …………….4……… 8

Lane Width .10’ …………10’ ………….12’……. 12’

Pavement ….pcc …………pcc ………….pcc ……pcc

Median ……..No ………….No ………….Yes …..Yes

Shoulder …..No ………….Yes …………Yes …..Yes

Max Grade ..7% ………….6% …………6% …..6%

Summit ……4233’ ……….4183’ ……..4183’ ..4144’

Min Curve R .70’ …………1,000’ …….1,000’ ..3,000’

Length ……49 miles …….40 miles ….40 miles .40 miles

Cost ……..$1.5 M ………$3.5 M …….$13.5 M .$103 M

Notes:

  1. Column 1 refers to original Ridge Route (RR 1915), while column 2 refers to the Ridge Route Alternate (ARR 1933), column 3 refers to the Golden State Highway (GSH99) and column 4 refers to Interstate 5 (I-5 1970).
  2. pcc = portland cement concrete
  3. Min Curve R = minimum curve radius. The shorter the radius, the tighter and more severe the curve, while the longer the radius the shallower and more gentle the curve.

In 2003, Huell Howser dedicated one of his Road Trip programs to the Ridge Route in which he toured the route with Harrison Scott. It’s no longer available on line, but you can watch it (or any other Huell Howser program) at the Chapman University website of Huell Howser’s archives. I’ve linked to it here. It’s about 45 minutes in length. If you have the time and have an interest in the topic, it’s well worth watching.

On the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Ridge Route, the Bakersfield Californian took a tour of the route with Harrison Scott and issued an 11-minute video of that tour. It’s not as good as the Huell Howser video, but it’s still good and worthwhile.

Points of Interest

In this section, I’ll mention a few points of interest along the Tejon Pass from Castaic in the south to Grapevine in the north.

Castaic came into being with the Ridge Route in 1915. It was the southern terminus of the Tejon Pass crossing in 1915 and has remained the southern terminus through each of the new roads over the pass. When I lived there, it was not much more than a large truck stop. Today, it’s a bedroom community for Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. One thing I did not know until recently is that it was the site of a long-standing honest-to-goodness range war. A land dispute between two ranchers, William Jenkins, and William Chormicle, raged and simmered off and on for the better part of two decades with a body count in the double digits. Today, most of the land in dispute is beneath Castaic Lake, also a facility of the State Water Project.

The 5-Mile Grade is somewhat unique among interstate freeways. Five-Mile Grade is the name given to the northbound grade up the hill as I-5 passes Castaic, and this stretch of northbound traffic is to the left of the southbound traffic, which is a very unusual arrangement. Five-Mile Grade shares the alignment of the previous two roads (Ridge Route Alternate and Golden State Highway). The northbound Five-Mile Grade is a bit steeper than the newer southbound descending grade to it’s right (east). Engineers chose this alignment during the design of I-5 as they were more concerned about the dangers associated with potential brake failures for descending eighteen-wheelers than with the additional fuel consumption that would be required for the ascending vehicles. If you ever drive this grade be sure to look for the truck escape route pointing in the wrong direction about half way up the grade which was left as is during construction.

In and of itself, Templin Highway is not of much interest and I imagine most people driving over Interstate 5 ever give it a moments thought. However, for anyone interested in Ridge Route history it is important as a means of access to the earlier roads. Taking the off-ramp to the east leads to an intersection with the original Ridge Route, while taking the off-ramp to the west leads to a preserved portion of the four-lane Golden State Highway which exists up to just south of Pyramid Dam. It should be noted that this stretch of the Golden State Highway also follows the alignment of the Ridge Route Alternate.

Kinsey Mansion

 

The original Ridge Route followed the alignment of the current Highway 138 starting a mile or so east of Quail Lake and the proceeded towards Gorman via what is called the Gorman Post Road. The lake was long existing at the time of the Ridge Route construction having been created by a cataclysmic movement of the San Andreas Fault ages ago. However, during construction of the State Water Project, a dam was added at the site and the lake was incorporated into the SWP in 1967 as the most cost efficient way to cross the fault. Directly across Highway 138 from Quail Lake is a large, picturesque Georgian Mansion known as the Kinsey Mansion. It looks completely out of place and the scuttlebutt among the locals was (and probably still is) that the mansion was used in the classic movie Gone With the Wind as the mansion Tara. That’s not so though as Mr. Kinsey did not complete his mansion until 1946.

Speaking of the San Andreas Fault, it is a factor that needs to be taken into consideration for any large construction project such as the freeway or the SWP facilities. The fault crosses I-5 several times before heading towards the southeast and Palmdale and Littlerock. This link will take you to several photos of the fault in this area. I’ll have a little more to say about the fault a bit later.

Getting back to the Ridge Route alignment, following the Gorman Post Road takes you into Gorman. Gorman has been a stopover along the Tejon Pass since at least the 1850s. The most interesting thing about Gorman; however, is that the entire town is owned by the Ralphs family, who established and still own the Ralphs Market grocery chain. In 1994, the Ralphs reportedly put the entire town up for sale for $13.6 million, although my understanding is that they still own the town. One thing I should note is that from Gorman north there a number of locations where one or more of the earlier roads still exist. This is the case in and around Gorman, the Frazier Park interchange area, Lebec and Fort Tejon.

Gorman circa 1955

 

Dec. 16, 1940 hundreds of motor vehicles halted at Gorman by snowstorm

 

A couple of miles north of Gorman is the Frazier Park off-ramp. Frazier Park and several other small communities are several miles west of I-5 and it is in these communities where the majority of year around residents in these mountains make their home.

Another couple of miles north takes us to Lebec. Lebec was home to the poshest hotel along the original Ridge Route – The Hotel Lebec – although it went by several different names over the years, Lebec Lodge, Hotel Durant (named for its owner at the time Cliff Durant, the son of Will Durant of General Motors notoriety), among others. Over the years the hotel hosted its fair share of the rich and famous including Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Charles Lindbergh and his bride, Anne Morrow, Buster Keaton, Jack Dempsey, Fatty Arbunkle and Bugsy Siegel. The hotel went through a series of owners over the years and after 1940 or thereabouts it began a slow, steady decline which led to its eventual condemnation and demolition in 1968.

Hotel Lebec postcard

 

Fort Tejon State Historical Park, which is open daily, is the site of Fort Tejon, a U. S. Army outpost that was in existence between 1854 and 1864. The fort was damaged by the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake, an earthquake estimated to be a magnitude 7.9. In fact, the epicenter of the quake was about 120 miles to the northeast along the San Andreas Fault near the current town of Parkfield, CA. It was just that this portion of California was lightly populated at the time and Fort Tejon experienced the most damage that it came to be called the Fort Tejon earthquake. Incidentally, Parkfield is the most seismically active locale in California experiencing a 6.0 or greater earthquake once every 22 years on average.

Finally, we’re at the Grapevine, the north end of our journey! There is a general misconception that the Grapevine moniker refers to the twisting nature of the various roads and routes through the canyon and up the hill. That is not so. Grapes have grown naturally in the canyon for quite some time. In fact, it got its name from Don Pedro Fages, the acting governor of Alta California, who noticed the native wild grapes named the place Canada de Las Uvas, or grapevine canyon. At the Grapevine Grade, the north and south bound lanes maintain their proper alignment, as opposed to the south of Five-Mile Grade, discussed earlier. At both grades, though, it is not unusual to catch of whiff of burning brakes. The southbound lane is the older of the two embankments – it was the alignment for the 1933 Alternate route and is steeper than the new grade constructed for the descending northbound lanes. This was done for the same reason as at the 5-Mile Grade; a brake failure to a descending vehicle, especially a large tractor-trailer is less likely on a gentler slope.

Grapevine Canyon 1947

 

California State Water Project

There are several SWP facilities visible from this section of I-5; but, rather than mentioning them with the other points of interest, I thought it deserved it’s own brief section.

In California, most of the precipitation occurs north of the San Francisco Bay-Delta, but most of the population and irrigated agriculture occurs south of the delta. The main purpose of the SWP is transport some of what would otherwise be excess water to where it is most needed. The most challenging portion of the project was determining a method to get the water over or past the mountain ranges that separate northern and southern California. This was accomplished via a large pumping plant, the A. D. Edmonston Pumping Plant, located several miles to the east of Grapevine. This plant provides the largest water lift in the world. Fourteen, four-stage pumps of 320 cfs & 80,000 hp each (total installed capacity of 4,480 cfs and 1,120,000 hp) lift the water 1,926 feet over the hill and into the Antelope Valley. From there the aqueduct bifurcates into West and East Branches. The East Branch transports up to 2,880 cfs southeast a distance of 125 miles via open-channel canal, pipeline and tunnel to it’s terminus Paris Dam. Along the way are three power plants, one pumping plant and two large reservoirs. The West Branch transports up to 3,200 cfs a total of 31 miles via open-channel canal, pipeline and tunnel to its terminus, Castaic Dam. Along the way are one pumping plant, one power plant one pump/generator facility and two reservoirs.

Unlike the Ridge Route and it’s successors which are critical to both northern and southern California, the same can probably not be said about the SWP, or at least the portion south of the Tehachapi Mountains, which critical to only southern California.

A. D. Edmonston Pumping Plant

 

I’m sure there are others; but, the only movie I can think of which includes scenes of the Ridge Route area is Psycho. After embezzling $40,000 from her employer, Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) leaves Phoenix heading across the high desert. She pulls over to the side of the road to take a nap. Where she pulled over is along Highway 138 a couple of miles from the Golden State Highway. In this 3-1/2 minute scene, you see the interchange between 138 & 99 and the Gorman area.

Johnny Bond, a country performer in the 1940’s and 1950’s, performed a song about the Ridge Route called unsurprisingly “Ridge Route”.

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There are 47 comments.

  1. 1
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  1. RightAngles Member

    Interesting history and great old photos! Some parts of that road look pretty scary.

    • #1
    • August 25, 2019, at 6:49 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. Gary McVey Contributor

    A very elaborate and well written history! When I first moved here I was struck by the degree to which California was made possible by civil engineering that you could still see; it wasn’t centuries old, as it is some places back east. It’s also easy to play amateur roadway archeologist because as in the case of the Ridge Road, often several generations of projects are side by side. We ride on the Interstate highways of the Eisenhower/Pat Brown era, but the Depression-era State and early Federal roads are still here, and if you look closely enough you’ll still find a trace of Father Junipero Serra. 

    • #2
    • August 25, 2019, at 7:22 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily Post author

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    A very elaborate and well written history!

    Thanks Gary.

    • #3
    • August 25, 2019, at 7:36 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily Post author

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Interesting history and great old photos! Some parts of that road look pretty scary.

    Thanks. The last few days, I’ve been rummaging around looking for photos of the original Ridge Route and the photos from that time show a road that by modern standards is a death-trap. However, there are a bunch of postcards of the road from the era and the cards say things like “graceful and gentle curves” and the roads look like a driving paradise. The juxtaposition is kinda interesting but I don’t know exactly what to make of it.

    • #4
    • August 25, 2019, at 7:48 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. namlliT noD Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    We ride on the Interstate highways of the Eisenhower/Pat Brown era, but the Depression-era State and early Federal roads are still here, and if you look closely enough you’ll still find a trace of Father Junipero Serra.

    Near me:

    Statue of Father Junipero Serra overlooking Highway 280, a little south of San Francisco. This is looking south, there’s a reservoir by his knee, Half Moon Bay and the Pacific Ocean are directly behind those hills.

    • #5
    • August 25, 2019, at 7:52 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Rodin Member

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    A very elaborate and well written history!

    Thanks Gary.

    Ditto.

    • #6
    • August 25, 2019, at 7:58 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Gary Robbins Reagan

    I recently discovered I-5 through the Tejon Pass and ending up at Grapevine. What a wonderful set of roads! Thank you for bringing them alive for me.

    I love the “5-Mile Grade” portion of I-5 where the roads flip over each other so that the the southbound portion of I-5 is to the east of the northbound lanes.

    I am aware of two other freeways which have prolonged portions where the roads flip over each other. On I-8 east of Yuma, Arizona the eastbound road is to north of the westbound road as it passes through the Gila Mountains. And on AZ-87, a state freeway south of Payson, Arizona, the southbound lanes are to the east of the northbound lanes for several miles. I think that with I-5, I-8, and AZ-87, the existing roadway was already set and it made more sense for the new road to flip over the second most appropriate grade. Do my fellow Ricochetti know of other freeways which flip over each other?

    I am inspired! I see my own posts coming on Interstate 11 which is being planned north of Las Vegas, and from Hoover Dam to the Mexican border at Nogales, and AZ-202, the South Mountain Freeway, which is being built right now, and will open later this year.

    • #7
    • August 25, 2019, at 8:01 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily Post author

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I recently discovered I-5 through the Tejon Pass and ending up at Grapevine. What a wonderful set of roads! Thank you for bringing them alive for me.

    I love the “5-Mile Grade” portion of I-5 where the roads flip over each other so that the the southbound portion of I-5 is to the east of the northbound lanes.

    I am aware of two other freeways which have prolonged portions where the roads flip over each other. On I-8 east of Yuma, Arizona the eastbound road is to north os the westbound road as it passes through the Gila Mountains. And on AZ-87, a state freeway south of Payson, Arizona, the southbound lanes are to the east of the northbound lanes for several miles. I think that wit I-5, I-8, and AZ-87, the existing roadway was already set and it made more sense for the new road to flip over the second most appropriate grade. Do my fellow Ricochetti know of other freeways which flip over each other?

    I am inspired! I see my own posts coming on Interstate 11 which is being planned north of Las Vegas, and from Hoover Dam to the mexican border, and AZ-202, the South Mountain Freeway, which is being built right now, and will open later this year.

    Thanks Gary. I didn’t know about those two Arizona freeways you mentioned and the inverted portion of their alignments.

    • #8
    • August 25, 2019, at 8:15 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Gary McVey Contributor

    I’m also interested in seeing the plans take shape over the decades. The freeway system we have today was largely anticipated by the end of WWII, but significant details are different. Whole elaborate projects started getting cancelled in the Sixties; environmentalism didn’t really take hold for another ten years, but taxpayers were getting antsy about the costs, and eminent domain was sparking resistance. The Beverly Hills Freeway was supposed to run along present-day Santa Monica Boulevard between the 101 and the 405, if built it’s unlikely there’d be a City of West Hollywood today. The Marina Freeway is a truncated afterthought because extending it eastward would have sliced through Baldwin Hills, one of the richest Black neighborhoods in America. The Whitnall Freeway would have been a north-south road more or less in between the Hollywood and 405 freeways. 

    • #9
    • August 25, 2019, at 8:16 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Gary McVey Contributor

    Even after having lived here for 42 years, giant and obvious signs of history keep emerging. In the San Fernando Valley, a big diagonal slice of land was acquired for the Whitnall Freeway, broken along its length but miles long and a quarter mile wide. When the project was cancelled, some of the land was used for local roads, but most of it became a tended green belt. Giant electrical towers put the route to some use, but decades later it’s still there, never turned into the promised roadway, never used for rail or bus transit, never sold off to private developers. Suspended animation. 

    • #10
    • August 25, 2019, at 9:17 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Gary Robbins Reagan

    Thank you for the reference to Highway 99. I have ordered the book.

    If memory serves this was once U.S. 99, but was reduced to being a state highway back in the 1950’s or so. Of course, the iconic U.S. 101 follows the California coast.

    • #11
    • August 25, 2019, at 9:29 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Randy Webster Member

    There’s a place in Virginia where you’re on I-81 north and I-77 south at the same time.

    • #12
    • August 25, 2019, at 9:58 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily Post author

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    There’s a place in Virginia where you’re on I-81 north and I-77 south at the same time.

    I think it’s for people who don’t know if they’re coming or going.

    • #13
    • August 25, 2019, at 10:03 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. Gary McVey Contributor

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    Thank you for the reference to Highway 99. I have ordered the book.

    If memory serves this was once U.S. 99, but was reduced to being a state highway back in the 1950’s or so. Of course, the iconic U.S. 101 follows the California coast.

    I-5 is associated with the modern 18 wheelers of our time. The classic photos of 99 show it with cab over engine GMC “cannonballs” and other older truck styles, smaller than today’s, with no air conditioning and no power nuthin’. It’s hard to imagine today how much petty regulation interstate trucking involved, with separate plates, stickers, fees, even differing state-mandated numbers and colors of warning lights. 

    • #14
    • August 25, 2019, at 10:52 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Jon1979 Lincoln

    The history of the Ridge Route through Tejon Pass sounds similar to the history of Route 66 through the Cajon Pass 60 miles to the east. In both cases, the original routes through the passes built a century ago had to be continually updated and widened, until you get to the current I-15 alignment (U.S. 66 having aficionados from both inside and outside California, the changes made there to the Cajon Pass route’s probably gotten more attention over the years, including several videos for people seeking to find remnants of the original alignment, before it even got it’s U.S. highway designation number):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zTcpweaM-s

    • #15
    • August 25, 2019, at 11:17 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Doug Watt Member

    Wonderful essay. For anyone taking the trip on I-5 from LA north to Oregon you’ll need to understand that rush hour is never ending through the LA area. Traffic is bumper to bumper until you reach the southern end of the Grapevine, no matter the time of day. On a foggy day stay out of the right lane to avoid slow moving trucks on their slow climb up the hills.

    • #16
    • August 26, 2019, at 8:19 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. RightAngles Member

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Wonderful essay. For anyone taking the trip on I-5 from LA north to Oregon you’ll need to understand that rush hour is never ending through the LA area. Traffic is bumper to bumper until you reach the southern end of the Grapevine, no matter the time of day. On a foggy day stay out of the right lane to avoid slow moving trucks on their slow climb up the hills.

    When visiting my sister in hilly northern California, I was shocked and very unhappy to see special lanes/ramps for “Runaway Trucks” on our drive to Lake Tahoe. Scary thought.

    Runaway Truck on US 160 Wolf Creek Pass - YouTube

     

    California @ AARoads - Interstate 8 East - San Diego ...

    • #17
    • August 26, 2019, at 8:42 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. namlliT noD Member

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    When visiting my sister in hilly northern California, I was shocked and very unhappy to see special lanes/ramps for “Runaway Trucks” on our drive to Lake Tahoe. Scary thought.

    Oh yes! The runaway truck lanes in the aforementioned grapevine above LA are especially visible.

    But I’ll bet it’s scary because you’re imagining driving a fully loaded semi on a steep downhill and having your breaks give out.

    I think of runaway truck lanes as the necessary civil engineering that accompanies a steep grade. It’s reassuring; “ah, these folks thought this out.”

    And we have some pretty steep grades in the Sierras. I mean, it’s like, boom, going from flat to a mile up pretty quickly.

    • #18
    • August 26, 2019, at 9:08 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily Post author

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Wonderful essay.

    Thanks Doug.

    • #19
    • August 26, 2019, at 9:33 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. RightAngles Member

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    When visiting my sister in hilly northern California, I was shocked and very unhappy to see special lanes/ramps for “Runaway Trucks” on our drive to Lake Tahoe. Scary thought.

    Oh yes! The runaway truck lanes in the aforementioned grapevine above LA are especially visible.

    But I’ll bet it’s scary because you’re imagining driving a fully loaded semi on a steep downhill and having your breaks give out.

    I think of runaway truck lanes as the necessary civil engineering that accompanies a steep grade. It’s reassuring; “ah, these folks thought this out.”

    And we have some pretty steep grades in the Sierras. I mean, it’s like, boom, going from flat to a mile up pretty quickly.

    I had never seen this before! The thought of an 18-wheeler being unable to stop due to the steep grades just filled me with terror.

    • #20
    • August 26, 2019, at 9:37 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. namlliT noD Member

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    California @ AARoads - Interstate 8 East - San Diego ...

    Extra points for getting the skid marks in the photo.

    • #21
    • August 26, 2019, at 9:46 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. RightAngles Member

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    California @ AARoads - Interstate 8 East - San Diego ...

    Extra points for getting the skid marks in the photo.

    Ha! I couldn’t find the pics I took (it was years ago) so I found this one online. But this looks exactly like what I saw. Oh and we drove through the Donner Pass, and you’ll never believe it but there was a Donner Pass Restaurant. I mean why not just call it the Cannibal Cafe.

    • #22
    • August 26, 2019, at 9:56 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. namlliT noD Member

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    Oh and we drove through the Donner Pass, and you’ll never believe it but there was a Donner Pass Restaurant. I mean why not just call it the Cannibal Cafe.

    Oh, of course there is!

    “Let me tell you about today’s specials…”

    “NOOO!!!!”

    • #23
    • August 26, 2019, at 10:55 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. RightAngles Member

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    Oh and we drove through the Donner Pass, and you’ll never believe it but there was a Donner Pass Restaurant. I mean why not just call it the Cannibal Cafe.

    Oh, of course there is!

    “Let me tell you about today’s specials…”

    “NOOO!!!!”

    “Tastes like chicken!”

    • #24
    • August 26, 2019, at 11:06 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Rodin Member

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    California @ AARoads - Interstate 8 East - San Diego ...

    Extra points for getting the skid marks in the photo.

    Ha! I couldn’t find the pics I took (it was years ago) so I found this one online. But this looks exactly like what I saw. Oh and we drove through the Donner Pass, and you’ll never believe it but there was a Donner Pass Restaurant. I mean why not just call it the Cannibal Cafe.

    Or the Donner Diner.

     

    • #25
    • August 26, 2019, at 11:09 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. Barfly Member

    I bookmarked your fantastic post; I rarely do that. I’m walking out now for a snack and a beer at the watering hole, where I’ll re-read it. And think about the California that was, and the one that will be again.

    • #26
    • August 26, 2019, at 2:20 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily Post author

    Barfly (View Comment):

    I bookmarked your fantastic post; I rarely do that. I’m walking out now for a snack and a beer at the watering hole, where I’ll re-read it. And think about the California that was, and the one that will be again.

    Thanks Barfly.

    • #27
    • August 26, 2019, at 2:45 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    There’s a place in Virginia where you’re on I-81 north and I-77 south at the same time.

    Wytheville. Because of the mountains around there, that was the last section of I-81 completed on the entire route from Knoxville to the Canadian border. They paired I-77 with it in that tight fit area, but the shared section of road that has one highway going north and the other south is actually pointed in an east-west direction.

    • #28
    • August 26, 2019, at 3:05 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. Jon1979 Lincoln

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    When visiting my sister in hilly northern California, I was shocked and very unhappy to see special lanes/ramps for “Runaway Trucks” on our drive to Lake Tahoe. Scary thought.

    Oh yes! The runaway truck lanes in the aforementioned grapevine above LA are especially visible.

    But I’ll bet it’s scary because you’re imagining driving a fully loaded semi on a steep downhill and having your breaks give out.

    I think of runaway truck lanes as the necessary civil engineering that accompanies a steep grade. It’s reassuring; “ah, these folks thought this out.”

    And we have some pretty steep grades in the Sierras. I mean, it’s like, boom, going from flat to a mile up pretty quickly.

    I had never seen this before! The thought of an 18-wheeler being unable to stop due to the steep grades just filled me with terror.

    I-68 in western Maryland has the runaway truck ramps as well. That was the last major east-west Interstate run through the mountains, and as with the ones out west that have those, it’s needed because if you made the slope of the road gentle enough not to cause potential problems for trucks, you’d be back to the same problem the Ridge Road had, which was too many twists and turns to be safe.

    • #29
    • August 26, 2019, at 3:09 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily Post author

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    When visiting my sister in hilly northern California, I was shocked and very unhappy to see special lanes/ramps for “Runaway Trucks” on our drive to Lake Tahoe. Scary thought.

    Oh yes! The runaway truck lanes in the aforementioned grapevine above LA are especially visible.

    But I’ll bet it’s scary because you’re imagining driving a fully loaded semi on a steep downhill and having your breaks give out.

    I think of runaway truck lanes as the necessary civil engineering that accompanies a steep grade. It’s reassuring; “ah, these folks thought this out.”

    And we have some pretty steep grades in the Sierras. I mean, it’s like, boom, going from flat to a mile up pretty quickly.

    I had never seen this before! The thought of an 18-wheeler being unable to stop due to the steep grades just filled me with terror.

    Flatlander.

    • #30
    • August 26, 2019, at 3:11 PM PDT
    • 1 like
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