18 December 2008

Surface street San Diego survival guide

Although today offers a break in the rain, today's photo is from November of 2007 and a rainy morning commute that capped off a particularly bad commuting month.

When I started making the daily trek to the wilds of RB, my commute was "against" traffic which meant that although I was making a 23 or so mile one way trek, I had many a day when a coworker less than five miles from the office faced a nastier and longer drive time than I did.

Back then the North/South thing wasn't the issue so much as the East to West choices. The 56 started and stopped at the most inconvenient places and without a 4x the choices were very limited.

Before there was a 4S Ranch development, there was a stretch of less than improved Black Mountain Road and some fire roads that took me from the wilds of Rancho Bernardo out to the coast.

Ultimately you came out right around the Evergreen Nursery on the equally less than improved Western part of Black Mountain Road. It was a much better choice than the 15 South and Mira Mesa Boulevard option or some of the other bit of this and bit of that cut through the residential neighbourhood to get to Carmel Valley Road hodge podge.

I daresay that if I ever tried to retrace my old route I'd probably run smack dab into a gated community with lots of open space now enclosed for the enjoyment of the few. I actually have some experience getting lost in some of that newly developed luxury land when I tried to navigate my way to an alum event last year.

Anyhow, now that the I15 corridor "improvement" means that vehicles entering the Southbound freeway at Carmel Mountain Road have to make three lane changes in under two miles to be in a lane that doesn't disappear. This has made an already highly unpleasant commute much nastier. Add earlier darkness plus rain and you've a lovely recipe for finding another way South.

I already knew the Penasquitos (jogging South, West and then South again to catch the 15 below Poway and the usual congestion) routine by either continuing on Carmel Mountain or trying to get on the 15 and opting to take the 56 one exit when the lane changes were just not going to happen and the swing South through Poway and West through Scripps Ranch run but Monday night I was in the market for something just a bit different.

So the combination of getting lost trying to get to an alum event and my rethink of directions to a an after work knitting social event got me looking into a farther West then South route.

When Bernardo Center Drive crosses Camino Del Norte, you don't go very far before it magically turns into Carmel Valley Road. About the same time that happens, you come upon a sign that tells you that the road is ending. That sign lies and so do a lot of maps who appear to believe the sign is the final word on the status of the road. The next signs informs you that the next bit of road is maintained by the County rather than the City of San Diego -- like that matters.

The road actually goes through a few more magical name changes before disappearing again in Del Mar Heights. I've yet to take the road all the way West but I have taken it as far as the North/South stretch of Black Mountain Road.

That segment of Black Mountain becomes Kearny Villa when it crosses Miramar and Kearny Villa, in turn, becomes Ruffin when it crosses under the 52. Kearny Villa is often a much better alternative to the 163 to cross the mesas. On Monday, I swung West on Balboa and picked up the 163 for just a couple of exits. Last night, went 100% freeway free opting to overshoot West (and thereby avoid the mall traffic) and came home through Old Town and Mission Hills.

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