Tag Archives: old highway 80

Out & About—Old Highway 80 & the best. chocolate. ever.

Out & About

Now that I have a fine fine fine super computer that will process pictures much much faster, I can do longer blog posts. Yahooooooooooooo!

So today I’m going to continue my tour of Old Highway 80 through the boondocks of East San Diego County.

Driving tour of East San Diego County via Old Highway 80

For previous posts on the beginnings of this Old Highway 80 tour, see these:

  1. Glad I could add some laughter to Mr. Agent’s day (Jan 27, 2017)
  2. Reminds me, something about a big wall (Jan 29, 2017)
  3. Marshall Scotty’s Playground Park (Feb 19, 2017)
  4. Stand down. Local tourist (Mar 2, 2017)
  5. The San Diego & Arizona Railway (Mar 7, 2017)
  6. Who wants to drink brown water (Mar 9, 2017)
  7. Halls of History—The Coogan Ranch (Mar 15, 2017)
  8. Out & About—Cruise historic Highway 80 (Mar 23, 2017)
  9. Bankhead Springs, drive-through ghost town (May 17, 2017)

Since I already have taken things out of order with the above posts, it’s best not to try to follow Old Highway 80 using my blog posts. Instead, get a copy of Chris Wray’s book, Highways to History, and following the “Highway 80 from El Cajon to Ocotillo” tour, pages 15-52. Alternately, if you’d like a personal docent for the tour, all you have to do is contact me. Give me 24 hours notice, and I’m yours. We’ll even take my car! Meanwhile, here’s the rest of the Old Highway 80 using unprocessed pictures that are left in my computer folder, seeming to indicate that they have not been used in a blog post yet.

We’ll start in this post at the Acorn Casino since it’s such all roads—Interstate 8, Highway 80—lead to the Casino. Looks like this:

Golden Acorn Casino

Next, go through Live Oak Springs and past Live Oak Springs Road until you get to the Tierra del Sol Road intersection. On the north side of the intersection is a stone tower sitting on top of a rounded boulder. Looks like this:

Stone tower on rounded boulder on Tierra del Sol Road, Old Highway 80, San Diego County

Sources don’t seem to know what it is but best guess, which I agree with based on my 55+ years of experience in real estate, is that the it is part of a building foundation sitting atop the boulder. I’ve seen such construction many times in many states.

Highway 80 joins with Highway 94 past Tierra del Sol Road. Look for the Highway 80 intersection with Jewell Valley Road (south)/Ribbonwood Road (north). Lots of buildings around, including the Wisteria Candy Cottage at 39961 Old Highway 80. Looks like this:


Stop at the Wisteria Candy Cottage.

Even if you don’t think you want candy.

They have the best chocolate in the world. Buy some for later.

As stated on their signs, they have been providing “old fashioned candies since 1921.” Everything I bought on my trip was based on chocolate. Maybe they have other “old fashioned candies” but I didn’t see any. Or maybe my eyes simply were focused on chocolate because my mouth was watering for chocolate. Best. Chocolate. Ever. I had read, and I agree.

The Wisteria Candy Cottage actually is located in Boulevard (pop. 315) but Wisteria is the name for western Boulevard left over from fifty years ago. It also is located in the original building and in the original location of the Mountain Empire High School.

You can start eating your chocolate while you walk around outside to the back of the Wisteria Candy Cottage. There you’ll see a huge dead building. Looks like this:

That dead building is the ruins of what sources say is an old lodge or temple for the Masons located in Imperial Valley. Sadly, that’s all the information I can find online. It’s probably the only dead building I’ve ever seen that is not ruined by graffiti.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Out & About—Bankhead Springs, drive-through ghost town

Out & About

After my wise old grandmother adopted me in December 1965, I had daily access to a television and got addicted to Lucille Ball. I watched anything and everything in which she made an appearance, beginning with “I Love Lucy.”

In 1957, “I Love Lucy” morphed into Season 1 of “The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show.” The second episode, “The Celebrity Next Door,” originally broadcast on December 3, 1957, left an impression with an impressionable teenager, not because of anything specific about the show but because of one of the guest stars, Tallulah Bankhead (1902-1968), the celebrity. The name was so unusual that it stuck with me for many years….

….even unto the present.

Earlier this year when I was out touring Old Highway 80, I came upon Bankhead Springs. Bankhead. Couldn’t be any connection.

“Au contraire, bison breath,” someone more famous than me used to say.

Bankhead Springs was named for John Hollis Bankhead (1842-1920). While serving as a U.S. Senator from Alabama (1907-1920), John Bankhead was instrumental in advocating for the development of highways, specifically a cross-country highway. Eventually, the Bankhead Highway connected Washington DC to San Diego, with the western section eventually becoming U.S. Highway 80.

Wanna guess who his granddaughter was? Yep. Tallulah Bankhead.

Bankhead Springs currently is “a drive-through ghost town,” as are many of the towns along Highway 80 which were bypassed when Interstate 8 was built in the early 1960s.

In the early 20th Century, Bankhead Springs and nearby Jacumba were hot spots for Hollywood celebrities and the idle rich because of their natural hot springs. Although local legend says that Tallulah was involved in the town’s development, there is no evidence of that. There also are rumors that prostitutes out of Bankhead Springs pandered to the lonely construction workers building Interstate 8. Those rumors also appear unfounded and might have more to do with Tallulah’s well-known status as a libertine.

The Bankhead Springs Hotel, built around 1920, provided glamorous accommodations, and for a little extra money, one could get a rental cabin. The hotel is still standing, serving as a roadside store.

Bankhead Springs Hotel, Bankhead Springs CA

Bankhead Springs Hotel, Bankhead Springs CA

The Bankhead Springs Hotel apparently has an interesting history, although I was unable to confirm its history from any source other than an online blog similar to mine. Apparently the hotel closed for a decade, with the story being that the owner simply disappeared one day and was never heard from again. Police found room doors open, beds made, kitchen and dining area clean and set for the next meal, and no sign of robbery or violence. There was a bank fund to pay the property tax so the hotel doors were locked and the hotel left undisturbed. When the property tax fund ran out, the county seized the property for back taxes.

Many of the rental cabins still stand, too, although just barely. I don’t think anyone will be renting any of them any time soon.

Bankhead Springs Hotel rental cabin, Bankhead Springs CA

Bankhead Springs Hotel rental cabin, Bankhead Springs CA

Bankhead Springs Hotel rental cabin, Bankhead Springs CA

Bankhead Springs Hotel rental cabin, Bankhead Springs CA

Bankhead Springs Hotel rental cabin, Bankhead Springs CA

Bankhead Springs Hotel rental cabin, Bankhead Springs CA

Bankhead Springs Hotel rental cabin, Bankhead Springs CA

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Picture of the Moment—What happened to my nest?

Picture of the Moment

I have been trying to get a good picture of a cliff swallow ever since 1973 when I was a freshman at Texas A&M University. I had gone to the football game in Austin and discovered all the swallows that live under the bridges near downtown. They fly too fast, are small, and take off if you get too close to them. Now, with a 600mm lens, I can get close without getting close.

I got the picture below under a bridge on Old Highway 80. Sources indicate that although the highway was built in the 1910s and widened in the 1930s, the bridge was built in 1973. It carries traffic over the La Posta Creek, which actually had water in it when I was there yesterday.

People don’t seem to like cliff swallows since they like to build their nests on manmade structures, like bridges and under the eaves of buildings. Swallows, however, do a great job of keeping various swarming insects under control since they like to eat flies, bees, wasp, ants, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and other bugs.

All swallows are protected by state and federal regulations under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 as migratory insectivorous birds, so it is illegal to take, possess, transport, sell, or purchase them or their feathers, nests, or eggs, without a permit.

Swallows like to use the same nest year after year. The picture below seems to indicate that someone, probably the California Department of Transportation, has been by since last year’s nesting season to destroy all the nests. So these poor birds, returning now from their winter migration to Mexico, Central America, and South America, are finding that their nests have been destroyed. They probably are under a lot of stress.

The one below obviously found its old nest but it’s nothing like the poor bird left it late last year. Lot of work to do.

American Cliff Swallow

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat in absentia.Where's that damn cat?

Out & About—Stand down. Local tourist

Out & About San Diego

Early in January I went on an exploratory driving tour of East San Diego County, specifically looking for remnants of old, abandoned sections of Old Highway 80 which was built from the 1910s to the 1960s. During the years after World War II, U.S. Highway 80 from San Diego to Yuma AZ was reported to be the most used transcontinental highway. U.S. 80 was removed from the Californnia highway numbering system in 1964 after Interstate 8 had become the major thoroughfare from San Diego to Yuma. By 1991, U.S. 80 had been removed from the highway numbering in Arizona, New Mexico, and the western part of Texas all the way to Dallas. In 2006, what was left of U.S. Highway 80 in San Diego and Imperial counties was designated by the State of California as Historic U.S. Route 80.

My journey:

Driving tour of East San Diego County via Old Highway 80

In the original highway system a two-digit number ending in a zero meant that the road was a cross-country road. Indeed, U.S. Highway 80 had its western terminus as far west as Point Loma in San Diego and its eastern terminus in Tybee Island, Georgia.

The road for automobiles from San Diego to Yuma, Arizona, was the Old Plank Road built from February to April 1915. There still is a section of the road in existence, near Yuma, and it is my intent to get over there soon to see it. Here’s a picture of it from Wikipedia:

Old Plank Road remnants near Yuma, Arizona

The 1915 road was replaced in 1916 by a more sophisticated prefabricated plank road. It was a struggle to maintain it, though, and by 1926 work was underway to construct a concrete/asphalt roadway. Many sections of the concrete/asphalt roadway still are in existence, some still being driven on and others being quite difficult to find or get to.

If we start west and drive east, the first section we come to was built in 1917. The earliest concrete highway is easy to determine because it has no center divider, which you’ll see in upcoming pictures, and appears to be at most about 1½ lanes wide. Here is a section visible on what is now the Viejas Indian Reservation in Alpine:

1917 abandoned section of U.S. Highway 80 on Viejas Indian Reservation in California

There is a cool bridge, the Los Terrinitos Road Bridge, also built in 1917, just a couple of miles from the reservation:

Los Terrinitos bridge built in 1917

I, being the indomitable Russel Ray, had to park and crawl under the bridge. Under-bridges often are more interesting than over-bridges.

Underneath the Los Terrinitos bridge built in 1917

Underneath the Los Terrinitos bridge built in 1917

Once you drive over the bridge, you’re on Old Highway 80 built in 1931. You can see the center divider indicating that it’s the widened version constructed beginning in 1926.

Wildwood Glen

This section of Highway 80 now is called Wildwood Glen Lane. The Wildflower Resort was located here on the old highway. The main house from the resort is still used as a residence. The road goes for about a mile and ends at a gated turnaround. However, you can park your car and walk around the gate and explore another three miles or so of the old highway, overgrown with high desert sage and chaparral.

Gate on Old Highway 80. Park and walk from here.

The panorama below is beyond the gate; I had a lot of fun walking a couple of miles before turning around to stay on schedule.

Old Highway 80 panorama

Each section of highway that was completed each day was date-stamped at both ends. I was able to determine that they poured concrete at the rate of about a quarter mile each day.

Old Highway 80 date stamp

Date-stamped concrete, Old Highway 80

In the picture immediately above, the January 21, 1930 date stamp is wrong. Every other date stamp on this section of Highway 80 was 1931, including January 21, 1931, at the other end of this 1930-stamped section. Well, I guess they could have started this section on January 21, 1930, and finally completed it on January 21, 1931, but I’m thinking, uh, no.

In addition to finding beautiful scenery, I also discovered normally dry mountain streams that were running full of water.

Dead tree in the East San Diego County mountains

In the following picture, you can see Interstate 8 in the upper right. This was about two miles past the gate and where I turned around to go back to my car.

Old Highway 80 and Interstate 8

The next section that is visible is the Pine Creek bridge in Pine Valley, built in 1917. It still is in use as a private entrance to some horse stables.

Pine Creek Bridge, Pine Valley, California

Between Pine Valley and Jacumba Hot Springs are mostly abandoned building ruins. Quite interesting. There are so many abandoned ruins, especially in and around Jacumba Hot Springs, that I will cover them in a future blog post.

Although my tour book, dated 2013, said there were sections of Highway 80 visible or accessible, I was not able to find them in 2017. The next section I found was near Jacumba Hot Springs, a 1931 bridge built on top of a 1916 bridge.

1931 U.S. Highway 80 bridge near Jacumba Hot Springs, California

So, do you think I crawled under the bridge? Uh, der. That’s the only way you can see the remnants of the 1916 bridge!

1931 bridge built on top of a 1916 bridge

I also found another 1931 bridge near Jacumba Hot Springs. This one went over some abandoned railroad tracks of the San Diego & Arizona Railroad, so I stopped to walk the tracks.

Old Highway 80 bridge over abandoned tracks of the San Diego & Arizona Railroad

That spot where I stopped to take that picture is about one hundred feet from the border fence with Mexico, which has a maintenance gate in it.

Border fence with Mexico

I walked over to the gate in the picture, and that’s when every Border Patrol and Homeland Security agent within 100 miles descended on me like flies on dung. I was sure that I was going to be deported….

After explaining what I was doing, they let me go but warned me that being in a new car with “paper plates,” it was likely that I would be stopped several more times this close to the border. They were right. Six times total during my 101-mile trip. While being warned by one officer, another was talking into his walkie talkie: “Stand down. Local tourist.”

The two pictures immediately above were taken on the side of the road nearest to the border. On the other side, while standing on the bridge, were sections of the 1916 road, shown in the following four pictures and easily discernible because there’s no center divider:

Old Highway 80, 1917 version

Old Highway 80, 1917, Jacumba Hot Springs

Old Highway 80, 1917, Jacumba Hot Springs

Old Highway 80, 1917, Jacumba Hot Springs

Out at In-Ko-Pah where the Desert View Tower is (see my blog posts here), there are two long sections of Old Highway 80 right next to Interstate 8. The 1916 section, shown below, is abandoned.

Old Highway 80, 1916 section, In-Ko-Pah

To the right in the above picture is the 1932 section which is still in use. It terminates at the Desert View Tower. In the picture below, in the center of the bridge, you can see the date 1932.

Old Highway 80, 1932 section, In-Ko-Pah

Once you leave the Desert View Tower (if you’re that close to it, stop and take a tour), you’ll get on Interstate 8 and head down into the desert where there are long stretches of both 1916 and 1932 sections of Old Highway 80, as well as track and trestles from the abandoned San Diego & Arizona Railroad.

1932 meets 1916. Interstate 8 in upper quarter, especially upper right.
Old Highway 80, 1932 meets 1916 section, In-Ko-Pah

East of Ocotillo is a long stretch of a 1916 section of Highway 80. The 1932 version is at the left, which is what you drive on through here.

Old Highway 80, 1916 section, east of Ocotillo CA

Old Highway 80, 1916 section, east of Ocotillo CA

Here is a panorama showing the 1916 Highway 80 on the left and the 1932 Highway 80 on the right.

Old Highway 80, 1916 and 1932 sections, east of Ocotillo CA

The currently abandoned San Diego & Arizona Railroad tracks are to the left of the 1916 Highway 80. They look like this:

San Diego & Arizona Railroad tracks east of Ocotillo CA

Hope you enjoyed this driving tour of Old Highway 80 in East San Diego County. I’ll have more driving tours like this coming up in future posts. Stay tuned by following or subscribing.

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This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Glad I could add some laughter to Mr. Agent’s day

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I went exploring yesterday in the boondocks of East San Diego County. Wow. There was a lot to see.

The first time I got out of my car, I was attacked by cold, wet stuff. I almost lost my foot.

Snow in the San Diego mountains

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I have reported the incident to the Centers for Disease Control.

Several people and I took a driving tour of Old Highway 80 from El Cajon to Ocotillo, about 72 miles. With switchbacks, missed turns, and sub-explorations, it was about 100 miles. Although I had done the driving tour about a decade ago, I went this time because I have a new interest in the San Diego & Arizona Railroad which pretty much parallels Old Highway 80 for the last 40 miles or so. I was not disappointed.

One of the more interesting places was Plaster City, a city totally owned by USG. I use “city” very loosely here because the “city” is actually just a huge monster gigantic really really big gypsum plant.

Plaster City, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Some of you might remember the 1963 movie “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” with its all-star cast of Edie Adams, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, and Jonathan Winters. Ethel Merman’s character is heard talking on the telephone to her son, saying that she was “in some place called Plaster City.”

I took the new 2017 Honda Civic, which still has its paper plates, so I got stopped 5 times by Border Patrol. Everyone in my car thought it was funny; I didn’t. The last agent who stopped me looked in the car at my four passengers, some of whom looked of Mexican/Spanish descent and asked me what I was doing. I told him we were photographers taking a “driving tour of Old Highway 80 from El Cajon to Ocotillo.” He saw all the camera equipment and seemed satisfied. He did caution me, though, that “with paper plates and a car full of people you’ll probably get stopped multiple times.” I told him that we already had, that he was #5.

He laughed.

My wise old grandmother always told me to add laughter to my day. Glad I could add some laughter to Mr. Agent’s day.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat