When I explored the East San Diego County boondocks for the first time, I was searching for history, not really thinking about why that certain history became part of history. I was following Highway 94 using a highway history tour book as a guide.
Highway 94 used to be a major east-west thoroughfare in San Diego County…. Until the mid-1960s when Interstate 8 was built. That caused vehicle traffic to abandon Highway 94. People who relied on that vehicle traffic had to move, leaving their former homes and businesses behind.
I never really thought about the connection between vehicle traffic, businesses, and even who cities until I drove part of historic Route 66 from Santa Monica, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada. Suddenly I understood. The price of progress. People enjoyed getting from here to there much faster on Interstate highways.
Whole cities had been founded along railroad tracks, then along the first roadways, all to serve the people who traveled on the railroads and roadways. When the Interstate highway system came along, people no longer had a need to stop for a meal or sleep for the night. Driving from here to there could be accomplished easily in hours instead of days, weeks, or even months.
Those who understood what was happening, or going to happen, quickly moved their homes and businesses near the Interstates, simply abandoning their former homes and businesses.
Of the places I have visited, Jacumba and Barstow, both in California, seem to be the hardest hit. I can kind of understand Jacumba because it is out in the middle of nowhere. Barstow, however, is home to a huge railroad classification yard used by both BNSF and Union Pacific. Interstate 15 also runs smack dab through the middle of Barstow, so I’m not fully understanding what happened there unless people simply pass it by in their haste to get to Los Angeles or Las Vegas; Barstow is the midpoint.
Jacumba used to be Jacumba Hot Springs. It was a playground for the rich and famous from the Los Angeles movie, film, and recording industries, those who wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles for the weekend. Here are two pictures of what once has a thriving Jacumba Hot Springs bath house:
I wanted to explore the interior so badly, but Jacumba is a small town and there are No Trespassing signs posted, so I didn’t want someone to see me go inside and call law enforcement.
Sadly, I see the same thing happening now with our shopping malls. Few people want to get dressed, go outside, and drive to a mall to shop when they can simply join Amazon Prime Now and have virtually anything delivered today or tomorrow.
It’s getting worse because the brick-and-mortar stores are losing foot traffic, and with the loss of that foot traffic comes a loss of inventory, so even when one does go to the mall, it’s rare that they have the item that one is looking for. People go back home and get those items from Amazon Prime Now. Eventually those same people learn that it just isn’t worth the time to go to the mall.
Some malls and shopping districts have lost so many shoppers and the resulting revenue that they have implemented parking fees. Huh? All that does is encourage people even more to shop at home on the computer with a cat on their laps, a dog by their sides, and a margarita sitting on their desks.
I don’t have an answer, which is why I’m not a politician with all the answers. I did read recently that some abandoned malls have been renovated into office complexes. I liked that. I’m wondering if the likes of Amazon could, perhaps, turn some malls and buildings, or parts thereof, into warehouses for the products they carry. Then other parts of the malls or buildings could be personnel support centers for those bigger businesses.