“I’m never doing this again.”
That’s what I said when I drove from Seattle to San Diego—over 1,200 miles—by myself when I first moved here. After spending days on the freeway, having the battery die out in Medford, Oregon, traversing The Grapevine’s steep incline, and then inching along in LA traffic, I’d had my fill of road trips for a while. I was reluctant to get behind the wheel for any journey that took more than five hours. Now I’m eating my words.
Like many of you, I haven’t left San Diego since the stay-at-home orders last March. I opted out of traveling during the holidays and didn’t visit my family. Now I look back on the many road trips I’ve taken, and even the sketchy moments—like driving a small sedan through high winds in the Central Valley, trying to navigate the “wrong” side of the road abroad, or losing traction on streets covered in ice—have become fond memories. I even miss the sight of downtown LA’s smoggy skyline looming over the bottleneck section of the 5. I’m just itching to drive someplace else, anywhere else, and we know you are too.
That’s why we planned the story “On the Road Again.” It’s a guide to two dozen small artsy towns, natural wonders, and communities with great food and wine scenes that are between one and 14 hours from San Diego by car. I’m thinking about when I can make it to Paso Robles, Nevada’s Valley of Fire, and New Mexico. While putting together this feature, I learned how many cool places, like Jacumba Hot Springs, are so close to home and can be seen within a day. We hope this guide inspires you to hit the road and experience a new place when you’re ready and able to travel. And in the meantime, we came up with a list of five staycation destinations for you.
Also unexpectedly close to home is a thriving cattle ranching culture, a way of life that is fading out in Southern California. Photographer Dewey Keithly spent the day in Ramona with Jim Dardeen—who is keeping the tradition alive at his working ranch—capturing striking images for this month’s photo essay . We also highlight a new drive-up comedy show you can see in Escondido, tell the story behind the landmark metal sculptures in Borrego Springs that you absolutely must stop and see, and tour the Airstream of our road-tripping dreams.
2020 is finally in the rearview, and we wish you plenty of (safe) adventures ahead. See you on the road!
*The day this issue went to press, Governor Newsom announced statewide restrictions on nonessential travel. Some states, such as New Mexico, have implemented a mandatory quarantine for incoming travelers. Check cdph.ca.gov and cdc.gov for the latest advisories.