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.

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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.

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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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San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Cruz – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 1

I noticed that a section of my scratch-off map of the United States was unmarked between San Francisco and Portland, so we had to scratch that itch.  The flight from Columbus to San Francisco had a connection in Minneapolis.   The one and one-half hour flight was uneventful up to Minnesota but the flight to San Francisco had a delayed departure for almost two hours due to inclement weather in California.  After a dinner at a sports bar so that we could watch the first period of the hockey playoffs between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning, we moved on to our gate.

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Delta Airlines had bought pizza and drinks for the delayed passengers but we passed on the hospitality since we just ate.  After another hour we boarded and left the gate, only to wait another twenty minutes on the tarmac before taking off, arriving at SFO about midnight California time, where we hit another snag trying to rent a car.

After waiting in a long line to rent a car, we tried to leave the airport garage when security denied us exit stating that the car’s ID number did not match the paperwork and sent us back to the rental office, so it was back to the office.

At this point it was about 1 a.m., we were frustrated and tired but had no choice but to go back and work out the problem.  Finally we made it out of the airport and to our Hilton Garden Inn in South San Francisco at 2 A.M., a scant 12 hours after we left the ground in Ohio.

After a nutritious and delicious Denny’s breakfast (starting a theme of this trip), we took off to go into the city, going first to Twin Peaks for a great view of the city which we shared with a tour bus mostly of French tourists. The view to the northeast looks straight up Market Street through downtown San Francisco, while to the northwest you could see the top of the Golden Gate Bridge over the hills (and through the low clouds).

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Not far, on the next hill, is Grandview Park where we found a group running flights of stairs with a personal trainer. While we made it up the steps, not nearly as fast as the exercise class, we were rewarded by another great view, this time to the west and southwest towards the Pacific.

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On the other side of this park are the 16th Street Mosaic Steps. The runners had warned us not to leave valuables in the car, and the numerous signs in the area said the same thing, but the neighborhood looked ok, much better than say Cleveland or Detroit.The mosaic steps were very artistic with tiles of fish and birds on the front face of each step as it rose up the steep hill in the park, as well as landscaped hills along the sides.

Next, we drove to the Cliff House for a view of the beach.  The Cliff House was built in 1858 which survived the 1906 earthquake with little damage and offers a beautiful view of the beach as it sits upon the headland of Ocean Beach.  The structure has had five major rebuilds or renovations through the years and is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

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The Sutro Baths were a large, privately owned public saltwater swimming pool complex below the Cliff House.  The Sutro Baths, named for its owner, were built in 1896, but the facility burned down in June, 1966 and is now in ruins. We did not go down to the ruins but viewed them from the Cliff House.  A driveway into the grassy hill above provided a perfect spot in the park to see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

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We continued our drive into the city to the Haight-Ashbury District to see the leftover hippie shops and uniquely named stores.

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I had made a list of attractions to find on our trip noting one as the Isotope Comic Store in San Francisco.  This store is known for staging famous comic book artwork on toilet seat lids.

We met the owner, James Simes, who related how it all began when a famous comic book artist got really drunk at his party at the store and doodled artwork over all the bathroom surfaces.  The owner liked the art on the toilet lid and hung it on the store wall. Now more than 400 comic book artist have their artwork featured on toilet lids.  The owner hangs about one hundred doodled lids in his store for display.

Isotope Comics has been noted on social media throughout the world noting the unique sketched artwork of some of the most famous comic book artist in the world on the white lids.

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As our journey through town continued, we wandered just to find the steepest steets, or to follow the cable cars and other scenes.

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Having seen the highlights we headed across the Bay Bridge, getting off at Treasure Island.  Treasure Island is an artificial island in San Francisco Bay built in 1936 for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition; the island’s World’s Fair site is a California Historical Landmark.  A naval station still stands on the island with a few neighborhoods and recreation fields.  We took in a broad view of the city from across the bay.

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Afterwards we headed down the peninsula to meet relatives for dinner in San Jose. After dinner we drove up into the Santa Cruz Mountains where his mother was raised. It was amusing to me that the hills about Santa Cruz looked much like West Virginia, if West Virginia had an ocean view.

Finally we went down into the town, and walked along the Santa Cruz Boardwalk passing shops and amusement rides. I came home with a UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs t-shirt (for those Pulp Fiction fans).

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As the sun set the boardwalk lit up; the view from the pier was great, all the while listening to the seals below the boardwalk.  As we headed back we could see shadows of the seals on the rocks below the boardwalk where wells opened a view on the rocks below, as well as a spectacular full moon.  All in all a great first day, despite a bit of rain.

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San Francisco – September 2011 – A Day in the Bay Area

A business trip took me to the Bay Area, where I had a day to check out the sights. I started out down by ATT Park.

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Next up was going along the Embarcadero. The Muni runs classic old trolley cars on the F Line along the waterfront, and down Market Street.

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From there I headed towards North Beach, taking in the views of Nob Hill, and others.

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Later I headed out to Treasure Island for the views of downtown and the new Bay Bridge under construction.

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My plans had me staying in San Jose so I headed up into the hills once I arrived in the area.

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