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Old Highway 395, Part 8: Escondido Expressway/Centre City Parkway and "Modern" Old Highway 395 (1947-1969) to CA 76

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[ACSC atlas map, 1949, 102K.] As we recall from Part 6, US 395's original routing in northern San Diego county took a western loop through San Marcos, Vista, Bonsall and Fallbrook, before turning north into Riverside county near Rainbow. This convoluted arc was mostly due to the difficult terrain further east where a more direct routing could be determined, but an actual alignment would have been cost-prohibitive to build with the technology of the time.

In 1947, this hurdle was finally cleared when the new US 395 routing was revealed, bypassing downtown Escondido along a new Pine Street expressway (now Centre City Parkway) to a completely newly constructed alignment straight to Rainbow near the Riverside county line. The portions of the old routing that were cosigned with CA 78 were now CA 78 alone, and the remainder ceased to be state highway (later becoming county highway, as we discussed earlier). This new routing bridged the rugged small hills and mountains using the natural canyons in the region before descending into the San Luis Rey river valley precariously cut into the side of the cliffs. This routing was always planned as freeway or expressway in the future, but the plan never came to fruition under the guise of US 395, and so this two-lane highway remained US 395's final routing in north San Diego county until the highway's 1969 decommissioning. Both the old and new routes can be seen on the 1949 ACSC map at left (click for a 102K enlargement in a new window).

[Old US 395 with a US shield in Google Maps.] Amusingly, this routing is what most people think of as "Old Highway 395" nowadays, despite the fact that to the residents of north San Diego county at the time it was considered New Highway 395, and even appeared as such on addresses and postcards (one in my collection reads the "Schneider Motel, six miles north of Escondido, Calif., on New Highway 395"). Nevertheless, this alignment is still officially called Old Highway 395, is still officially signed as Old Highway 395, and was the routing that would persist in most people's memories of the old route until the appearance of the official county Historic Route US 395 signage in 2008; moreover, it was the routing that was TEMPORARY I-15 until as late as 1986 (by my personal recollection) and still today nearly precisely parallels the modern Interstate 15. Yours truly remembers trips home on TEMP I-15 in the early 1980s, when Interstate 15 still wasn't finished, blissfully unaware of the history of the road the family car was trundling over. In fact, this routing is so well-recognized as US 395 that even NAVTEQ and Google Maps accidentally gave it a real US 395 shield until just a couple years ago, as shown at right. After the 1968 Federal Aid Highway Act provided $201.2 million for construction to connect I-15 from San Diego to Colton and Caltrans simply opted to use US 395 instead, US 395 remained signed (even though it had legislatively ceased to exist south of Hesperia) and the TEMPORARY I-15 signs were bolted on to the existing US 395 assemblies which lasted until well into the 1970s; Mark Furqueron has a picture on his historic San Diego highway photos page showing this early co-signage of the two and based on the design age of the US 395 shield in his picture, probably dates from the early part of the decade. By the late 1970s, these final US 395 shields had all but disappeared, and only the TEMPORARY I-15 shields remained.

In this section, we will look at the entirety of the old Escondido Expressway alignment (Centre City Parkway), all of the former routing which exists as North Centre City Parkway and Champagne Boulevard, and the southern section of Old Highway 395 up to the CA 76 junction. Once we reach Mission Road (the termination of our last Part), we will be up for another split in the next Part just before we cross into Riverside county.

Many people have noted that the current Historic Route 395 signage is posted on hardly any of Old Highway 395. The reason for this is simply economics: Old Highway 395, when it was New Highway 395, was the bypass alignment and was intended to route away from local businesses for a high speed connection into the Inland Empire. Since the Historic Route designation is intended to foster local tourism and business traffic, putting it on the bypass routing clearly makes no sense. The good news, however, is that it's very unlikely the Old Highway 395 name will ever be retired, and for that reason this alignment will still always carry its historical designation, Historic Route signage or no.

Business Loop 15: Centre City Parkway

But first, let's rewind to our split point between Escondido Boulevard and Centre City Parkway, which we left at the end of Part 5. Instead of exiting to the right to follow the oldest routing of US 395 into downtown Escondido, this time we will veer left and follow the Business Route alignment around the western side of the city.

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[US 395 in Escondido, 1969.] Business Loop 15 is very well signed, a holdover from when this was TEMPORARY I-15, which lasted until 1977 when the western modern I-15 bypass was constructed (which we'll glance at presently, since it was intended to be US 395 when the right-of-way was originally secured). In the last days of US 395, it was still only ever expressway and as shown in the 1969 map at right the freeway is merely shown as proposed. The excellent signage of Business 15 is a rare pleasure in California, as most business alignments (as we saw) cease to be state-maintained and usually the signage either gets stolen or rusts off the pole.

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[Escondido Expwy signage on I-15.] Centre City Parkway replaced the old Pine Street alignment, which you can see in the 1949 map above; originally it was named the Escondido Expressway, and some of this signage still persists on I-15 as you can see at right (SB I-15 at the Centre City Parkway exit).

Although designed as limited-access, the original bypass had no interchanges and the interchanges that do exist today (with CA 78 and I-15) were added as later upgrades as part of the projects for those respective highways. Typical of the intersections on this southernmost segment are these traffic lights and the simple signage here exemplifed at the 13th Avenue intersection. Happily, much of the later button copy survives, if not the original signage.

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Ninth Avenue.

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Fifth Avenue.

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Second Avenue, junction SDCo S6 eastbound and the signed turn-off to Central Escondido (downtown). The signage here appears to date from the original signage of I-15 on this alignment (I have always been amused by the balanced crookedness of this pair of guide signs). S6 hitchhikes with us for a block or two north.

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[Grande Avenue (Grand Ave) in Escondido, 1951, 51K.] An ornate sign at the junction with Grand Avenue, former Grande Avenue. This was originally where the second incarnation of CA 78 traveled with US 395 until the CA 78 freeway crossed over to the east side of town, and at that point adopted the modern routing we saw in Part 6; it appears that CA 78 was rerouted from its old home on Broadway (also in Part 6) to the expressway in 1947, the same time it was opened as US 395. This second routing of CA 78 has at least a couple signage remnants, one of which we saw in Part 6, and another we'll see in a moment -- as we mentioned in that part, Grand Avenue connected up to San Pasqual Valley Rd, and then left the city to the southeast. The thumbnail at right shows this junction from Grand looking east at this intersection in 1951 (click for a 51K enlargement). Notice the US 395 shield and the CA 78 shield, with CA 78 shown as heading north with US 395 and east from the intersection.

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Marker for Cruisin' Grand. Started in 2000, Cruisin' Grand's popular combination of hot rods, classic cars and live entertainment has revitalized the downtown district with a community atmosphere and family-friendly activities. The Cruise covers seven entire blocks and meets during the summer on Friday nights; for current schedules, see the city's Cruisin' Grand Page.

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A fascinating animated sculpture looking east down Grand.

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Looking at the individual wind elements.

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Valley Parkway, where S6 will turn west and leave our alignment.

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Past Valley Pkwy we come to this very unusual sign arrangement, the other aforementioned holdover from when this was US 395 and CA 78. Although CA 78 hasn't been on this routing since the freeway was built, Centre City Pkwy is still an important and fast connector from the west side of town to the 8 freeway and so CA 78 remains signed. The CA 78 shield is not original, nor does it date back to US 395; it doesn't have a PROPERTY STATE OF CALIFORNIA stamp and was in fact posted by the city of Escondido.

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However, just past that shield assembly is a US 395 postmile, the first unequivocal marking of US 395 we encounter that still survives from its days of life. This 395 postmile is the furthest south I have found one, at PM 30.03; if anyone has found one further south than this, I would desperately love to know where. Postmiles are useful in that they prove US 395 survived intact the 1964 California Great Renumbering, where most of the other US highways in California perished (namely US 40, US 60, US 66, US 70, US 80, US 91, US 99, US 299, US 399 and US 466) and US 6, US 50 and US 101 were cut down, because Caltrans didn't start using postmiles like this until the 1964 renumbering. More to the point, the surviving alignments that were partially or fully replaced by Interstates, like Interstate 5 over US 101 through Orange and San Diego counties, used the succeeding number on their postmiles (i.e., Route 5, not Route 101), but the presence of 395 on this postmile marker proves US 395 was still internally Route 395 after the changeover.

As a parenthetical note, the bridge number can be seen on the railing, but is no longer in the Caltrans bridge log.

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Mission Avenue, where our old routing from Part 6 is heading west to San Marcos. We continue north. Traffic intended for eastbound CA 78 heads east here to pick up modern CA 78 in the junction we talked about in that Part as well.

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Advance signage for the modern CA 78 interchange, which only has westbound access in the northbound direction from here.

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Separation and the ramp.

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[1961 California Division of Highways planning map for Escondido, 22K.] If we translocate ourselves a bit west, here's a look at the 1977 I-15 Escondido Freeway, which should have been US 395 and was originally conceived as the US 395 freeway bypass. If you don't believe me, look at the 1961 planning document at right, showing Centre City Parkway, CA 78 (along with the stub of its future freeway), and the planned US 395 freeway (click for a 22K enlargement). US 395 in this region was never routed on what is the Escondido Freeway now, but it was routed as such further north and we'll talk about that parenthetically in Part 12.

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Continuing north on Centre City Parkway, passing El Norte Parkway.

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NB BL 15/old US 395.

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Distance signage erected from the I-15 days.

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Curving around to our final leg and our junction with I-15.

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Iris Lane. I like to think it's named for my baby Burmese kitty.

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Advance signage for the I-15 interchange (visible in the left background) and our separation to North Centre City Parkway, where the Business Route designation ends.

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North towards the junction.

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Separation. This is the end of Business Loop 15 and the 1977 freeway; I-15 jumped off here until roughly 1979 to join us. We veer right as "Frontage Road" to continue the old routing.

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North Centre City Parkway

Leaving Escondido city limits.

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Curving around to parallel Interstate 15 on the east side.

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PM 34. There are multiple 395 postmiles north of Escondido, which is perfect for my purposes, since we can treat them just like any other California highway's.

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Cresting the southeastern rim of the Merriam Mountains into Gopher Canyon, named for Maj. Gustavus F. Merriam (a descendant of Charles Merriam, of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary fame), who homesteaded the region in 1875.

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Coming up on Deer Springs Rd and Mountain Meadow Rd.

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This is the end of N Centre City Pkwy.

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Champagne Boulevard

We now change names to Champagne Blvd, so named for the Lawrence Welk Resort a little ways north. More about that when we get there.

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San Diego county has erected callboxes along their section of Old Highway 395, some complete with milepoint like this one, and all of them saying Route 395 (including this one at the Park-and-Ride for the I-15 Deer Springs Rd exit).

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Continuing NB Old Highway 395.

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Descending the grade into the southern forks of Gopher Canyon and Moosa Canyon along what was once the south fork of the San Luis Rey River.

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PM 37.6.

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Advance signage for the Welk Resort.

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Turn-off for Lawrence Welk Drive and the Lawrence Welk Resort and Champagne Village, formerly the Lawrence Welk Village, named for original founder and owner Lawrence Welk. Well, okay, he was also an enormously influential musician and bandleader, especially on his eponymous The Lawrence Welk Show which ran from 1951 to 1982. Born in North Dakota in 1903 to German-speaking French immigrants, the young Lawrence didn't speak English until age 21 and had a noticible German accent for his entire life (humourously exploited for the title of his autobiography, named for one of his most frequent and memorable on-camera exclamations, Wunnerful! Wunnerful!). Convincing his father to buy him an accordion (and working on the farm until age 21 to pay the debt), Welk graduated from performer to bandleader in the 1920s and first established his "Champagne Music" sound in the 1930s, so dubbed by a dancer at a Pittsburgh performance who called his band's style "light and bubbly, like champagne." Settling in Los Angeles in 1951 after regular touring, he started a show on local station KTLA which was picked up nationally by ABC in 1955, showcasing regular conceits such as the "Champagne Lady," novelty numbers, a steady stream of rotating vocalists and the ever-popular bubble machine. The show was most noted, however, for its conservative approach and preference for popular older material, occasionally playing contemporary selections (even the Beatles and, incredibly, adapted Frank Zappa songs) as novelties, which lent it considerable staying power as 'family-friendly' easy listening entertainment when combined with Welk's appeal and charming good humour. Citing an aging audience, ABC cancelled the show in 1971, but it continued to be broadcast and new episodes produced in syndication until 1982.

During the show, Welk developed and heavily promoted the Lawrence Welk Village as a get-away community and resort. Strict security, thorough amenities and of course local Welk-style musical entertainment lead to its continued popularity; Welk actually lived there himself in one of the "cottages." After retiring from the show, Welk still appeared in reruns on network television and on public broadcasting, along with occasional special appearances. He died in 1992 of pneumonia at the age of 89. A-one-and-a-two, we do miss you.

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Ascending the grade towards Moosa Canyon proper. The name Moosa is a contraction of Pamoosa, a (Kumeyaay? Luiseño?) word for "long beard," shortened by the Post Office to avoid confusion with Pomona. It is applied to the small creek that runs within the canyon as well as the canyon itself.

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Looking back south, we see the freeway beside us, and PM 39.5.

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Advance signage for Old Castle Rd and Gopher Cyn Rd.

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Old Highway 395

At Old Castle Rd, we officially change names to Old Highway 395.

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Gopher Canyon Rd, running down Gopher Canyon, the other end of which we saw in Part 6. Gopher Canyon is named because of the famous pre-World Wide Web Internet information protocol, or possibly the animal. You decide.

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For some reason the sign inaccurately continues Champagne Bl up to this traffic light, when we had already changed names.

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Cutting through the rocky terrain in the northern Moosa Valley.

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Southern turn-off for Bonsall.

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Ascending the grade to our next intersection with Interstate 15, and the rim of the San Luis Rey River valley proper.

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Curving around to the Interstate.

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Junction Interstate 15.

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Old Highway 395 crosses I-15 twice, only one of which is actually signed as Old Highway 395, and this is it, at the interchange in the last photograph.

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The old original Old Highway 395 sign stood here, which has recently been replaced with retroflective filth.

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When this was being used as TEMPORARY I-15 after US 395 was decommissioned, additional Interstate 15 postmiles were installed, including this one for this bridge built in 1978. It is officially the Escondido Highway bridge, which was another former name for the alignment. There are considerably fewer extant 15 postmiles on Old Highway 395 compared to actual 395 postmiles, which gladdens my roadgeek heart.

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Cresting the "summit" of sorts.

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Northern turn-off to Bonsall, and to Lilac, a little settlement in the agricultural district to the east.

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Lurking behind us is another 15 postmile.

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If we look east along Lilac Road, we see what here looks like a relatively unimpressive bridge crossing over Interstate 15 ...

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... except if we look at it from Interstate 15. This is the arresting Lilac Rd bridge, standing over 100' high and is 695' long. Its construction was quite complex as seen on Mark Furqueron's Historic Photos page, requiring sizeable blasting for grade reduction and significant falsework for the concrete pours.

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Looking southbound on I-15, with the Old Highway 395 exit in the background.

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Signage for I-15, although this was probably put up long after the TEMPORARY signs came down.

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Descending the hill into the San Luis Rey river valley along Monserate to the west. Monserate is named for Monserrat ("serrated mountain"), which an early Spanish settler likened to the geography around the Monserrat Monastery in Barcelona, Spain; rancho Monserate (which includes Monserate Mountain [1,557'] and Mount Ararat [1,508']) was an original 13,322 acre land grant from the Mexican government to Ysidro Alvarado in 1846. Split amongst his heirs, a chapel on son Tomas' former holding is the only remaining original building of the era. Today, the Rancho Monserate Country Club still stands on the original site of Tomas' hacienda.

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[Shearer's Grade before I-15, 1965, 76K.] Coming down on Shearer's Grade. "Shearer" is probably Douglas Shearer, a local settler and landowner who maintained a ranch (appropriately named Shearer's Ranch) in Monserate.

Shearer's Grade was a notorious bottleneck before the construction of Interstate 15 and long backups along this stretch were common. Click the thumbnail at right for a 1965 76K aerial picture of Shearer's Grade during the days of US 395. In this image, future Interstate 15 is marked, along with CA 76 (the San Luis Rey river is directly to the south of CA 76); US 395 is the road descending the grade from south to north and this image was taken approximately at the cut-out portion on the hill about 1/3 from the bottom and left.

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Curving around to the approach to the San Luis Rey river crossing.

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PM 45 beside us.

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Crossing the San Luis Rey for the third time on our trek, the other two times being in Part 6 and Part 7.

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Junction CA 76, this time somewhat east of where we had previously left it in Part 7.

Continue to Part 9

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