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Challenger Coast Range Adventures; Part 1 Getting to Monterey

This past Thursday happened to be a warm spell in an unusually dry California winter.  Circumstance had me headed towards Monterey again so I decided on taking my Challenger R/T Scat Pack for some mountain driving in the Coast Ranges.


Really this road blog series is the normal historical fare that I do (for the most part) but mainly is just wandering around in a cool car.  Given that I was leaving during rush hour on a weekday morning out of Fresno I decided to take CA 180 across San Joaquin Valley to I-5.  I encountered this older CA 145 guide sign in Kerman while trying to find some breakfast.  Lately there has been a series of shootings between Madera and Kerman on CA 145 lately, the sixth occurred on the 15th I believe on Dickenson Avenue.


I turned off of CA 180 at Panoche Road near Mendota which is signed as a route to I-5.  Panoche Road was once signed as part of CA 180 back in the 1930s and was part of a long range planned extension to CA 25 (and once US 101) across the Diablo Range.  Panoche Road was actually a pretty solid connector to I-5 and well maintained by Fresno County.  The only major junction other before I-5 westbound is CA 33, Panoche Road continues west all the way to CA 25.









I took I-5 north 34 miles to CA 152. 


County Route J1 is at Shields Avenue which ironically doesn't have a J1 shield.




I stopped at the Dos Amigos Overlook of the San Luis Canal and a pumping station.  The waters come from the San Luis Reservoir which is to the northwest at Pacheco Pass.





Continuing north I-5 junctions CA 165.




 I turned off for CA 152 westbound which is multiplexed with CA 33 north.




Oddly last week CA 33 north was signed as CA 33 "detour."  CA 33 once swung northwest out of Los Banos towards Santa Nella while the current route was the first CA 207.  Most traffic heading to CA 33 north generally takes I-5, so that being the case the mainline route was signed as a detour due to bridge work.  I missed out on taking a shield picture since it was already covered up.






I continued on CA 152 westbound over Pacheco Pass above the San Luis Reservoir.  I've been trying to get a picture of the "end scenic route" signage at Pacheco Pass for awhile but it was always difficult due to the climbing trucks.











After descending from Pacheco Pass I stopped at Casa de Fruita.  Casa de Fruita Parkway is the original alignment of CA 152 before it was blown out to an expressway.  Oddly if you are traveling from CA 156 east you actually have to go all the way to Casa de Fruita Parkway to head westbound on CA 152.








I took CA 156 westbound to San Juan Bautista.








I wanted to get a picture with the Challenger in front of Mission San Juan Bautista but it wasn't happening with a school trip that was on site.





Rather than taking the modern alignment of US 101/CA 156 I took the San Juan Grade over the Gabilans which was the original alignment of US 101 until the early 1930s.  Surprisingly the concrete is somewhat serviceable shape in San Beninto County.  The first picture is the junction of Old Stage Road and the San Juan Grade, the El Camino Real actually used the former route.








At the Monterey County line the San Juan Grade is actually asphalted.  I stopped at the top of the pass to get a picture of the Challenger in front of Fremont Peak which is the highest in the Gabilan Range at 3,173 feet.






I took the San Juan Grade west to Crazy Horse Canyon Road.   There is some nice vistas of the old road grade descending into Salinas Valley.  Weird to think of the majority of traffic between Los Angeles and the Bay Area using this road.  The last picture shows a truck trying to use the San Juan Grade, suffice to say there wasn't enough room which required me staying on the dirt shoulder.








I jumped back on modern US 101/CA 156 and took CA 156 west towards Monterey Bay.







I took CA 156 all the way west to CA 1 and managed to get a picture of the CA 156 END which I missed on the CA 156 blog.





I pulled off on CA 218 which is pretty much where I ended the first day.  The next day I had way more "scenic" and potentially hazardous drives in mind.







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