RoadTrip America

Routes, Planning, & Inspiration for Your North American Road Trip

Ridge Route: The Road That United California , by Harrison Irving Scott

Ridge Route: The Road that United California provides a fascinating look into the history of one of the most amazing highway construction projects of the 20th century. This little-known but unforgettable highway parallels the route of the present day I-5 between the towns of Castaic Junction and Gorman northwest of Los Angeles, California. While many sections of the concrete road have deteriorated through neglect, it is still possible to drive the entire 30 mile route, perhaps not at the speeds that James Dean drove them a couple of hours before his death, but at a sufficient pace to be thrilled by twists, turns, and several 1,000-foot vertical drop-offs. Scott has included scores of old photographs documenting some of the 627 curves the road takes as it snakes its way through the Tehachapi and San Gabriel mountain ranges.

The last time I drove the Ridge Route, the road was eroded and rock-strewn, the sun was about to set, and I didn't have a clue where I was. If I had had a copy of Ridge Route, I would have known that I was only about two miles from the southern end and would have probably pressed on instead of turning around and retracing the route past what I now know is Swede's Cut on my way back to Hwy 138. Scott provides a mile-by-mile guide full of fascinating historical information from the road's southern beginning at the Parker Road exit from Interstate 5 in Castaic Junction all the way to the north end at Gorman. One of the route's most spectacular views is along the aptly named "Serpentine Drive" at mile 14.2. For many years, the maximum speed limit was set at 15 mph, and it was considered one of the most challenging and treacherous roads in the West.

In addition to the road guide component in Ridge Route, Scott delivers a fascinating look into the lives of business people at such historical locations as Sandberg's Summit Hotel, Holland's Summit Café, the Gorman Hotel, and the famous Lebec Hotel. His account of the rescue efforts undertaken to reach motorists stranded in a 1922 snowstorm is especially riveting. Scott's writing style is engaging, and I couldn't help finishing the book in one sitting. Ridge Route belongs in every serious roadtripper's book collection.

Take a virtual road trip along the Ridge Route! Click here.

Mark Sedenquist

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