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.

 

5 Key Takeaways on the Road to Dominating

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Java-101, a Trip Through Central Java Coffee Growing Areas

The drive from Jakarta to Semarang on the north coast of Central Java takes around 10 hours. The trip takes you up out of Jakarta and then through the small towns of Indramayu, Brebes, Tegal, Cirebon and Pemalang before you arrive in Semarang. At this time of year the drive is slow- the rainy season has started and in many places outside the cities the road is still only a two way highway with no median barrier separating on coming traffic. Typical Indonesian moments are frequent…where can you go when a bus is hurtling head on towards you at 100km/h and not slowing down? What to do when your car is mobbed by villagers voting for a new mayor…or passing the crushes carcasses of trucks, vans, minibuses and container trucks, you just have to wonder how long your luck will hold!

The route from Jakarta through to Cirebon follows the fertile coastal plain. This area is known as the “Pantura”, from the Indonesian “Pantai Utara” or “northern beaches”. Lust rice fields line both sides of the road. The encroachment of commercial development is unfortunately eating into the greenery. Large malls, Ruko (shop) complexes and industrial parks are being built everywhere. In between these however is still some of the prettiest rice land in Asia. The farms are still worked traditionally and the effort that goes into the management of these pieces of agricultural land is impressive. Where the road follows the coast mangroves and other shoreline vegetation are interspersed between rough wooden shacks selling Crab, fish and shrimp. The Indramayu area is famous for its mango’s- so many varieties and so sweet they melt in your mouth.

After passing through the tea town of Tegal (Old Dutch buildings mixed in with new development) and skirting Cirebon- the road leaves the coast and climbs up through the foothills. Teak forests and rubber plantation replace the rice paddies. The going on this section is slow- especially if the rain is falling, but the scenery is well worth it. The road climbs through the towns of Subuh and Batang. Roadside stalls sell a variety of tropical fruits-including the exotic Jackfruit and spiky, smelly Durian. This is not coffee country but I did take the opportunity to stop at a warung and try a local Kopi. The coffee was mixed with nutmeg ad red sugar- sweet and bitter at the same time. It was wok roasted robusta- ground up using a traditional sandstone bowl and pestle.

Semarang itself is a port city- located on a narrow strip of land between the coast and a divide of large volcanoes. During Dutch times this was a major trading port- serving as a feed for the hundreds of plantations located in the narrow strip between the north and south coasts of Central Java. The Dutch built an impressive rail system that carried the coffee, sugar, rubber, cloves and tobacco from the hinterland to the warehouses located along the port cities canals. The city is still the provincial capital for Central Java and is a very pleasant place. The hills above the city give fantastic views across the city to the big blue Java Sea. From this cooler altitude the volcanic peaks behind are also majestic- towering and dominating- dark, heavily forested and quite threatening.

Semarang has perhaps the best preserved examples of both Dutch architecture and Dutch town planning in Indonesia. The downtown area is filled with examples of Dutch colonial buildings. There are numerous old warehouses, offices, hotels and churches that are still now in use. Old ornate lamps line the wide streets. In this part of the city the traffic flows in an orderly fashion. As one moves into to newer areas of any Indonesian city the lack of recent town planning becomes increasingly evident. One such place is Toko “Oen”, a self proclaimed ice cream palace and patisserie; it has been operating for 67 years. The took (shop) is located on Jl.Pemuda (number 52- phone 3541683) in an old Dutch building. The interior of the shop is truly exquisite- high ceilings, stained glass windows, big shuttered windows opening onto the street. Lots of teak- the window frames, ceiling panels and of course the furniture. The ice cream is good as well, although the instant Nescafe coffee was out of place in such a setting.

After a brief walk around the city area we ventured out to the new warehousing area located behind the bus station and near Port Semarang. The area was hot and dusty, with evidence that during the wet season roads in this part of town flood. Holes are deep as a motor scooter had been carved through the asphalt and into the alluvial mud below by countless container trucks passing through. We negotiated the mud and holes and slowly made our way to one of the region coffee broker’s warehouses. The warehouse complex was made up of 4 large buildings. When we arrived there were several 20′ containers awaiting loading and we came just in time to see the workers finishing stuffing another container. The warehouse was filled with 60kg sacks of Central Java Arabica and Robusta. I guess I would estimate there were 20,000 bags stacked neatly in the warehouses (although as the broker exported over 11,000 metric or 611 x 20′ containers last year, I may be under estimating!). Machinery sorting beans using the gravity sort method were working away furiously at one end of the place- sorting the grade 1 beans from the rest. Drying units, sortex machines and of course the workers themselves all contributing to grading the best beans for export. I was impressed with how well the place was run and the good natured attitude of the workers. I was also mightily impressed with the sacks and sacks of green beans and the wonderful aroma of the greens…a smell I truly love!

A short while later we were on the road out of Semarang- hustling with the container trucks and buses for right of way. After crawling up out of the city we made our way to our first stop- a government owned estate about an hour outside the city. The estate grows both robusta and Arabica. The Arabica is a smaller bean, softer and very flavorsome. With the production of this estate being only around 50 metric ton of Arabica, most of the coffee is brought up by one European specialty roaster. The plantation was quiet- in between seasons the workforce required drops markedly. In the colonial days the private owners compensated for the lack of revenue at this time of year by diversifying their crops. This estate has hectares of rubber trees as well as some tea and cinnamon plantings. Even though we arrived on Friday at about the time Sholat Jumat (Friday prayers) begins, we were meet with typical Javanese hospitality and shown around the plantation.

Next stop was the city of Wonosobo and the famous Dieng Plateau. The Plateua is 120km inland from Semarang at an altitude of over 2000 meters. This area is cold, wet and apart from an uncanny resemblance to the New Zealand town of Taihape, is famous for its agricultural output of potatoes, carrots, onions and tobacco. It also has a well known temple complex called Candi Pendawa lima and (by the way) is the gateway to some very interesting and unique Indonesian Arabica coffees. It is very rare that I complain of the cold in Indonesia- but on the drive to Wonosobo I was really feeling it. The rain was bucketing down and even with the cars AC off I was shivering. Opening the window made things worse as the cool air mixed with the rain almost formed ice as it blew through onto my face.

It was dark when we arrived in the town (it was 15.30!) and nothing seemed to be open. To make things worse the rain had become persistent, carrying with it a dampness that is unusual for tropical climates. We checked into the wonderful colonial era Krisno Hotel- a fabulous place of 115 rooms which had occupancy of 0% before our arrival. The hotel is located on the way out of town and was a Dutch resort in the days before World War 2 and independence. Today it has been fully restored and probably deserves to have more guests. It’s a pity that the weather does not play its part here and help out. Walking around the empty lobby I had the chance to admire the stained glass, the teak fittings and later had the pleasant experience of enjoying a beer in the empty bar. It may sound strange, by sitting in an empty bar in the middle of Java listening to Jazz and the soft clicking of the ceiling fans overhead IS actually an experience to be savored. Far from the literally maddening crowds of Jakarta….a feeling of real relaxation at last!

Wonosobo regency and the area between the town and Dieng Plateau did indeed have both Arabica and robusta plantings. The majority of the trees we found were in small hold plantations in and around settlement areas. Altitude is an important factor in growing quality hard Arabica greens. Certainly the altitude in this area of Java seemed ideal for coffee- although sometimes the high rainfall may affect the quality of the cherries. Being out of season it was difficult to tell. The coffee grows at this altitude well. The trees cling to the side of the hills in some places- some shaded with bigger tropical trees. A lot of the small villages up here grow Arabica for the buyers based in Semarang. The coffee is dried and processed up in the Wonosobo highlands. A lot of the location processing is done using dry processing, although with the availability of water in this area not being a problem wet processing is becoming more widespread. Once processed the coffee is sent to Semarang for finishing- sorting, drying and polishing using modern machinery. I did have the opportunity to try some Arabica from one of these small village growers- I have the greens with me and will test roast and cup them.

The drive down from the plateau through to the royal city of Yogyakarta is a drive past volcanic cones, rice fields and teak and cocoa plantations. Along the way coffee grows wild at the side of the road. Some of the robusta trees reach as high as 30 feet- untended they develop a sprawling, scraggly canopy. Through the change in altitude we actually did come across some trees with ripe cherries. Again these were mainly robusta trees. The Central Java Southern region also has some very good lower altitude Arabica plantations. With a different microclimate and soil conditions the beans cup very differently from those grown around Wonosobo.

Back at the roastery today- tired but satisfied. We are around 500 meters above sea level ourselves and up in the hills. At this time of year it rains religiously at around 15.00. As I type It is bucketing down outside…thankfully I have the San Marino up to heat and pressure and am onto my 4th double. Cheers everyone.

Scenic Drives of North America

My wife and I just returned from a vacation in the Canadian Rockies; in particular, Banff and Jasper National Parks, where they promote the Icefields Highway as one of the most spectacular drives in North America and the world. Their proclamation made me think of the best scenic drives that I have taken in North America.

Here is a description of five of my favorite scenic drives in North America, followed by a list of several others.

I invite you to send your thoughts and comments, whether you agree or disagree. If you have a favorite scenic drive that I did not mention, then I would love to hear about it. Here goes:

1) Big Sur, Highway 1

Many people consider the 100 mile drive through Big Sur the greatest drive in the world. The Big Sur road, too spectacular to be called a highway, is the crown jewel of the famed Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), many sections of which qualify for outstanding scenic status. Every mile allows you to experience the ocean crashing against the bottom of the cliffs a couple hundred feet below you or, on the other side of the road, the bright green fields of grass. If you cannot travel in both directions, then I recommend starting the drive from the north end; you will be next to the ocean for the entire drive. The northern end of Big Sur, between Carmel and Carmel Highlands and 2.5 hours south of San Francisco, has one of my two favorite traffic signs: it shows the snakey line, indicating curvy road ahead, with the text “Next 84 miles.” The road passes Point Lobos (one of California’s best state parks), Carmel Highlands, and soon crosses the Bixby Creek bridge, one of California’s most photographed spots. Many people consider the view from Rocky Point restaurant, a little further south, as the greatest sunset in the world. In between here and Cambria, the southern end of Big Sur, you will pass Nepenthe (another world class viewing spot), Hearst Castle (the most expensive home in the US), and countless breathtaking photographic opportunities. The entire shoreline of Big Sur is a National Marine Sanctuary (sea otter refuge). The fog in the middle of the summer surprises most visitors. The temperature rarely rises above 70 degrees and most often is around 55. The best weather occurs between November and April, when you can see migrating whales from the road.

2. The Overseas (Florida Keys) Highway, US 1

This drive is outstanding if only for the fact that it extends 100 miles into the Florida Straits, between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The Keys Highway leaves the Florida peninsula just outside the Everglades, an hour south of Miami, and immediately takes you through the city and island of Key Largo. The road then continues 100 miles to the southernmost point in the continental United States, Key West, only 90 miles from Cuba. You seem to spend half the drive over water and half the drive on several small islands, with names such as Duck Key and Pine Key (or Big Pine Key and Little Pine Key). One of the highlights of the drive is crossing the seven mile bridge, featured in the movie “True Lies,” and inevitably wondering if hurricanes can suddenly appear out of the blue (ocean) like their tornado cousins. Otherwise, the drive is so soothing and calming. Unlike Big Sur, you almost must drive this road in both directions, so you might as well take at least a week. Don’t forget to try the conch fritters and key lime pie!

3) Tioga Road, highway 120

At 9,945 feet, Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park’s eastern entrance, is California’s highest automobile pass. You cannot enter this area of the park during the winter and should be able to see snow in places during the middle of summer. This year, the campground at Tuolumne Meadows, less than 5 miles west of Tioga Pass, did not open until July or August due to extra winter snow. Tuolumne Meadows is a beautiful alpine wonderland with wildflowers during the spring and summer. Tioga Road passes Tenaya Lake and Yosemite Creek along the 40 mile drive into Yosemite Valley. By far, the most spectacular scenery, however, is between Tuolumne Meadows and highway 395, near Mono Lake.

4) Trail Ridge Road, highway 34

Trail Ridge Road offers a convenient way to experience Arctic tundra conditions without traveling to Northern Canada or upper Alaska. This road, in Rocky Mountains National Park, is above 11,000 feet for at least 10 miles, reaching a peak of 12,183 feet near the Alpine Visitor Center at Fall River Pass. The road crosses the Continental Divide four miles west of here at Milner Pass. I like to enter at the Fall River Ranger Station entrance, near Estes Park. Almost immediately, you will come to Sheep Lakes and, hopefully, see some bighorn sheep.

5) Teton Park Road, Grand Teton National Park, US 29

The Tetons are different from other mountain ranges, because they rise straight out of the ground and have no foothills to diminish the view. From the southern boundary of Yellowstone National Park, take US 29, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway into Grand Teton National Park. You will go past Jackson Lake and Colter Bay Visitor Center. Take Teton Park Road at Jackson Lake Junction. A special side trip is the turn off to Signal Mountain with a vast panorama of the entire park. The three tetons (Grand, Middle, and South) dominate the view as you drive south. In addition to the craggy, steep mountains, you may see moose, elk, coyotes, or deer.

Here are some lesser-known scenic drives that represent the beauty of North America:

Canada

Icefields Highway (Alberta)

North Vancouver to Whistler (British Columbia)

United States

Skyline Drive (nicer than the Blue Ridge Parkway)

highway 101 through Northern California and Southern Oregon

drive around Crater Lake, Oregon

Chain of Craters Road and Crater Rim Drive in Volcanoes NP, Hawaii

highway 462, Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Natzhez Trace trail (Columbus, TN to Natchez, MS)

Wolf Creek Pass, highway 160, Colorado (best continental divide crossing)

Durango to Silverton (Southwest Colorado)

Million Dollar Road outside Ouray, Colorado

drive around Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada border

US 1 along the Maine coast (and highway 3 into Acadia Nat’l Park)

Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts

Kancamagus Highway (highway 112), New Hampshire (Conway to Lincoln)

highway 82, J. Davis Memorial highway (Tifton, GA to Columbus, MS)

highway 191 around Moab, Utah and Arches National Park

Portuguese Bend, California

Interstate Highways (here are some particularly scenic portions):

I-10 west of New Orleans (through swampland)

I-15 Arizona (beautiful canyons)

I-24 Western Kentucky (beautiful landscape)

I-25 Cheyenne to Denver (incredible sunsets and scenery)

I-80 Truckee, CA to Reno, NV (Donner Pass)

I-84 Columbia Gorge, Oregon

I-90 Missoula to Billings (city dwellers should try this one)

I hope this inspires you to drive on some of the scenic roads and byways in North America on your next vacation.