with Steve McCarthy
Ya know, it’s been a long time since I’ve written up a proper trip. This one is a dandy, and any part can be done as a one, two, or three day jaunt. In some ways, it’s a variation of the Eastern San Diego County one I wrote about a few years ago, but this one has some definite twists to it, and not just twists in the road.
If you do the whole three day tour, not only will you get a good dose of California’s variety of landscape (mountains and deserts in particular, and as an added bonus, a land locked lake), but you can compare apple pies and get some really good Mexican food! What’s not to like?
We’ll start in Montrose/La Canada at the UA Theatre where the 2 and 210 freeways meet. Many of you will know it as the place car guys meet on Saturday mornings. This is the logical place, because we’ll be going over Angeles Crest, all the way to Wrightwood.
The beauty of this part is, of course, you have choices for breakfast. There’s of course Newcomb’s Ranch, where all the bikers stop, then several choices in Wrightwood, depending on what time you set out and how long you want to wait for food. Newcomb’s is a neat place, and now that the Crest is open again, they need the biz! The brutal Station Fire really trashed the whole area and their business is still trying to recover. If you go on a weekend, watch for the crotch rocket guys. Some of them are really boogieing! Also, always be on the alert for Mr. Chippy! They are still watching, especially on the weekends, so don’t do anything stoooopid! Also, on weekdays, remember that this is a commuter route and the oncoming traffic can be heavy. Stick to realistic speeds going up, stay the heck on your side of the road and enjoy.
From Wrightwood, the route will take you across the I-15 (a good place to gas up) and up to Arrowhead, the back way. This is a killer road with enough switchbacks to give you achy arms! Past Arrowhead is of course Big Bear. This whole section can be crowded on a weekend, so I’d do this mid week if I were you. Big Bear and Arrowhead also offer plenty of places to eat and stop, but hold on, the real food treat is up ahead.
You’ll be taking the back way down from Big Bear, roads that I remember well from the old Bus Driving Days. Man, it seemed like every weekend, we’d be hauling Girl Scouts, Campfire Girls, YMCA kids, or even the odd (very odd) Women’s Christian Temperance Union campers up and down that hill. For the latter, I always wore my trusty Loch Ness Monster Pub T-shirt. The tales I could tell! Anyway, this route is a lot of fun, and will wind up in Oak Glen, above Yucaipa. This is where you want to stop for lunch. Oak Glen is known for it’s apple orchards, and apple orchards means Apple Pie!
Now I gotta tell ya, I’m an Apple Pie Freak. To the point where I have Apple Pie instead of birthday cake! Oak GLen has great pie, and although you have several choices, Law’s Oak Glen Cafe is probably the best. It’s of course debatable, but believe me, it’s good! You can also stop and get fresh squeezed cider at a number of places. Add a little brewer’s yeast and…
So, after lunch, you’ll drop down for a brief jaunt on the I-10 (get gas now, NEVER in the mountains!) and quickly back up into the mountains. This time it’s the San Jacinto’s, past the little community of Idylwild then down to Palm Desert over the Pines to Palm (or is it the Palms to Pines-I guess it depends on which way you’re going) Highway. This is another really twisty bit that will guarantee the need of some kind of relaxing beverage at the end of the day. The last bit is through some city streets to Indio and our stop for the night.
Indio is an odd place. It was at one time a major stop on the southerly route across the country, and has become a pretty large city, but it’s still mostly bypassed by travelers. Every spring there is the huge music festival at Chowchilla (or is that Coachella? One has a rock music festival, one had a mass murder, I can't tell the difference between them any more) just down the road, so watch your dates (which is different from eating dates in Indio). Motel rooms are impossible to get at that time!
We found a classic on Indio Boulevard called The Tropics Motor Hotel. Frank the manager is a great guy, and the place is proper old time roadside motel. There are a couple of others nearby so you do have a choice.
best part of stopping in Indio is the El Mexicali Cafe. 82720 Indio
Boulevard, Indio, CA (760) 347-1280. This place is family owned and run,
been there since ’82, and has the most wonderful appetizer! It’s a
fairly mild yellow chili, stuffed with shrimp onto which you drizzle (of
all things) soy sauce! Weird sounding but REALLY good!!! When we
stopped there, the waitress was so insistent that we try it, that even
when we passed (stooopid us!) she brought us a couple on the house! MAN
was this good! The rest of the meal was exceptional as well. This is
some of the best Mexican food we’ve found. Ever.
Next month, I’ll take you on a southern tour past the Salton Sea, through the Anza Borrego Desert, and then to Julian for Part Two of the Great Apple Pie Challenge!
UA La Canada 8
1919 Verdugo Boulevard
La Canada, CA 91011
1. LEFT out of parking lot on Verdugo Blvd 0.6 mi
2. RIGHT on Foothill Blvd 0.3 mi
3. LEFT on Angeles Crest Hwy 64.3 mi
4. SLIGHT RIGHT toward CA-138 E 0.1 mi
Think Seriously about gas when you cross I-15! Gas gets REAL expensive as we head to the mountains!
5. SLIGHT RIGHT on CA-138 E 27.7 mi
6. LEFT to stay on CA-138 E 1.1 mi
7. RIGHT to stay on CA-138 E 0.3 mi
8. LEFT on CA-138 0.9 mi
9. KEEP RIGHT AT THE FORK TO MERGE onto CA-18 N 14.1 mi
10. SLIGHT LEFT onto Hilltop Con 89 ft
11. Hilltop Con turns slightly right and becomes CA-18 N/Hilltop Blvd
Continue to follow CA-18 N 12.4 mi
12. RIGHT on CA-18 N/Big Bear Blvd 0.5 mi
13. LEFT to stay on CA-18 N/Big Bear Blvd 3.5 mi
14.LEFT onto Big Bear Blvd 6.6 mi
15. RIGHT on CA-38 W/Greenspot Blvd
Continue to follow CA-38 W 39.2 mi
16. LEFT on Bryant St (signs for Yucaipa/Oak Glen) 2.4 mi
17. LEFT onto Oak Glen Rd
Destination will be on the left 5.0 mi
179 mi – about 4 hours 21 mins
LUNCH STOP! You MUST have the Apple Pie!
Law's Oak Glen Coffee Shop
38392 Oak Glen Road
Yucaipa, CA 92399-9749
18. LEFT on Oak Glen Rd toward Hideaway Ln 7.6 mi
19. CONTINUE ONTO Beaumont Ave 2.0 mi
20. LEFT on Oak Valley Pkwy 0.6 mi
21. RIGHT on Pennsylvania Ave 1.4 mi
22. LEFT to merge onto I-10 E toward Indio 4.4 mi
You might want to think about some gas!
23. TAKE EXIT 100 for 8th St/CA-243 toward Idyllwild 0.3 mi
24. RIGHT on CA-243 S/S 8th St 0.1 mi
25. TAKE FIRST LEFT onto W Lincoln St 0.5 mi
26. TAKE 2nd RIGHT on CA-243 S/Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Hwy
Continue to follow CA-243 S/Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Hwy 28.8 mi
27. CONTINUE on CA-74 E/Florida Ave
Continue to follow CA-74 E 36.7 mi
28. RIGHT on CA-111 S 9.5 mi
29. LEFT on Monroe St 1.0 mi
30. RIGHT on Fred Waring Dr 449 ft
31. TAKE 1st RIGHT on Interstate 10 Business E (Indio Blvd)
Destination will be on the right 0.2 mi
93.2 mi – about 2 hours 17 mins
Tropics Motor Hotel
82297 Indio Boulevard
Indio, CA 92201-3129