Virtual Travel – California

Today we make our way to the Golden State – California. As most people know California is known for, among other things, their car culture. That culture apparently never translated to CalTrans, who never seem to have published maps.

Instead most Californians have relied on the auto club for their travel tools. The state has two major auto clubs – The Auto Club of Southern California and the California State Automobile Association, which covers Northern California.

The auto club maps rarely featured photos, mostly just graphically interesting maps.

For this posting we will mix together vintage Auto Club maps with photos from various years of the highlights of the state.


The map below dates from the 1950s and covers the entire state.

Auto Club California State Auto Association California 1940.jpg




A view of the map itself shows the famed freeways of the state still a few years away. This view has the area from the coast around San Francisco to the mountains and Yosemite National Park, going south as far as Santa Barbara.

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Our tour will start in San Francisco….

Auto Club SoCal San Francisco 1997



The view back toward downtown from Twin Peaks on a cloudy day.

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While most of San Francisco streets are in a grid system, the area directly around Twin Peaks have streets with curves resulting in a haphazard look to the houses.

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The Golden Gate bridge with the tops of the towers obscured by the low clouds.

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The cool, weirdness of Haight Asbury.

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Isotope Comic Book Shop and their artistic toilet lids.

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San Francisco from Angel Island.

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An evening at the Santa Cruz Beach.

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San Luis Reservoir as we head towards the central valley.

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Yosemite! One of the best National Parks.

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The Central Valley is the produce capital of the country.

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Sequoia National Park.

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Kings Canyon National Park.

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Let’s move on to Northeastern California.

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Lassen National Park

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Lava Tubes

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Hieroglyphs in far northern California

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Northwestern California is home to some amazing coastlines and forests.

Auto Club California State Auto Association Northwestern California 1987



Our tour of Northwest California starts out with the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geysersville.

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Lake Sonoma.

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The Mendocino County coast.

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Fort Bragg, California (not to be confused with the actual U.S. Army Fort Bragg in North Carolina).

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One of the ultimate tourist traps – the Drive Thru Tree in Leggett, California.

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Redwood Forest.

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Eureka, California

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We were  lucky enough to be in Arcata, California for one of the coolest festivals we ever saw – the Kinetics Festival.

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Trinity Lake

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Shasta Dam and lake with Mount Shasta in the background.

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This 1927 map  is the Circle Tour of Southern California. Leaving downtown Los Angeles it takes you east past San Bernardino to Palm Springs, before heading south through the desert, finally returning to the coast at San Diego.

Auto Club SoCal Circle Tour 1927.jpg




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We will recreate the highlights of this tour 90 years later…

The Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles was there when this map was published.

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Driving through the desert to Palm Springs.

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Palm Springs from high up on Mount San Jacinto.

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San Diego – This late 1940s map shows a San Diego that was just becoming a major city.

Auto Club SoCal San Diego County 1948

Auto Club SoCal San Diego County 1952 3


By 2012 it was a beautiful city by the bay.

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Petco Park – Home of the San Diego Padres (trivia time – the Padres are the only major league sports team whose name is entirely in non English)

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And finally back in Los Angeles – although this 1920s map is missing LAX (among other things).

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Mendocino & Humboldt Counties, California – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 7 – Redwood Forests

After yet another Denny’s breakfast, we went down the block for a stop at Glass Beach, part of Noyo State Park.  The beach is covered in colorful smooth clear stones that looked like glass, with white, green, amber, red and clear glass scattered among stones and shell bits throughout the beach. The glass stones reflected the morning sun making is easy to see the glassy pebbles.

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After that great early start to the day our trip continued north to Leggitt, California, where we paid our $5.00 entrance fee to enter the park to see the famous Candelabra Tree that is hollowed out so that a vehicle can drive a path through its center.

With some guidance I drove our bulky Chrysler 300 rental through the tree’s passage with inches remained between the inside of the tree and the car. It was close enough I could sit normally in the driver seat, reach out and touch the walls of the tree. A T shirt from here rivals my Carhenge for the most kitschy shirt.

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As you proceed north on U.S. Highway 101 north of Garberville you come to the Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile portion of old Highway 101, which parallels the 101 with its 51,222 acres of redwood groves.

This road list flanked on both sides by the most outstanding display of these giant trees in all of California, as it is in the middle of Humboldt Redwoods State Park which has the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world.

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Our lunch stop this day was for burgers and fries at the Chimney Tree Grill, named for the aptly named Chimney Tree. It is a massive tree that has a hollowed out area from a burn in 1914, as large as a twelve foot room. We entered the tree at its door entrance and stood inside a tree larger than the bedroom of my childhood home.

After lunch, our tour continued up the Avenue to a noteworthy forest of giant trees; standing inside the base of a fallen tree that was taller on it’s side than a massive motorhome parked at the end of it. These trees are the oldest living things on earth and they just amaze me to think that these trees standing today were here before the Vikings landed in North America.

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U.S. 101 has historically been a tourist route, and many smaller quirky tourist spots exists. One which had signs for about 100 miles before we arrived was Confusion Hill,  so we had to go see it to satisfy our curiosity. We new it would be a tourist trap but it only cost $5 per person to explore the laws of gravity.

From the lobby we entered the wooded area following a path leading to a makeshift wooden cabin hung onto a side of a hill. There were activities for us to try. A level platform mounted to the slanted structure made me look taller at one end; we also stood on short ledges mounted to the wall while leaning forward without falling. Another activity had a golf ball roll down a slanted plank and roll back up again on its own. The weirdness of this place and the strange, amusing things were worth the price of admission.

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Another stop was at a chainsaw art shop that was on the way. There were impressive wood sculptures of a native chief, Sasquatch, eagles and more. Finally before we left the Avenue we hiked through the Redwoods at Founders Grove where we saw the coast redwood tree, the tallest trees on earth. These trees average 350 feet tall and are one thousand years or older. I learned that these trees are so tall that the trees live within three different climates.

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By mid afternoon we found ourselves in Ferndale, California, in southern Humboldt County, where they have a small downtown with a variety of shops; an artistic blacksmith shop had interesting high quality stylish pieces; the Palace Saloon, westernmost bar in the continental United States, and many others.

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Finally we arrived in Eureka, California, our stop for the night at the Best Western Marina Inn. We explored the town checking out an art gallery, the murals throughout the town, and the Carson Mansion – also known as the pink lady so named for its paint color. Across the street was another mansion used as the model for the Disneyland train station.

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After dinner at the Lost Coast Brewery, we toured the town a bit more finding the Eureka Theater, which was showing the movie M.A.S.H complete with an army hospital ambulance was parked in front of the theater.

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As we walked through the town we came upon a ‘Glass Shop’, thinking art glass we went in; it was then we remembered we are in Humboldt County, California, home of the largest pot growing region in America!

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