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Celebrating our two-lane highways of yesteryear…And the joys of driving them today!

Michael Ballard

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Michael Ballard last won the day on September 5

Michael Ballard had the most liked content!

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About Michael Ballard

  • Rank
    Weekend Traveler
  • Birthday 08/22/1978

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  • Website URL
    https://www.socalregion.com

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  • Gender
    Male
  • Location
    San Diego, CA
  • Interests
    Mostly US highways, focusing on California. I follow the geology as well as the history of the roadways. I have online tours of US 6, US 99, and the Ridge Route from Los Angeles to Famoso (US 6 from Los Angeles to the NV / UT state line) on my website - socalregion.com. I am also the President of the Ridge Route Preservation Organization - http://ridgeroute.org.

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  1. I-5 is commonly referred to as "The Grapevine" by locals and traffic reporters. Most assume the name derives from the twisty nature of the original roadway - the Ridge Route. That road was indeed very twisty, much like a grapevine. However, that is still not the reason. The name Grapevine actually comes from Grapevine Canyon, where old US 99 and I-5 come down from the mountains and into the San Joaquin Valley. The canyon is called such as wild grapes grow along the canyon walls. It was formerly known as Canada De Las Uvas which is Spanish for Canyon of the Grapes. The name Tejon Pass is also a "new" addition to the area. The current Tejon Pass was known as Grapevine Pass or Badger Pass until the 1850's. Old Tejon Pass, much farther to the east, was a very treacherous route. That pass was eventually abandoned in favor of the current Tejon Pass. The name was just shifted to the new route. After the 1933 bypass of the original road to as late as the 1970's, the roadway over the mountains was still referred to as "The Ridge Route". It wasn't until the 1980's that the name "The Grapevine" was extended to the entire roadway. Why this was done is still unclear. Even Caltrans called it the "Ridge Route". So, if you want to call it proper - call it Tejon Pass, when being specific to the actual pass, and the Ridge Route when referring to I-5 from Castaic to Grapevine. While you're passing through Grapevine Canyon, be sure to spot the wild grapevines that still grow in the canyon.
  2. Michael Ballard

    Ridge Route Update

    Big update coming soon. It looks like we may well have our volunteer agreement in place by early December. With this agreement comes a very important thing, a key. We will finally have full access to the Ridge Route. Right now we are anticipating having some sort of event, likely a road work type event, in late Spring 2020. I'll be going up on the road as soon as possible, after I get the key, to evaluate what is needed to be done.
  3. Michael Ballard

    Ridge Route Update

    Perseverance is key with these things. We will succeed, it just may take a while.
  4. Michael Ballard

    Ridge Route Update

    Things are looking good on the Ridge Route front. Our volunteer agreement with the Angeles National Forest should be coming through soon. Once the fires calm down anyway, as they have been taking away the people that are working on it. Once it is in place, things will start to move a bit faster on our end. The road is still a ways from being open, but we should hopefully have some form of access.
  5. Michael Ballard

    Historic US 80 in Arizona

    My mistake. I forget about that chunk.
  6. On a recent trip out to Phoenix I found that Arizona is posting signs along old US 80, at least where it coincides with current State highways. I found two shields, one in each direction, on State 85 near Buckeye. Apparently, it is also signed on State 77 (former US 80 from Florence Junction to near Tucson). Anyone else seen any new shields?
  7. There are many. They are rare on State highways. Used to be two from the mid-1920's on State 150 near Rincon, but replaced about 15 or more years ago. Los Angeles County has plenty of wooden pony truss bridges on the county roads (East Fork Road, Little Tujunga Canyon Road, and a few others). There is a 1922, widened 1928? pony truss span over the Rio Hondo on State 72 (former US 101) near Pico Rivera. Not as many in northern California. Mostly concrete and steel up there.
  8. Michael Ballard

    Ridge Route Update

    Our biggest hurdle seems to be the land ownership issue at the south end. The County of Los Angeles is to blame for that mess but we hope the federal government may have enough clout to get it fixed. Time will tell. In the mean time, we are working toward possibly starting up road repairs again.
  9. Great photos! The last time I was in that area (August 2005), we had a limited amount of time but at least went to the first pony truss bridge at the west end. My guess on the bridges is late 1910's to mid 1920's. The pipe railing, instead of lattice railing, seems to point to that era. At least, that is what I'd go by in California. Each state is a bit different.
  10. Michael Ballard

    Ridge Route Update

    From our ridgeroute.org website - On Monday, June 10, Michael Ballard (myself), Harrison Scott, Dave Omieczynski, and Richard Valot had a meeting with representatives from the Angeles National Forest. They included Jerry Perez – Forest Supervisor, Justin Seastrand – Environmental Coordinator, Ricardo Lopez – Road Engineer, and Jamahl Butler – District Ranger. Our meeting, which was held on the Ridge Route near the southern end, was to discuss a range of topics regarding the road. We initially met at the Ridge Route and Templin Highway where we made introductions and briefly went over the meeting details. From there, I led the group with my sportbike up the road to the southern gate. At that point, we discussed the land ownership problems and the 2010 paving, which we believe will help us with our goal of getting the road reopened. After our discussion, they opened the gate and I led the group on a tour of the Ridge Route from the southern gate to Reservoir Summit. The initial plan, however, was to only go about four miles north to see the recently reconstructed section of road. Each stop, the USFS people decided to go a bit further. We didn’t mind this at all! Along the way, we made stops at some of the sections of the roadway that had been repaired as well as some of the historic sites along the road, such as the National Forest Inn site. At each major stop, Scotty brought out his books and showed photos of the sites. Once we got to Reservoir Summit, we had another discussion regarding the state of the roadway. Overall, it was in very good shape with only a few areas needing more immediate attention. Many sections had been resurfaced and we did make it clear that we didn’t want to see a wholesale repaving of the roadway for the sake of preservation. They seemed to understand this. After our discussion and hike to the reservoir, we all headed back to the southern gate to finalize our meeting. The meeting was productive and positive. There is still a lot of work to be done, but they were willing to help and to work with us. Instead of a Memorandum of Understanding, we may be entering into a Volunteer Agreement regarding cleaning drains and such along the roadway. They also stated they would do additional research regarding the land ownership issue at the southern end of the roadway. In regards to opening the roadway, there is still no estimate on when it will reopen. Another concern is roadway maintenance, which we may be able to help defray with volunteer effort. There are still additional issues that need to be addressed but we at least have a better understanding of what the Forest Service sees as the problems. One of them, overall condition of the roadway and ability for vehicles to travel safely, I tried to prove by using my sportbike. If I can go on the roadway using that vehicle, most everyone should be able to pass over it safely as well. Only time will tell if this meeting was truly successful, but I believe it was. I will give additional updates when we hear back from the USFS in the near future.
  11. Michael Ballard

    Gillespie Dam Brigde

    I believe I saw the signs in Janruary 2013 when I went on my first motorcycle ride to Phoenix. By late 2017, they were indeed gone.
  12. Michael Ballard

    Gillespie Dam Brigde

    The area around the bridge is quite interesting geologically. There is an old volcano to the southwest and the basalt from the vent makes up the cliffs on the west side of the bridge. At one point, a few million years ago (I can check the actual age), the top of the flows were level with the surrounding terrain. It is a good example of how much erosion and uplift has taken place since that time.
  13. Michael Ballard

    Travel Troubles

    Greetings all. I wanted to share a rather unpleasant experience I had recently while traveling along an old alignment of US 80 in Arizona. My husband and I were traveling between San Diego, CA and Phoenix, AZ on the Saturday before Christmas. As we had more available time, I wanted to finally take the original route of US 80 through Dome Valley, also stopping by the McPhaul Bridge north of Yuma, AZ. I had done a bit of research before we left, as the old road through Dome Valley had many turns. After visiting the McPhaul Bridge, we headed north on US 95 to the turnoff for Dome Valley. After we made the turn, we found that the old road had signage for a detour for I-8 and directions to "Old US 80" and I-8, which made travel a bit easier. With only one exception, all the turns were well marked with these signs. Near the first big turn, we noticed a border patrol car parked alongside the road, pointed toward traffic. I didn't think too much of it, other than was disappointed to see them. Not long after this, however, I saw they had passed the car that was behind us and was getting closer to us. Again, didn't think too much of this but was a bit concerned. I hadn't been speeding and I had been coming to a complete stop at the stop signs, despite the lack of limit lines. I would have anyway. Now, we proceeded down old US 80 south toward the "newer" alignment of US 80 which follows I-8 a lot closer. Still, the border patrol car was following us at varying distances. We saw another border patrol vehicle just north of the Old US 80 turn near Wellton. At the junction, we turned left, to head down old US 80 toward Wellton and Mohawk. Well, that is when things turned into a problem. After we turned, the border patrol vehicle that had been following us pulled us over. After we stopped, we asked why we were being stopped. They first asked us if we were familiar with Dome Valley. They also asked us where we were going to and where we were going from. They asked why we went a different way and evaded a "Federal Checkpoint", calling it that instead of border patrol checkpoint. They had said the route was "popular with smugglers". They had also taken our driver licenses to, well, we weren't sure what. They told us they were doing a background check on us. They checked their records and asked why we took a different route because, according to their records, we normally took I-8. Remember that when you pass those cameras alongside the roadway. They are indeed tracking your movements. I suspected before but this was proof. I told them we were following old US 80 and even showed them our book by Eric Finley, which shows the alignments of the highway, including Dome Valley. They asked us if they could search the car, even ran a drug sniffing dog by our car. They kept us alongside the roadway for nearly 30 minutes. They had no probable cause other than the fact we drove an open public roadway, which was even signed by the state as a through route. They humiliated us by stopping us alongside a public highway while others looked on. Three border patrol vehicles stopped us. Three. They violated our rights by stopping us without cause. They were truly on a fishing expedition after they asked us why we were going that way, which was still none of their business. Why did it take so long to do a "background check" on us? Why was that even needed? This was a truly disturbing experience, one which I do not intend to let slide. Formal complaints will be filed with various agencies, including the ACLU. So, with their excuse for pulling us over, it does beg many questions. How often does this happen? If the route is indeed an issue for them, why is there no checkpoint along it? Why is the border patrol, not the DEA, looking for drugs? If they are "just doing their job", then why do they need to stop random cars on a public roadway? It would seem that the fact they did so says they are not doing their jobs. This was not how I wanted to travel old US 80. No one should have to deal with this sort of harassment and illegal activity by law enforcement.
  14. Greetings all, There have been some changes recently regarding the Ridge Route Preservation Organization. Due to some unexpected circumstances, we have a new president. I, Michael Ballard, was elected to become the new president of the RRPO. I look forward to leading the group and will continue our struggle to preserve and protect the roadway. I plan to be meeting with many different groups in the near future to help further our cause and get more people involved. Harrison Scott, the former president of the group, will still be involved. We do thank him for all he has done and his continuing contributions to our collective effort are always welcomed and appreciated.
  15. Michael Ballard

    Antique fair find

    That is an incredible find. I'm curious... 1935. Where does it show US 66 ending in the west?
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