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.


Sight Fishing 101

No, this isn’t an article about auto mechanics who like to fish, but rather it is an article about the mechanics of sight fishing.

My first real experience “sight fishing” happened on my first bonefish fishing trip to Christmas Island, or Kiribati, as the residents call it. The island, located two hours by commercial jet due south of Hawaii, has miles and miles of shallow, sandy, crystal clear water. These are referred to as “the flats”, and this is where the bonefish hangout. They patrol the shallow water looking for their favorite foods of small shrimp. Once they see one they slurp it up with their peculiar downward facing mouth.

Fly fishermen spend their days wading the flats in search of bonefish. When one is spotted, they cast a shrimp imitation fly ahead of where the fish will be swimming. Stripping of the line brings the fly to life and triggers the strike.

Now comes the important part… you can’t sight-fish them, if you can’t see them! And to see them you absolutely need a decent pair of polarized sunglasses. Whether you’re fishing for bonefish, bass, pike or carp, good polarized sunglasses will allow you to see your quarry, or will they? The truth really is, maybe, if your eyes are trained and they know what to look for.

Back to bonefish fishing at Christmas Island… your first time out your chances of finding the bonefish to even cast to can be spectacularly slim without a guide. Bonefish guides have trained eyes experienced at seeing these aptly named “ghosts of the flats”. The bonefish tends to take on the coloration of the sandy bottom, (doubtless a defense mechanism to avoid predators), that combined with the fact that the trade winds blow almost constantly creating ripples across the surface make them even harder to see.

My first time out the guide would point and say, “See the fish there?” “Where, where,” was my response. “Don’t look for the fish”, he said, “Look for his shadow on the bottom”. It was true; if I saw the shadow I could trace a line from the shadow to the sun and find the fish in between. (Keep in mind that light is bent or refracted as it enters the water making the fish appear to be where it is not). It narrowed the area to search and soon I could pick them out by myself. Still, this works well if the sun doesn’t go behind a cloud. Then, even the guides can have a hard time seeing them. Many are so practiced and sharp-eyed that their ability to see the fish borders on the clairvoyant. Some guides get so frustrated trying to help the client to see that they end up just telling the client, “cast twenty yards to the three-o-clock position, now strip, faster, faster, stop, there”. They literally become the client’s eyes.

Now bonefish fishing is sight-fishing taken to its extreme limits. Still, what I learned I have been able to apply to all of my sight-fishing from those days forward and for any species.

Take bass for instance; many bass can take on a lighter or darker coloration depending on a number of environmental factors. Darker bass become easier to spot when they cross a lighter sand bottom and lighter colored bass become more visible over a dark colored bottom. Luckily for us, they can’t change as fast as the bottom they cruise over. Watching these bottom transition areas you can often spot cruising bass.

Shady areas underwater can create ambush sites where predatory fish can hold and see passing prey without being seen themselves. Dragging a bait, (such as a soft plastic worm, tube or craw) along the sunny side of these shadow lines can trigger sudden strikes. In and around dead-falls, stumps and boulders also offer the advantages of making the fish feel more secure and at times even aggressive in defending their territory.

Again, these are the factors to contend with to see and fish your quarry; water clarity, depth, surface ripples and waves due to wind or boat traffic, bottom structure and lighting in sun or shade. The only things we have to reduce the adverse effects of these conditions are; polarized sunglasses, boat positioning to keep the sun’s reflections and our own shadows at an optimum angle, and experience. The experience part is only acquired with practice, and more practice.

Remember, if you can see them, they can see you. For that reason, approach slowly and quietly, keep your distance and only come as close as is necessary. Anchor or use a push-pole if necessary to hold your boat position.

One last thing about polarized sunglasses; Lens color is important. Yellow lenses tend to offer more contrast but distort colors. Blue, green or gray give you a more natural color perception but reduce contrast. Unfortunately, it may boil down to your preference and you may try several lens colors in real fishing conditions before settling on what works best for you in a particular situation. Some fishermen carry more than one pair with different lens colors and switch back and forth as conditions change. Try some of the less expensive ones before you plop down some hefty change for the best. You may find them to be quite adequate.

You may also want to consider this. I can’t begin to count the pairs of sunglasses I have dropped over the side or have fallen off my face into the water. A retaining strap of some sort is cheap insurance against such losses. Still some manufacturers sell floating sunglasses. Again, it can lessen the chances of losing them to the depths as they can represent a significant investment.

So try these tips the next time a sight fishing opportunity raises its head. We’ll see you on the water.