What’s a joyride?

It’s a trip that any driving enthusiast would take a detour to experience… just because it’s there.

This website, the new Joyrides Around San Diego, ebooks in the Joyride Guru® series, columns since 2000 in The San Diego Union-Tribune, and the 2003 book Weekend Driver San Diego, take you to the best back roads in San Diego County, Southern California and nearby areas of northern Baja California. Day trips in this region are just about the best anywhere.

Author Jack Brandais has been driving on these roads since he was a kid, when his parents would take him on Sunday drives. He’s actually a third-generation road fan, as his grandmother — a pioneer driving enthusiast — first explored these roads back in the 1920s. They’re all great day trips… sometimes a long day trip if you decide to explore.

Fording a stream along Boulder Creek Road.
Fording a stream along Boulder Creek Road.

In 2015, he began publishing individual drives as e-books, available through the Amazon Kindle store. For locals and visitors alike, they’re guided day trips around San Diego County and Southern California roads. He’s included photos and text on what you’ll see along the way, history and trivia about the roads, a few places stop and other goodies to make your journey fun.

Best Sellers

Joyrides Around San Diego was the No. 1 Best Seller in San Diego Travel category on December 25, 2016. It was named an Amazon.com Hot New Release 24 hours after its publishing on October 27, 2016.

Spectacular Sunrise, the trip over Sunrise Highway was an Amazon Hot New Release in the San Diego Travel category on December 25, 2016.

Off-the-Grid Journey, a trip through the Blair and Little Blair valleys in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, has been a No. 1 Best Seller in Amazon’s 15-minute Travel Short Reads category.


Joyrides Around San Diego

The long-awaited and long-requested print version of the popular Kindle books, Joyrides Around San Diego, is now on sale. Containing ten drives around San Diego, it’s an updated and properly formatted print version of my Amazon Kindle drives that have been popping up since March 2015.

The drives take readers on back roads around San Diego County—from the beach to the Borrego desert badlands, from Old Highway 80 on the U.S.-Mexico border to Palomar Mountain. They’re perfect for your next San Diego day trip.

Individual Drives on Amazon Kindle

Map of Joyride Guru trips around Southern California.
Map of Joyride Guru trips around Southern California.

Joyride Guru® locations around Southern California

  • Beautiful Badlands: Drive from the ocean to the desert, through the city, mountains, and the desert town of Borrego Springs, ending at Fonts Point for spectacular views of San Diego County’s unique ecosystem.
  • Crazy Couser: Scary curves make inland North County run one of San Diego’s best. It’s a twisting, curving 20-mile route that parallels Interstate 15 from just outside Escondido north to Pala Road. It requires careful and attentive driving along roads that are narrow with blind driveways and hairpin curves. There are frequent stretches where the road has little or no shoulder, as well as encroachment by everything from trees to boulders to guardrails.
  • Curves, Dirt and Cuyamaca: Enjoy a 45-mile loop in the central portion of the Laguna Mountains in eastern San Diego County through natural open space and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Includes challenging curves on SR-79 through Cuyamaca, 18 miles of public, unpaved road; all-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive recommended. It’s a must for anyone who lives or visits San Diego County.
A busy day in Julian, Calif.
A busy day in Julian.
  • Jaunt to Julian: The classic San Diego day trip is the drive to Julian, elevation 4,200 feet. Generations have enjoyed this former gold-mining town’s old-time charm and character, as well as its apple pie. The area also has some of the most enjoyable roads in the region.
  • Journey to the Stars: Wander up Palomar Mountain in northern San Diego County via two twisting paved roads or a historic dirt byway. Route passes a historic mission, an open-space park, agricultural areas, and casinos.
  • Mulholland, Mountains and Malibu: The first Joyride Guru® trip outside of San Diego County, it’s located north of Malibu, Calif. in western Los Angeles County. Just 35 minutes northwest of downtown Los Angeles, the area is famous with motorcyclists and gear-heads worldwide. This route through the Santa Monica Mountains has challenging, twisting roads, movie history, hiking trails, and spectacular views on the way over the 3,000-foot mountains from Agoura Hills to Malibu. Visit Mulholland Highway, Rock Store, The Snake, and the Pacific Coast Highway.
  • Off the Grid Journey: Take a trip on an easy, off-pavement drive on the western edge of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, good for off-road novices with all-wheel-drive vehicles. Spectacular desert vistas along 8-mile driving route in sand.
  • Quintessential California: Get off of Interstate 5 and enjoy a drive through the coastal communities of Oceanside, Carlsbad, Leucadia, Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Solana Beach, Del Mar, and Torrey Pines. It’s been thrilling drivers since before there were automobiles.
  • Roads of the Ranch: Explore the exclusive enclave of Rancho Santa Fe, where you’ll find twisting, tree-lined roads alongside eight-figure estates in one of the nation’s wealthiest zip codes. The quaint town center is ripe for exploring and it’s a destination about a half-hour from most of San Diego County’s population centers.
  • Spectacular Sunrise: A wistful-sounding exit off of Interstate 8 in eastern San Diego County, Sunrise Highway wanders across the summit of the Laguna Mountains. While there are a few hairpin turns, it’s mostly a pleasant cruise through the Cleveland National Forest and portions of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park that stretch to the mountain tops. An Amazon.com Hot New Release on December 25, 2016.
  • Towering Old Highway: The well-preserved former U.S. 80 in eastern San Diego County has all the charms of driving on an old country highway. Generally devoid of traffic, it has gentle curves with spectacular vistas in terrain ranging from high desert to mountain pines to California coastal hills. Desert View Tower is a must-see that isn’t like anything on Route 66.
The Desert View Tower.
The Desert View Tower.

“These drives include written directions that come in handy as some of the places you’ll visit are out of cell range,” said Brandais. “It’s nice to get away from everything, but it helps to be able to return.”

To find out more on the Joyride Guru® books, visit Jack’s author page at Amazon.com.

Joyride Guru in Westways Magazine
Joyride Guru in Westways Magazine

Reviews are in on the Joyride Guru® series

  • “Not sure where to go for your next Sunday drive? Jack Brandais has some ideas. He’s a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune who has been writing for years about the kids of back roads that bring smiles to the faces of enthusiasts.” Paul Zieke, Westways Magazine, Automobile Club of Southern California
  • “I think this is a fantastic idea. So you’re out with the family, or you just want to try something for one day on the weekend, you can download one of your drives and it tells you all about where to go and what to do.” — Megan Tevrizian, NBC 7 San Diego
Me on NBC7
Me on NBC 7.
  • “These are some places that a lot of people may not know about, even if you’ve lived in the county for years.” — Greg Bledsoe, NBC 7 San Diego
  • “You know how to explore what’s going on around here in San Diego County.This is like the old days when you used to pack the family up, get the station wagon and go for a day trip someplace, maybe buy the kids some ice cream or Kool Aid or something.” — Paul Bloom, Fox 5 San Diego
Paul Bloom takes a ride in the Miata
Paul Bloom takes a ride in the Miata on Fox 5 San Diego.
  • “You really give us a history, all these nuggets of information on these different stops all throughout San Diego County. … I love this idea, Jack. My husband and I being new to San Diego, my husband and I love totake drives. We drove through Del Mar yesterday; this is right up our alley.” — Elizabeth Alvarez, KUSI-TV
  • “Congratulations on 15 years, Jack. And for keeping it safe and sane for our readers on your drive routes.” — Mark Maynard, San Diego Union-Tribune
  • “An invaluable tool because we have so many military thatcome to this city, and the first thing they do is… they go get a bite, but they really don’t know where to go. This is such an amazing tool,especially for people who are not familiar with the San Diego area, who want to go for a day ride” — Melody Bennett, Green Machine Radio, KCBQ-AM
  • “He covers all regions of San Diego, and goes into beautiful detail about the ride itself, the turns of the road, the views from the car window. They’re for driving enthusiasts with some time to spare.” — San Diego Jewish Journal

About the Author

A second-generation San Diegan, author Jack Brandais has been riding or driving on these roads since he was a kid and has just published his first print book in the new Joyride Guru® series, which debuted as individual drives in the Amazon Kindle format in March 2015.

Since 2000, he’s been the award-winning Weekend Driver columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune.  His first book, Weekend Driver San Diego was published in 2003 (Sunbelt Publications [November 21, 2003], ISBN-10: 0932653634, ISBN-13: 978-0932653635).

Jack has traveled throughout the United States to some locations far off the beaten track. His travel stories from around the nation are part of this award winning website.

He is currently an award-winning freelance writer, photographer, Emmy-nominated video producer, and graphic designer. Jack has also worked at the San Diego Unified School District, the City of San Diego, and Federal Emergency Management Agency. As a journalist, his newspaper stops included the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Foster’s Daily Democrat of Dover, NH.

He is a graduate of San Diego State University.

Updates to Weekend Driver San Diego

As with any book, there are a few things that change after publication (December 2003). Here are updates to Weekend Driver San Diego

  • The Coyote Country Cafe in Crest has closed.
  • The telephone number for the Descanso Junction Cafe has a new owner and new telephone number, (619) 659-2199.
  • The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum is the former San Diego Railroad Museum in Campo.
  • Gates to the trails in Drive 8 are now closed: See update.

If you see any other items in the book that need to be corrected, please contact Jack.