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Califoooornia! (Interstate 10 west from CA 86 through Coachella Valley and San Gorgonio Pass to CA 60 in the Moreno Valley Badlands)

This past October I drove a segment of Interstate 10 west from CA 86 in Coachella Valley over San Gorgonio Pass to CA 60 on the outskirts of the Moreno Valley Badlands.


The route of I-10 between CA 86 west to CA 60 is approximately 52 miles in length and is located entirely within Riverside County.  I-10 between CA 86 and CA 60 traverses the notable terrain of the Coachella Vallewy in addition to San Gorgonio Pass before reaching the outskirts of the Moreno Valley Badlands near Beaumont.



Part 1; the history of highways between Coachella Valley and the Moreno Valley Badlands

Modernized transportation around Coachella Valley and San Gorgonio Pass dates back to the days of the Bradshaw Trail.  The Bradshaw Trail was a wagon road through the Sonoran Desert east to the Colorado River.  During the California Gold Rush the Bradshaw Trail was plotted through the Sonoran Desert by William D. Bradshaw.  The Bradshaw Trail was plotted in 1862 through the Sonoran Desert east over the Colorado River to a new mining strike found in La Paz, Arizona.  Bradshaw consulted the Cahuilla Tribe who advised him of the best route east of the Salton Sink between the Orocopia Mountains and Chocolate Mountains.   The Bradshaw Trail despite it's elongated path essentially was the forerunner of what would become modern I-10 from Palm Springs to the City of Blythe.  More information regarding the Bradshaw Trail and where to find it can be found on desertusa.com.

During the 1916 Second State Highway Bond Act Legislative Route 26 was added to the State Highway System as a route from San Bernardino southeast to El Centro.  LRN 26 was essentially a forerunner of what would become the earliest alignments of US Route 99.  The construction of LRN 26 included the notable 1923 Whitewater Bridge.  The 1924 Division of Highways State Map shows LRN 26 constructed and paved through much of Coachella Valley.



The 1924 Rand McNally Highway Map of California shows the Southern National Highway and the Atlantic & Pacific Highway crossing through Coachella Valley west to San Gorgonio Pass on LRN 26.


By late 1926 the US Route System was approved which led to US 99 being aligned over LRN 26 through Coachella Valley and San Gorgonio Pass.  In 1932 US 60 was extended into California which multiplexed US 99/LRN 26 from Mecca west to Beaumont.  US 99 and US 60 were joined by US 70 in 1934 when it was extended into California.   US 99/60/70 can be seen traversing Coachella Valley and San Gorgonio Pass on the 1935 Goshua Highway Map of California.  Originally US 70 split US 60 away from US 99 into the Moreno Valley Badlands near Beaumont.



US 60/US 70 originally entered Coachella Valley via Box Canyon Road/LRN 64 and met US 99 on LRN 26 in Coachella.  The 1934 Division of Highways Map of California shows US 60 for the first time.  US 60 is shown traversing Box Canyon on a newly graded Box Canyon Road west from Chiriaco Summit.  The new more direct planned route of LRN 64/US 60 from Chiriaco Summit west to Indio is also shown.


A September 1934 Department of Public Works Guide describes the construction of what was known as the "Indio Cut-Off" route of US 60 bypassing Box Canyon Road.  Chiraco Summit at the time was referred to has "Shaver's Summit" and the Guide states that Box Canyon Road was oiled in 1933.  The Indio Cut-Off is described as having a 6.3% grade and an anticipated opening of July 1935.






The July 1935 Department of Public Works Guide has a story on US 60 being rerouted onto the spur of LRN 64 on the Indio Cut-Off.   The Indio Cut-Off is stated as being completed on June 15th, 1935 and having a saving of 9 miles over the Box Canyon Road spur of LRN 64.  Some of the infamous washouts on Box Canyon Road are illustrated in photo form.




The 1935 Goshua Highway Map of California illustrates that US 60/70 were rerouted off Box Canyon Road onto the Indio Cut-Off to US 99 in Indio via Dillon Road.  To the east the initial 1934 route of CA 195 along the Colorado River can be seen.


None of the Department of Public Works Guides make it clear where US 70 was located when the new route through the Moreno Valley Badlands was being constructed.  By 1938 US 70 was moved off the shared alignment of US 60/LRN 19 through the Moreno Valley Badlands onto a multiplex of US 99 west of Beaumont.  The new alignments of US 60 and US 70 can be seen on the 1938 Division of Highways State Map.


As the 1930s and 1940s progressed traffic increased on US 99/60/70.  In the 1950s much of LRN 26 and US 99/60/70 in Coachella Valley was upgraded to an expressway more in line with the present alignment of I-10.  The July/August 1954 Department of Public Works Guide discusses the progress of building US 99/60/70 in Coachella Valley to an expressway.  On Page 57 the newly completed replacement spans over the Whitewater River are shown.






As a point of comparison; the 1954 route of US 99/60/70 was aligned more directly in an east/west orientation over the Whitewater Bridge compared to the 1923 Whitewater Bridge.  The original alignment of US 99/60/70 compared to modern I-10 can be observed below.


In June 1956 the Federal Aid Highway Act was passed which put US 99/60/70 in Coachella Valley west over San Gorgonio Pass on the planned route of Interstate 10.  By 1957 the route of US 99/60/70 in Coachella Valley was an expressway west of Thousand Palms to Beaumont.  US 99/60/70 at the time was still aligned on Indio Boulevard and Dillon Road.  This alignment of US 99/60/70 between Indio west to Beaumont can be seen on the 1957 Division of Highways State Map.


The 1961 Division of Highways Map is the first edition to show US 99/60/70 as an expressway between Indio and Thousand Palms.


During 1964 State Highway Renumbering US 99 was truncated to Los Angeles and US 70 was removed from California.  Consequently US 60 was the only remaining US Route between Indio west to Beaumont which was Legislatively renumbered to I-10.  These changes can be seen on the 1964 Division of Highways State Map.


The 1965 Division of Highways Map displays the Indio Cut-Off mostly expanded to a freeway grade east of Indio.  I-10 shields appear on the map co-signed with US 60.


The planned I-10 freeway bypass of Indio first appears on the 1966 Division of Highways Map.


The 1969 Division of Highways Map is the first to show US 60 removed from California.  I-10 is still shown using a temporary alignment through Indio via Dillon Road and Indio Boulevard.


The 1975 Caltrans State Highway Map is the first edition to show I-10 bypassing Dillon Road and Indio Boulevard.



Part 2; a drive on I-10 from CA 86 west to CA 60

My approach to I-10 westbound from the CA 86 expressway northbound near Indio of Coachella Valley.  CA 86 northbound merges into I-10 westbound from the left hand lanes.


I-10 west enters the City of Indio; Exit 144 accesses Golf Center Parkway.



Exit 143 on I-10 westbound in Indio accesses Jackson Street.



Exit 142 on I-10 westbound in Indio accesses Monroe Street.



Los Angeles is signed as 124 miles from Monroe Street on I-10 west.


Exit 139 on I-10 westbound in Indio accesses Jefferson Street and Indio Boulevard.






I-10 westbound enters the outskirts of Palm Desert and Exit 137 accesses Washington Street.







Exit 134 on I-10 west accesses Cook Street.



I-10 Exit 131 accesses Monterey Street and College of the Desert.



I-10 westbound skirts the edges of Thousand Palms approaching Exit 130 for Bob Hope Drive.  Exit 130 is signed as access to Cathedral City and the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation.






I-10 westbound passes through the City Limits of Cathedral City.  Exit 126 accesses Date Palm Drive.





I-10 west Exit 123 accesses Gene Autry Trial and Palm Drive.  Palm Drive directly accesses Desert Hot Springs whereas Gene Autry Trail connects to Palm Springs.




I-10 west passes through North Palm Springs and enters Palm Springs proper at Exit 120 for Indian Canyon Drive.  Indian Canyon Drive is signed as access to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.







I-10 westbound begins to enter San Gorgonio Pass which is obvious from the San Gorgonio Pass Windmill Farm.  The San Gorgonio Pass Windmill Farm has 3,218 active windmill units which are sometimes referred to locally as the "Windmill Graveyard."  San Gorgonio Pass is located at approximately 2,600 feet above sea level in the gap between the San Jacinto Mountains and San Gorgonio Mountains.  Much like Cajon Pass the geology of Cajon Pass is tied to the San Andreas Fault.  I-10 westbound Exit 117 accesses CA 62 which is signed as a route to Joshua Tree National Park.









I-10 westbound Exit 114 accesses former US 99/60/70 on the 1923 Whitewater Bridge via Whitewater Cutoff.







Interestingly Exit 113 on I-10 west is weirdly signed for a Rest Area.





CA 111 westbound traffic merges into I-10 west.  I-10 westbound Exit 110 accesses Haugen-Lehmann Way.





I-10 westbound Exit 106 accesses Cabazon and the namesake Cabazon Dinosaurs.






Some may be wondering why I chose a dinosaur as a cover for a blog about I-10.  For me its hard to divorce I-10 through San Gorgonio Pass with the Cabazon Dinosaurs due to their somewhat infamous presence in popular culture.  The Cabazon Dinosaurs are located on Seminole Drive at the location of the Wheel House Restaurant which commissioned them.  The Brontosaurs is known as "Dinny" and was constructed between 1964 through 1975.  The T-Rex is known as "Mr. Rex" and was constructed between 1981 through 1986.  Despite the Wheel House Restaurant closing in 2013 the Cabazon Dinosaurs remain as an easily accessible road side attraction.








The Cabazon Dinosaurs have appeared in several 1980s movies.  One of the most notable is the "Andy!" scene from the 1985 film Pee-wee's Big Adventure.  In the scene Pee-wee Herman is assailed by a lumber jack type figure known as Andy.


In a more campy appearance the Cabazon Dinosaurs appeared at the end of the 1989 film The Wizard.


Interestingly the scene in The Wizard has numerous road inaccuracies.  If I recall correctly the "ending" of The Wizard was supposed to be a driving scene where the two vehicles are traveling north to Utah from Los Angeles.  That begs a pretty big question as to why would anyone be traveling on I-10 eastbound through San Gorgonio Pass if their destination was in Utah?...were they taking a side trip to Joshua Tree National Park or something?   Both vehicles pull into the Cabazon Dinosaurs from what appears to be Seminole Drive but yet somehow they are facing west when they slow down to park.  Of course were talking about a movie where the main protagonist and his girlfriend (who was trying run away to Reno?) use their disabled brother (with unspecified disorder) who can only say "California!" to win a Nintendo tournament at Universal Studios. 

Apparently the Cabazon Dinosaurs are even in the hands of anti-evolution proponents these days to make things even more weird.  Nonetheless it's hard to not think of Cabazon Dinosaurs without hearing screams of "Andy!" or an exaggerated "California!" 


Of note; the original alignment of US 99/60/70 through Cabazon was on Main Street.  Returning to I-10 west Exit 104 accesses Morongo Trail in Cabazon.




From Cabazon I-10 west is signed as 87 miles from Los Angeles.


I-10 west Exit 103 accesses Malki Road.





I-10 west enters the City of Banning and passes by a truck scale.



The original alignment of US 99/60/70 in Banning is on Ramsey Street.  Ramsey Street is accessible from I-10 west Exit 102.



I-10 west Exit 101 accesses Hargrave Street.



I-10 west Exit 100 accesses CA 243 at 8th Street.




I-10 west Exit 99 accesses 22nd Street.


Exit 98 on I-10 west accesses Sunset Avenue.



I-10 west enters the City of Beaumont and accesses Highland Springs Avenue at Exit 96.  US 99/60/70 originally utilized 6th Street through Beaumont with the split for US 60/70 coming at 8th Street towards Jackrabbit Trail.




Exit 95 on I-10 west accesses Pennsylvania Avenue.





I-10 west Exit 94 accesses CA 79 on Beaumont Avenue.




I-10 west Exit 93 is the split point for CA 60 onto the Moreno Valley Freeway in the Moreno Valley Badlands.  Given CA 60 is far more interesting than I-10 west of Beaumont I opted to follow it to I-215.





Of note; the split on I-10 west for CA 60 west has an overhead sign which conceals probably the last US 60 shield left in California.


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