Monday, October 21, 2013

US 101, 102 Years Ago: The El Camino Real

From the Caltrans Digital Collections:

Four Studebaker-EMF automobiles with their drivers and passengers parked in front of the San Buenaventura Mission in Ventura, CA 1912.
The Pasear Tour was organized as part of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. Anticipating the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914, in 1911 the United States Congress decided the best way to celebrate would be to hold a world fair, and designated San Francisco as the host city for this exposition. There was an immediate flood of inquiries from all over the country, as to how to best see California by motor car. The Inyo County Good Roads Club proposed that a statewide tourist route be mapped.

El Camino Real Bell Map
The Inyo County Good Roads Club proposed that a statewide tourist route be mapped, called the Pasear Tour, that would "present to the tourist the sublimity of the ocean, the desolation of the desert, the grandeur of the Sierras, and the fertility of the valleys." The route would cover three of the principal roads: El Camino Real (San Francisco to San Diego); El Camino Sierra (Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe); and El Camino Capital (Lake Tahoe to San Francisco). The Inyo proposal received support and sponsorship from the American Automobile Association, California Governor Hiram Johnson, the Studebaker Corporation and the California Highway Commission, among others.

The motorists consisted of Inyo Good Roads Club members, sponsor representatives and newspaper correspondents. The McCurry Foto Company went along with the caravan of Studebaker E-M-F automobiles and documented the journey in photographs. The tourists embarked from the Palace Hotel in San Francisco on June 10, 1912 and followed El Camino Real south (roughly current US 101/Interstate 5 routes) through Los Angeles to San Diego/Tijuana and then back to Los Angeles. The caravan then took the El Camino Sierra route (now roughly Highways 99 and 395), through the desert country and north up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada to Lake Tahoe. The tour then pursued the El Camino Capital route (now US 50/Interstate 80), completing the 2,000 mile loop at the Palace Hotel on July 9, 1912.