California! The very name had a strange fascination for me ere I set
foot on the soil of the Golden State. Its romantic story and the
enthusiasm of those who had made the (to me) wonderful journey to
the favored country by the great ocean of the West had interested
and delighted me as a child, though I thought of it then as some dim,
far-away El Dorado that lay on the borders of fairyland. My first visit
was not under circumstances tending to dissolve the spell, for it was
on my wedding trip that I first saw the land of palms and flowers,
orange groves, snowy mountains, sunny beaches, and blue seas, and I
found little to dispel the rosy dreams I had preconceived. This was
long enough ago to bring a great proportion of the growth and progress
of the state within the scope of my own experience. We saw Los Angeles,
then an aspiring town of forty thousand, giving promise of the truly
metropolitan city it has since become; Pasadena was a straggling
village; and around the two towns were wide areas of open country now
teeming with ambitious suburbs. We visited never-to-be-forgotten Del
Monte and saw the old San Francisco ere fire and quake had swept away
its most distinctive and romantic features-the Nob Hill palaces and
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Some years intervened between this and our second visit, when we found the City of the Angels a thriving metropolis with hundreds of palatial structures and the most perfect system of interurban transportation to be found anywhere, while its northern rival had risen from debris and ashes in serried ranks of concrete and steel. A tour of the Yosemite gave us new ideas of California's scenic grandeur; there began to dawn on us vistas of the endless possibilities that the Golden State offers to the tourist and we resolved on a longer sojourn at the first favorable opportunity.
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A week's stay in Los Angeles and a free use of the Pacific Electric gave us a fair idea of the city and its lesser neighbors, but we found ourselves longing for the country roads and retired nooks of mountain and beach inaccessible by railway train and tram car. We felt we should never be satisfied until we had explored this wonderland by motor-which the experience of three long tours in Europe had proved to us the only way to really see much of a country in the limits of a summer vacation.
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And so it chanced that a year or two later we found ourselves on the streets of Los Angeles with our trusty friend of the winged wheels, intent on exploring the nooks and corners of Sunset Land. We wondered why we had been so long in coming-why we had taken our car three times to Europe before we brought it to California; and the marvel grew on us as we passed out of the streets of the city on to the perfect boulevard that led through green fields to the western Venice by the sea. It is of the experience of the several succeeding weeks and of a like tour during the two following years that this unpretentious chronicle has to deal. And my excuse for inditing it must be that it is first of all a chronicle of a motor car; for while books galore have been written on California by railroad and horseback travelers as well as by those who pursued the leisurely and good old method of the Franciscan fathers, no one, so far as I know, has written of an extended experience at the steering wheel of our modern annihilator of distance.
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It seems a little strange, too, for Southern California is easily the motorist's paradise over all other places on this mundane sphere. It has more cars to the population-twice over-and they are in use a greater portion of the year than in any other section of similar size in the world and probably more outside cars are to be seen on its streets and highways than in any other locality in the United States. The matchless climate and the ever-increasing mileage of fine roads, with the endless array of places worth visiting, insure the maximum of service and pleasure to the fortunate owner of a car, regardless of its name-plate or pedigree. The climate needs no encomiums from me, for is it not heralded and descanted upon by all true Californians and by every wayfarer, be his sojourn ever so brief?-but a few words on the wonders already achieved in road-building and the vast plans for the immediate future will surely be of interest. I am conscious that any data concerning the progress of California are liable to become obsolete overnight, as it were, but if I were to confine myself to the unchanging in this vast commonwealth, there would be little but the sea and the mountains to write about.
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Los Angeles County was the leader in good roads construction and at the time of which I write had completed about three hundred and fifty miles of modern highway at a cost of nearly five million dollars. I know of nothing in Europe superior-and very little equal-to the splendid system of macadam boulevards that radiate from the Queen City of the Southwest. The asphalted surface is smooth and dustless and the skill of the engineer is everywhere evident. There are no heavy grades; straight lines or long sweeping curves prevail throughout. Added to this is a considerable mileage of privately constructed road built by land improvement companies to promote various tracts about the city, one concern alone having spent more than half a million dollars in this work. Further additions are projected by the county and an excellent maintenance plan has been devised, for the authorities have wisely recognized that the upkeep of these splendid roads is a problem equal in importance with building them. This, however, is not so serious a matter as in the East, owing to the absence of frost, the great enemy of roads of this type.