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John Daley refers to Highway 101 as “Route 66 with a view” and
“our Mother Road.”
The Highway that runs the length of California, winding
alongside the beautiful Pacific Coast, through beach towns and
metropolitan cities, across the Golden Gate Bridge and into giant
redwood groves is going through a renaissance in San Diego
Where Route 66, the original “mother road,” served as the artery
that brought migrant families westward during the Great Depression,
Highway 101 opened up the west coast for development.
In Southern California, it is where the California Dream was
born spawning a vision of endless sunshine, surf and fantasy. It
helped create a surfing and car culture, which defined a unique
Until recently, this Californian joie de vivre was invisible in
many respects. Monuments of the past were paved over by a boom
mentality that completely changed the landscape from one generation
to the next.
But that’s changing.
As a result of Daley’s efforts in Oceanside, and his
counterpart, Peder Norby, in Encinitas, every beach town in San
Diego North has joined in an effort to preserve the culture that
has sprung from Highway 101.
“It’s interesting because the perspectives that other people
have of us are often different than what we have of ourselves,”
Daley said. “For decades it was all about being new and building
and developing building that strip mall. And the speed of
development was so fast that people just didn’t look back. Now
people are starting to look back.”
In some respects, Highway 101 mirrors the shtick of Route 66.
The “mundane becomes memorable,” as Norby likes to say; and
The wild, attention-grabbing angles and color of the Star
Theatre in Oceanside is a prime example of Southern California’s
homegrown “Googie” architecture.
Further south, Encinitas is the home of the Paramahansa
Yogananda Self-Realization Fellowship Retreat, and nearby, two
homes were built in 1928 from recycled wood - made to resemble
All of the towns in San Diego North, from La Jolla in the south
to Oceanside, can now claim their own individual identity and
charm. That’s the whole idea.
Norby points to a “topiary Cadillac,” a sculpted mass of bushes
and shrubbery modeled on Elvis Presley’s classic car. It was
originally designed for the San Diego county fair but now sits in
front of a 7-Eleven in downtown Encinitas.
“That’s something you wouldn’t see anywhere else,” he said.
“It’s funky and doesn’t really fit into a corporate mold. It’s a
little weird. That’s making the mundane memorable. It’s the one-off
rather than the sameness of ‘generica.’ ”
In September 1998, Daley and fellow preservationists lobbied the
state legislature, and lawmakers granted all of Highway 101 a
Daley and Norby recently helped to start a non profit
organization called the Highway 101 Association to promote the
cities along the highway.
Daley and Norby say that the challenge is to encourage
communities in the north to preserve and reuse the relics of
California’s history that remain, rather than building anew.
“When you do that, it becomes a community treasure that people
love, rather than something that everyone else has,” said
“If you think about a T-bird that’s in the garage, and it has a
tarp over it. We are just at the point of picking up that tarp to
take a look at what’s underneath. We’re just now uncovering what
A drive along the stretch of Highway 101 running from Oceanside
to La Jolla in San Diego North can be a perfect day trip or weekend
excursion. It includes museums, shopping and wide expanses of
" The Star Theatre. Built in the 1950s, this Oceanside theatre
is an example of the Googie “space age” architectural style. The
sharp angles, colorful lights and cantilevered roofs are meant to
" The California Surf Museum. A small but detailed exhibit in
Oceanside, it houses old surfboards, biographies of the surfing
pioneers, old photographs and memorabilia. Suggested donation is
" 101 Café. The John Daley-owned 101 Café is a true monument to
the highway. With the original 1950s diner preserved, it is the
oldest continually operating restaurant along the 101. The diner
specializes in “comfort food” hamburgers, breakfasts and a tasty
" Neiman’s. This Carlsbad restaurant is located in a
113-year-old Victorian mansion. The setting is better than the
" Carlsbad State Beach. The long stretch of beach runs to
Leucadia. Just past the Batiquitos Lagoon, Beacon’s Beach
" 101 Art Café. Several local Encinitas artists have set up shop
in the café. Some of the handmade banners, lining the town’s
downtown strip, were made by café artisans.
" Topiary Cadillac. Find the 7-Eleven and this testament to
Encinitas’ individuality, resting by the sidewalk.
" The Daley Double. One of the oldest businesses in San Diego
County, the Encinitas bar was once used for illegal gambling and
" Yogananda Self-Realization Fellowship Retreat. A lush garden
and meditation area are perched above the Pacific Ocean on the edge
of Encinitas. Below is Swami’s Beach, immortalized in the classic
Beach Boys song “Surfing U.S.A.”
" Boat Houses. Just off the 101, on Third Street, sit the two
boat houses possibly the most photographed buildings in
" Cardiff-By-The-Sea to Solana Beach. Two areas loaded with
beach spots, although most are located off the highway.
" Del Mar Plaza. A classy shopping center in Del Mar with
elegant boutiques and a public patio overlooking the Pacific
" Torrey Pines State Park. It cost $3 to park in the lot beside
this beautiful beach, but is free just outside of the park. The
highway climbs a hillside and goes into the park, which has hiking
trails and picnic tables overlooking the ocean.
" Downtown La Jolla. Shopping galore.
" La Valencia Hotel. Also known as the Pink Lady, this gorgeous
landmark, perched above La Jolla cove and the Ellen Browning
Scripps Park, has been a popular spot with celebrities since it
opened in 1926.