Long Beach Highway Mystery – Can You Solve It?

Being recently retired and the original owner of my 1969 Porsche 912 Coupe, I now have the time and means to pursue my lifelong interest in the US highway system that existed roughly from 1926 until the early 1960s.

One US highway that piqued my interest is US Route 6 (US 6), also known as the “Grand Army of the Republic Highway”. From 1937 to 1964 it was the longest (about 3,600 miles) of all US highways, connecting Provincetown MA on the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Long Beach CA.

The present western terminus of US Hwy 6 now intersects with US Route 395 in Bishop, CA. The previous routing (a general term) brought US 6 south co-signed with US 395 to what is now CA Hwy 14 north of Ridgecrest and continued south through Rosamond, Lancaster, Palmdale, Santa Clarita and into the San Fernando Valley (co-signed with US Route 99) on what is now San Fernando Road to Figueroa Street where Old 99 diverged on its separate way to the Mexican border at Calexico.

US 6 continued south on Figueroa Street into Long Beach where it turned east on State Street/Alternate US 101, now known as Pacific Coast Highway.

But where did US 6 officially end (or start) in Long Beach? Unfortunately, at this moment I don’t know and that’s where the mystery begins.

If you know (or are?) a long-time Long Beach resident, you may have additional information. Or, if you have any old (1940s or 1950s) photos, home movies or maps of Long Beach, they may help solve the mystery.

Some vintage maps show a US 6 federal shield on State Street (now PCH) east of Figueroa but west of Atlantic Avenue. Others show the same federal shield on State Street between Atlantic Avenue and Lakewood Boulevard traffic circle.

These apparent inconsistencies deal with the highway’s “alignment” (not the more general “routing”) that could be quite normal since federal highway designations in the last century were often changed for any number of usually political reasons. But I’ve found nothing to date showing a verifiable “End” to US Hwy 6 in Long Beach.

Also, there’s the matter of the “Grand Army of the Republic Highway” commemorative plaque placed on the Municipal Auditorium at Seaside and Long Beach Boulevard in May of 1953.

The Auditorium was demolished in the early 1960s and the plaque was relocated to the nearby Terrace Theater, now the Long Beach Performing Arts Center.

Since I’ve found nothing showing an official US 6 alignment south of State Street/PCH, I believe the Municipal Auditorium plaque has been placed (twice now) not at the actual end of the official highway alignment, but rather on a suitable public building in Long Beach. Others believe it has more significance relative to the actual end of the Highway.

Stay tuned because when I solve the mystery, I’ll let you know.

 

Descent Into Madness – Sport Driving in Los Angeles at the 101-405 Interchange

Driving in California is always an adventure, in Los Angeles, the sport of driving has been elevated to an art form. Like qualifying for the Indy 500 pole position, you never know who you will be sharing the road with. Some drivers are on their cell phones arguing with their agents, boyfriends or psychiatrists. Others are putting on makeup for that big audition, or suffering from either caffeine overdoses or withdrawal symptoms. Some days it takes a unique mix of passive aggression, anger management and an inner connection with your auto insurance agent to make it safely across our vast freeway expanses.

On a recent drive, we found ourselves traveling north on the Interstate 405 freeway through the treacherous Sepulveda Pass down into the San Fernando Valley. That’s why I’m calling this little essay Descent Into Madness. Interstate 405, or the San Diego Freeway is the major north / south artery connecting LA’s San Fernando Valley with the West Side of Los Angeles. U.S. 101, or the Ventura Freeway runs east and west along the southern part of The Valley, and connects Los Angeles with Ventura County in the north. These two arteries intersect at the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains range in a tangle of concrete called the 101 / 405 Interchange. This interchange is rated #1 on the list of America’s 24 Worst Highway Bottlenecks.

To cross The Pass in the old days you needed to use a dirt road called Sepulveda Boulevard. At the top of the mountains it ducked into an art deco tunnel under Mulholland Highway. Today the best route is the 405 Freeway which blasted its way through the rocky mountain pass and now flows over the top of the Santa Monica Mountain range, down towards U.S. Route 101. Mulholland crosses over the 405 on a huge steel bridge flying across the freeway.

Under optimum conditions, it is a dangerous section of highway. It has six lanes of cracked and patched asphalt with only painted white lines and Bott’s Dots separating you from your fellow drivers. California is attempting a massive improvement project at the 101 / 405 Interchange which just adds to the challenge by turning it into a huge obstacle course. Ominous steel cranes loom over the freeway with distracting signs and construction equipment littering the sides of the road.

The slope on this small stretch of highway is steep, so that just adds to the speeding, careening and screeching. Drivers on the right are frequently stopped or slowing as cars cram into lanes for the Ventura freeway exits. Drivers on the left are usually speeding up in the thinning traffic as they continue north on the 405 through the Valley. If everyone stayed in their lanes the arrangement just might work. Unfortunately that isn’t the case.

Cars cut across lanes of traffic because they are going to miss the 101 turn-off lane. Drivers also slam on their breaks when they realize how steep the grade is and their SUV is picking up too much speed; “Hold the phone honey, I gotta drive”. Irritated drivers in the right hand lanes are sick of everyone cutting in line, so they won’t let you in. There is a lot of sudden braking and jockeying for position, reminiscent of the Indy 500 on the final laps. The middle lane becomes sort of a no-man’s land of crisscrossing cars, like a dangerous ballet of flying steel with flying cell phones and travel mugs.

Until the highway improvements are finished, this interchange raises the thrill level for driving in Los Angeles to an art form.Drop by http://www.AngelCityArt.com to see photos. And don’t forget to buckle up and in the words of the immortal traffic guru and punster Bill Keene; “Be alert and you won’t get hurt”.

 

Discover How Hollywood Met the American Old West in Real Life

HOW THE OLD WEST HAS BEEN DEFINED

People refer to the ‘Old West’ as the ‘Wild West’ or simply the ‘West’.

No matter how what they might call it, many look upon the American Old West as a wild and dangerous place that existed in the last half of the 1800′s in the American Frontier, west of the Mississippi River in the United States.

Even Europeans who dislike or fear George W. Bush are quick to call him a “cowboy”, in a derogatory manner, as if his being from Texas automatically brands him as being like the outlaw cowboys that died at the O.K. Corral on October 26 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory.

Many other people from around the world romanticize the American Old West. They conjure images of cowboys, indians, guns, cattle, buffalo, trains and the simple life when they imagine the world of the Old West.

Television, radio shows, and movies have all contributed to the romanticism of America’s Old West. Television brought us “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza”. Movies have come through time to further emphasize people’s romantic ideas of the Old West. Movies that come to mind include “Far and Away” in 1992, “True Grit” in 1969, “Two Mules for Sister Sara” in 1970, “Dances With Wolves” in 1990, and “Tombstone” in 1993. And then there were my two favorite westerns of all-time, “Support Your Local Sheriff” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” which both came out in 1969.

PEOPLE STILL THINK THE WEST IS ABOUT THE COWBOYS AND INDIANS

Even in today’s communication age, some people still believe that Oklahoma and Texas exist as it did in the 1890′s. Back in the late 1980′s, I had traveled to Florida. While there, someone asked me where I was from. When I said Oklahoma, they had this puzzled look come across their face.

After a moment or two, this individual seemed to have made the connection they were looking for. She asked me, “So, how did you get to Florida?”

I was confused. I said, “Well, I drove.”

She responded, “Oh, so you stopped along the way and bought a car?”

I said, “No. I had the car before I left.”

I could see a “deer in the headlights” moment, and then I heard her soon-to-be-famous words, “I thought everyone in Oklahoma rode on horses and in wagons. What about the Indians? Do you all still have problems with the Indians?”

True story. No kidding. It is hard to believe, I know. I would not have believed it myself if I had not been there to hear it.

Yes, some people believe that we still live as we did 100 years ago.

GOING WEST

Prior to 1848, the people who lived in the American Old West were primarily the military men and lawmen, mountain men who often worked as trappers and/or traders, the native American population, cattle ranchers and their hands, and farmers.

Then on January 24, 1848, the news of James Marshall’s “Gold!” erupted from Sutter’s Mill, California. Suddenly, everyone wanted to go west.

“Go West Young Man!” was the cry that reverberated around the globe. “Thus began one of the largest human migrations in history as a half-million people from around the world descended upon California in search of instant wealth.”

THE HISTORICAL STORY OF INDIAN TERRITORY

Indian Territory, also known as I.T., was established in 1830. The intent of the establishment of the Indian Territory was to have a place in which to relocate the Eastern Native American Tribes. In its early days, Indian Territory actually covered most of modern-day Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

Indian Territory was not a territory by the legal established definition of a territory for several more decades. In the beginning, there was no government or laws governing Indian Territory. It was simply the place that was set aside to be occupied by the Native American tribes.

In 1854, the American government decided that they needed to increase the lands that could be used by their growing population. So, at this juncture, they reduced the overall size of Indian Territory to cover most of what is now Oklahoma.

During the Civil War, the Five Civilized Tribes who owned most of the land comprising Indian Territory, gambled their lot on the southern Confederate States. When the South lost, the Five Civilized Tribes lost more of their lands under the new treaties that had to be negotiated with the victors in Washington, D.C.

Beginning with the Osage Reservation Act of 1872, the federal government began to treat Indian Territory more as a legally defined “territory”.

In 1889, the federal government finally established a federal court for the management of the Indian Territories. And then on April 22nd 1889, the “Unassigned Lands” of central Oklahoma were opened to white settlement. 50,000 people, who were called “Boomers”, settled the “Unassigned Lands” that day.

Then in May of 1990, Indian Territory was divided into Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory. Over the next several years, various “land runs” permitted the various sections of Oklahoma Territory to be settled.

THE CHEROKEE OUTLET LAND RUN OF 1893

The famous opening of the Cherokee Outlet that was the back set for the movie “Far and Away”, took place on September 16, 1893.

When the Cherokee Outlet was opened, there were 7 original counties: O, L, K, P, Q, M and N. It was mandated by law that the settlers of each county would select the new county name after the run. The names selected were Garfield, Grant, Kay, Noble, Pawnee, Woods and Woodward.

THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE 101 RANCH IN NORTHERN OKLAHOMA

Originally bound for California, Colonel George W. Miller found himself often sidetracked into various business ventures on his trek west.

In 1893, Colonel Miller founded his 101 Ranch in northcentral Oklahoma near present day Marland, Oklahoma, south and west of Ponca City, Oklahoma.

Colonel Miller became good friends with Chief White Eagle, the chief of the Ponca Nation. The Ponca Nation is situated to the south of Ponca City, Oklahoma, and just east of the 101 Ranch site.

In 1903, Col. George Miller died and the ranch was taken over by his three sons.

At its height, the 101 Ranch which was located in Kay and Noble counties in the Oklahoma Territory was comprised of a full 110,000 acres. It became the real nexus between the American Old West and the world-famous 101 Wild West Show, which featured cowboys and Indians in the flesh and show dates around the world from 1905 to 1931. Even the shows at the ranch were noted to have attracted more than 65,000 spectators at various times.

HOLLYWOOD MEETS THE WILD WEST

Among the many notable accomplishments attributed to the Miller’s and their 101 Ranch Wild West Show, was their role in the revitalization of the western genre in Hollywood.

The first movie ever made of the western genre was “The Great Train Robbery” in 1903. By the end of the decade, most believed that the western was dead.

In 1911, the Miller’s signed a contract with the New York Motion Picture Company and its’ subsidiary studio, the Bison Company.

The 101 Ranch served as the backdrop for several Hollywood films, and the stars of the 101 Wild West Show staffed hundreds of early westerns. More than 100 cowboys, cowgirls and indians from the 101 Ranch Wild West Show participated in various Bison Company westerns.

Even the great Will Rogers did a short stint with the 101 Wild West Show, before moving to Hollywood to become world-famous. Will Rogers is just one of the many famous names that came through the 101 show on their rise to stardom. Many of the names of 101 performers became so famous in their day that you may even recognize them today: Bill Pickett, Tom Mix and many others.

If you want to know more about history, pick your favorite search engine and go hunting. You would be surprised how much wonderful history exists on the World Wide Web.

Insiders Guide to Key Largo

As a resident of Central Florida, I travel to Key Largo every chance I get. Since 1972, I have visited over fifty times. This article will share the knowledge I have gained from lucky finds, mistakes and the changing landscape of the best dive location in the United States. Recommendations are strictly my opinions.

1. Travel – If you are driving down, get off I-95 and over to the Sunshine State Parkway as soon as possible. The two roads are within a mile of each other at Fort Pierce. The Parkway is a toll road, but I-95 in south Florida is insane… incredibly heavy traffic and road rules right out of the wild, Wild West. If you are flying down, consider Ft. Lauderdale as an alternative to Miami International. It is a longer drive, but you’ll have your rental car and be closer to Key Largo before the MIA passenger has even gotten bags. When you reach Florida City, you leave the Parkway and begin traveling south on US 1. There are two options. US 1 goes all the way to Key West and is the most direct route. However, if it’s anywhere near lunchtime, turn left on Card Sound road. It takes you a bit off track, but you must stop at Alabama Jacks. The fresh fish sandwiches and cold, cold beer are a great way to get your Conch Republic groove going.

2. Lodging -If you are looking for luxury, stay at the Marriott Key Largo. The property is a five star resort on the Bay side at (Mile Marker 103). Another luxury option is renting a house. One property has 7 bedrooms, 8 baths and a billiard room. Many are on canals that lead directly to the Atlantic Ocean and have amenities rivaling any resort. A great area to look for a rental is the Port Largo community. A more moderately priced option is the Florida Bay Club (MM 103 – Just south of the Marriott). It offers weekly condominium rentals with limited boat slips available. There are two and three bedroom units. The décor is dated but most of the rooms have a great view of Florida Bay and its’ beautiful sunsets. Florida Bay Club is located on Adams Cut with about a fifteen-minute boat ride to the Atlantic.

If you are looking for something less expensive, don’t rule out the house rentals. A number of homes are available at very reasonable weekly rates. Another economical option is the many private motels on the bay side of US 1. As an example, The Bay Cove Motel has a cottage on the bay that sleeps 6 with two bathrooms. The décor is primitive but there is a white sand beach and a nice view of Florida Bay. If you are bringing a boat, I strongly recommend the Marina del Mar (near MM 100). The room rates are reasonable and the Atlantic Ocean is 5 minutes away. They also have lockers for your gear right at the boat slip. Running water is included in the dockage fee. If you’re really looking to save money you can camp in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (MM 102). Bring lots of bug spray. The mosquitoes come out exactly at dusk and you will need to be completely covered or in your tent.

3. Food – My dive buddies and I don’t do fine dining in the Keys. I’m sure the Marriott offers a pricey opportunity to dress up and practice using the right silverware. But if you want Conch Republic food try Hobo’s (MM 101), Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen (MM 99) and the Islamorada Fish House (MM 81). The ambience is 100% Florida Keys. My son thinks Mrs. Mac’s key lime pie is the best he’s ever eaten and we have eaten a lot of key lime pie. But I’m partial to her peanut butter pie.

4. Snorkeling – There are many charter boats available that cater to snorkelers. Make sure you get to Christ of the Abyss. The Christ statue is in 30 feet of water and has a good bit of coral growth. Lately people have taken to leaving cremated remains on the base. Other great snorkeling spots are Grecian rocks, Mosquito banks and a dozen more shallow reefs. You will see fan coral, colorful small coral formations and thousands of brightly colored fish.

5. Diving – The main attraction in Key Largo is SCUBA diving. They are many dive sites and the pricing among the charter boats is very consistent. You can shop around but you won’t find much difference in pricing. My favorite charter company is Ocean Divers, which is located near MM 100. They have two boats and you will find each will have a different itinerary, giving you more options. The USS Spiegel Grove, USCG Duane and French Reef are my “Must Do” dives. Here is some additional information on all three.

Located within the Marine Sanctuary, the Spiegel Grove is a 510′ landing ship, which was intentionally sunk in 2002. She sits upright in 134 feet of water with on-deck diving as shallow as 50 feet. This is not a one-dive site. I have been down on the Grove nearly 50 times and she continues to amaze me. The charter will typically take you on a short tour to give you a view of the well bay (where the landing craft were stored) and around the superstructure to the bridge. You will also see the two huge swivel cranes that loaded and off loaded the landing craft. Coral is growing abundantly and there are quite a few very large grouper who have taken up residence. Make sure and discuss with the charter what sections of the ship you will be seeing. Different trips see different sections.

Also in the Marine Sanctuary, French Reef is a great alternative to Molasses Reef, which is often overcrowded. It is a smaller site, but in my opinion is a better dive than Molasses. Since Looe Reef (near Key West) has deteriorated so badly, I believe French is one of the most spectacular reef areas in the Keys. Ledges, tunnels, and caves; most large enough to swim through are in abundance. Here are some of my favorite spots on the reef. For the opportunity to uncover hidden sea life try The Hourglass Cave (50 feet inshore from buoy F1) or Christmas Tree Cave (50 feet inshore of buoy F3). Buoy F5 marks a sandbank with coral ridges around and F6 has a swim-through coral head. Inshore of F7 is a ledge near an old anchor. White Sand Bottom Cave, the largest cave in the area, is located near the center of the reef. Depth ranges from 15 to 100 feet. If you have your own boat this is a great reef to bring your snorkelers and divers. There is truly something for everyone.

Just outside the Marine Sanctuary, The USCG Duane is a 327-foot Coast Guard cutter sunk in 1987 in 120 feet of water. She sits upright and the crows’ nest reaches 60 feet below the surface. Coral growth is profuse and thousands of fish are in residence. Other frequent visitors include bull sharks and scores of barracuda. This is a deeper dive and the surface current can be treacherous at times. It is listed in most dive books as an advanced dive. On a day when the current is ripping and the sea state is 3 to 5′ this is certainly true. However, on calmer days a diver with moderate experience will have no difficulty. One way to figure out what it will be like is to check the NOAA buoy website (www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=mlrf1) for two things. First you want to determine the sea state at Molasses Reef, since it is about 2 miles from the Duane. Secondly on the same website determine the location of the Gulf Stream. When it is within a couple of nautical miles of Molasses the current on the Duane gives the mooring buoys a wake and makes diving almost undoable. Since the Duane is outside the Marine Sanctuary, you may be competing with fisherman for mooring buoy space. Despite these potential downsides, the Duane is the best dive in the area. If you are really lucky you’ll get to see the resident Goliath Grouper. He is the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, but really shy.

6. Things to avoid – Fast food… come on you’re in the Keys, surrounded by water! You won’t find fresher fish anywhere. Unless you interested in catching your own, avoid lobster season. It is total bedlam and they are thousands of people in rented boats who have no idea what they’re doing. Somebody gets killed just about every year. The specific dates vary from year to year, so Google it to get the exact dates. Bad weather can certainly destroy your trip. So check the NOAA website I listed in the paragraph on the Duane. Charter boats will go out in most any weather, but they don’t turn back if you get seasick. Make sure you know what you’re getting in to.

7. Day trips – You are in the perfect vacation location. Why go anywhere else? When the weather outside is frightening, you might try some of these suggestions. A really cool thing to do on a windy day is visit Dolphins Plus (near MM 100). They have multiple dive programs and I strongly recommend them. If you have never been and believe me it really isn’t necessary, you can travel the two hours down to Key West. Other than T-shirts and liquor your options are limited. Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum is interesting and worth the time. Mallory pier at sunset has a carnival atmosphere. However, if a cruise ship is in port it can be very crowded. If you are really in to deep-sea fishing then Islamorada is the place to go. And if you’ve never seen the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico at the same time, the Seven Mile Bridge is a worthy destination. There is a park on the north side of the bridge with a great sub shop across the street.

I hope you found some helpful ideas in this article. If you are a SCUBA diver or a snorkel enthusiast or just curious about the largest coral reef in North America, visit Key Largo. You might fall in love with the place like I did. If you have any questions, please send me an email. I’ll be happy to respond.