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Old Highway 395, Part 6: US 395 in Escondido, San Marcos and Vista via Escondido Blvd, Mission Road and Bonsall Bridge (1934-1947)

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[ACSC strip map, early 1930s, northern San Diego county. 61K.] In Part 6, we start a very large split in northern San Diego county between old and new US 395, just as in Part 9 and Part 10 will we start a similar large split in southern Riverside county.

As originally designated, the course of LRN 77 (CA 71, US 395) went through downtown Escondido, then west towards San Marcos (with what was then CA 78), north through Vista, across the San Luis Rey River on the venerable 1925 Bonsall Bridge, and thence to Fallbrook and the Riverside county line. This is demonstrated on contemporary maps such as the ACSC strip map at left, the top half reproduced for your perusal (click the thumbnail for a 61K enlargement). Even at its conception, this was a fairly congested routing and a crows-fly routing from Escondido directly to Rainbow and the county line would have seemed obvious -- except for the extremely rugged territory along the San Marcos Mountains through the San Luis Rey river valley that a direct routing would have to somehow cross. This particular geographic limitation was not opened completely to the motorist until roughly a decade and a half later, when the straight-through connection along what is now actually signed Old Highway 395 was completed; we will get to that routing in Part 8. The split in Riverside county was similarly indirect and zig-zagged, and we will talk about that starting with Part 10.

In this Part and the next, then, we will examine the old routing in detail, including the old Bonsall Bridge landmark and several other small remnants. Much of the earliest routing of US 395 is still highway of some sort, mostly signed San Diego county highway (both designated in 1968) except for the portions that were co-routed with what is now CA 76 (Part 7). After US 395 was retracted from this routing, the southernmost portion became solely CA 78 until it was converted to the modern CA 78 freeway, and is sometimes still referred to as "Old 78" to my personal chagrin.


Escondido Boulevard, Grand Avenue, Broadway and Mission Avenue

[Old and new US 395 in Escondido city limits, 1951, 48K] We continue on Escondido Boulevard up the hill, leaving Centre City Parkway behind.

The routing we will be following in this Part through Escondido is somewhat convoluted, made worse by the fact that the modern street names don't match the old ones. Both the then-new Centre City Pkwy routing and the old Escondido Blvd routing are shown on the 1951 schematic at right; click for a 48K enlargment. Compare this with the street names given on the ACSC strip map in the blurb above; the highway entered on Nutmeg Street, came across on Grand Avenue, up Lime Street, and then west and out on an unclear routing, but was probably Grant Avenue (not Grand again). None of these street names except Grand still exist, but the street names next to them still do, and these streets are still named in alphabetical order with the exception of Grant. Since Nutmeg must be between M and O, the only match would be Maple and Orange Sts, and the street between them is Escondido Blvd; similarly, Lime must be between K and M, meaning Kalmia and Maple Sts, and that is now Broadway. (For that matter, Centre City Parkway runs between Orange and Quince Sts; it was formerly Pine St.)

That leaves Grant Avenue, surrounded by Lincoln Ave and Washington Avenue on our 1951 map, neither named consecutively nor alphabetically. The only match for that today by location is Mission Avenue, and that is in fact the continuous routing we will follow. Notice that these turns were done both to go through the downtown business district and then over the Escondido Creek; it seems that in the 1930s Nutmeg north of Grand was not a completed road and even on the 1951 map it is not shown as through to Grant Avenue. The extension of modern Escondido Blvd all the way through to modern Mission Avenue was a much later addition and has nothing to do with old US 395.

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[Escondido Blvd in 1951, 37K.] Continuing on modern Escondido Blvd northbound into the southern downtown district. Compare this view with the 1951 view of Escondido Blvd at right (click for a 37K enlargement).

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Preparing to turn right on Grand, the next intersection down.

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Along Grand Avenue (formerly Grande Avenue with an e), which has been renovated with several upscale establishments, now with the former routing of CA 78.

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Left turn now, along Broadway. At the corner here of Grand Avenue and Broadway, we pick up the very oldest routing of CA 78, which traveled east of here along Grand to connect with San Pasqual Valley Rd and leave the city. We continue on as NB old US 395/WB old CA 78.

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Junction Valley Parkway.

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Passing by the Civic Center and City Hall of Escondido, one of many city halls lining the old alignment of US 395 (and, for that matter, the modern routing).

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The whimsical Grape Day Park. Go on, guess why it has that name. (Actually, it's in recognition of Escondido's history as an agricultural community, which early on featured large areas of -- you guessed it -- grapes, and is the site of the annual Grape Day Festival.)

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Washington Avenue. Notice the CA 78 shield on the mastarm; the portion of Broadway up to Lincoln Pkwy and the root of the CA 78 freeway, as well as the portion of Washington Ave east to Ash St, are all part of the third and current incarnation of CA 78 (for the second routing, see Part 8), so we are actually on modern CA 78 ever so briefly. We continue north on Broadway/WB modern CA 78.

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Turning left onto Mission Avenue. Notice the 78 shields on the mastarm here too. We leave modern CA 78 alone to continue back to the freeway, but old CA 78 continues with us west.

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Crossing the later extension of Escondido Blvd.

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Centre City Parkway again. As we mentioned earlier and as you can see in the 1951 schematic above, this was the later bypass routing of US 395 and its final routing in Escondido. We will come back to this in Part 8; for now, we'll just drive straight on through to continue on our western routing.

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San Diego County Route S14: Mission Road, S. Santa Fe Avenue

This terminal END begins SDCo S14, the first of the two county routes we will follow for this section. Notice the Business Route 15 and 78 shields in the background; this is a holdover of CA 78's second routing, which we'll mention in Part 8 as well. However, the oldest routing of CA 78 still continues with us west.

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Old distance signage leaving the Centre City intersection WB on Mission Ave/WB SDCo S14/NB old US 395/WB old CA 78. I'm not sure what's under the greenout, but my guess is Poway.

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Just to annoy Kevin. We cross under Interstate 15 here and curve northwest to become Mission Road.

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Mission Rd/WB SDCo S14/NB old US 395/WB old CA 78.

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Nordahl Rd and some of the outlying industrial areas.

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Entering the city of San Marcos. San Marcos is named, of course, for the Apostle St. Mark. Tradition holds that during the early days of the missions, Indians had been stealing sheep from the San Luis Rey Mission flocks and were chased by Spaniards into the hills. On their pursuit, the Spanish discovered the fertile valley the city now occupies and named it for Saint Mark, as the day of discovery was his feast day (25 April 1797). Despite its promise for farming and settlement, however, the land passed from don to don until it was taken by the United States, and finally settled in earnest in the 1880s with nearby Barham and then the land tracts sold by the San Marcos Land Company, which bought up most of the antediluvian holdings and started parcelling them out for the new town. Originally centred at what is now Grand Ave and Rancho Santa Fe Rd, San Marcos was uprooted by the Santa Fe Railroad which ran a mile too far south -- so the townspeople up and moved with it, to what is now Mission and Pico, in 1903. The modern city was incorporated in 1963 and has 82,743 residents [2006].

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This time, crossing under the modern CA 78 freeway.

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S14 takes some curvy turns into and through the southern part of San Marcos, which is largely residential.

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Mission Rd/WB SDCo S14/NB old US 395/WB old CA 78.

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One of the local high schools.

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Crossing by the transit depot for the local commuter rail and bus terminal.

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Knoll Rd.

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Palomar College, the main campus of which is here in San Marcos, with eight satellites in the county. A public community college, it is named for Mount Palomar (a/k/a Palomar Mountain), site of the famous Palomar Observatory and the famous 200-inch Hale Telescope, which in turn was probably named for the large flocks of pigeons nearby (the term means a pigeonhouse in Spanish). It was established in 1946 and has approximately 30,000 students.

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Curving around in southeastern San Marcos.

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Junction SDCo S10, on these old faded white-blue shields.

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At this junction, S14 continues but we change names from Mission Rd to South Santa Fe Avenue. Notice the END S10 assembly on the newer shield signs.

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S Santa Fe Ave/WB SDCo S14/NB old US 395/WB old CA 78.

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Here we leave the city limits and enter the county briefly.

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S14 reassurance shield, with bird ...

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... and a US 395 Historic Route marker! These are new (2008), and were erected by the County of San Diego in anticipation of California state Assembly Concurrent Resolution 98's designation of Historic Route 395. We will see them all the way up to the Riverside county border in fits and starts along the old routing of US 395 only; modern Old Highway 395 (Part 8) lacks them except for the portions which are common with the earlier routing. There is a reason for this which we will discuss later.

Please don't steal these. San Diego county makes a slick-looking Historic Route sign and they should be left up for future generations; in fact, here's some they did for old US 80.

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Continuing on S14.

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Curving around towards the old Santa Fe Railroad tracks, where this road presumably got its name.

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Crossing the tracks.

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And yes, they're still in regular use.

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City limits for Vista. Vista, also incorporated in 1963, forms the San Diego "Tri-City" region with Oceanside and Carlsbad. Undoubtedly named for the view, it also won an accolade in the book 50 Fabulous Places to Raise Your Family, naming it the seventh-best place in the United States for families to settle based on the quality of schools, weather and local business. Its present-day population is 89,857 [2000].

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Entering downtown Vista.

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S Santa Fe Ave/WB SDCo S14/NB old US 395/WB old CA 78.

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Advance signage, I guess, for SDCo S13 which is the next leg of our trek. However, this sign is a bit out of place -- although it gives S13 as starting here roughly at Guajome St, this has never been part of S13's routing. Instead, it comes off the CA 78 freeway (here a mile or so southwest of our position) along Vista Way and up Vista Village Drive.

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But that routing wasn't US 395 either, at least not on the south end. Instead, US 395 went up Main Street, so we turn right here and leave S14 and old CA 78 which continue west towards Oceanside.

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Main Street and San Diego County Route S13 Vista Way

Main St is now bypassed by Vista Village Dr, which makes sense as this road would have been very hard to expand. Notice the old Playhouse and the small shops and businesses.

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It lasts maybe a block, though, before it pulls up here to Vista Village Dr curving around to the northeast. We turn right and now become NB SDCo S13.

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Escondido Avenue.

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At this point we change names back to Vista Way.

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Continuing through north Vista.

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Williamston St.

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Mostly strip malls and small residential zones dot this portion.

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Losing lanes as we reach the northern end of the city limits.

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This portion starts a long downgrade into the San Luis Rey River valley.

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Leaving Vista.

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NB SDCo S13/NB old US 395.

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Historic Route US 395 signage greets us again.

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Mile 4. It is unusual for California state routes to bear MUTCD-like mileposts but San Diego county uses them on a number of county highways. Not just a North County-ism, I have also seen them on S17 to the south.

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Gopher Canyon Road, which is a cutoff to Interstate 15 to the east, and will also connect with "later" Old Highway 395.

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A repurposed old shield, with an obvious correction.

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An outstanding view of the valley. I think.

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Approaching the CA 76 junction.

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CA 76 travels from Oceanside and I-5 (formerly US 101) on its west end, through Bonsall and south of Fallbrook to Pala, terminating near Lake Henshaw at CA 79. In this section, it travels nearly due north and was, of course, US 395. For this portion we will travel straight ahead as the Old River Road to see where US 395 used to go, and until the new San Luis Rey bridge was built in 1990, so did CA 76 alone.

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Junction CA 76.

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Changing names to Old River Rd from Vista Way.

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Old River Road and Bonsall Bridge

Our first look at the old Bonsall Bridge. For many years there was no sign here, and then a Historic Bridge sign was put up soon after the bridge was bypassed. This picture was taken in 2006.

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Looking back at the junction to see this old advance signage, probably back from when this was still CA 76.

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The Bonsall Bridge, hidden by years of encroaching undergrowth.

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Today in 2008 another Historic Route US 395 shield marks the crossing, but I wouldn't try to drive your car over this (it's illegal anyway).

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This memorial to one of the Bridge's fervent boosters, one J. Vernon Jones, has since faded, so in honour of his contribution to its legacy I reproduce this older and clearer 2005 picture.

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Notice the road striping curving back to where the original highway ran.

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Unfortunate vandalism.

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Bikes okay. Golf carts marginal. Semi trucks not advised.

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Looking down the bridge. Centre striping actually looks pretty good still.

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Leaning off the side to look at the facade.

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Looking at the 1990 crossing, which is to the east of us. We will actually ride over this in the next Part.

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The San Luis Rey River itself, named for the 1798 San Luis Rey de Francia mission in Oceanside, itself named (as it says in Spanish) for King Louis IX of France. It's not much of a river here or anywhere else, but the valleys it runs in are typically deep, as is this one. This is the first of three times we will cross the River.

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Obviously someone doesn't think much of the no-car policy.

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Old US 395 and later CA 76 pick up at the end of the bridge and start to curve around towards the highway mainline.

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A last look at the bridge, this time from the east side.

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Junction CA 76 and the continuation of our route towards Bonsall and Fallbrook.

Continue to Part 7

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