From the mailbag…

Hi Jack… a few years ago we took one of your days trips through the back country, past a lama farm, Mother McCreary’s exit road and ending at Sycuan Casino.

It was a great day, but sadly, I no longer have the article and we would like to take the trip again this weekend…

Anyway you can email the directions???  I would realllllly appreciate it..

Best regards,

Well, Rosemary, that’s Who’s Mother Grundy and it’s right here at Have a great trip and watch out for those llamas.

Here’s an email from reader Bryan:

I just bought a 2012 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCrew 4X2 with EcoBoost and I would like to take it out and venture off the “Path”.  Can you recommend some articles or trips you have taken where the terrain was more rugged, but 4X4 was not a must. I have the optional electronic locking rear axel, and am pretty comfortable driving off-road (although I would consinder myself to be a novice).  I would like to explore, but don’t want to get myself into trouble without the 4X4.  Any recommendations would be greatly apprieciated.
New Truck Owner


Congrats on your new truck! Any of the desert drives would work for you; the most recent drive is the “Train Stop to History” story that just ran this month. The Dirt Drives category also has a variety of terrain choices; most aren’t the Rubicon rock-crawler type.
One thing you’ll have to watch out for with the F-150 is its width. Some of the trails are going to have brush on the sides and you may end up with “Arizona Pinstripes,” scratches on your new paint.
Have fun and let me know if you take any of my trips!

Dear Jack:

Loved your rundown on Fort Hunter Liggett. Brings back lots of memories; I ran the Santa Lucia Recreation Center there way back when. Now my god-daughter’s husband works there. Plan to stay at the Hacienda one day soon.

Thanks for all the interesting facts.


Maureen: You’ve got to visit. It’s one of the most unique places in California and that says a lot!

Back to the e-mail…

Dear Jack,

My wife and I greatly appreciate your occasional series Weekend Drive in the San Diego Union. I’ve spotted and collected four of them in the last year, and the each of the three we’ve done has been a joy and revelation.

I first spotted the Black Canyon trip about a year ago, and it inspired not only the drive described, but also a side trip with my son along the Santa Ysabel and Black Mountain truck trails, culminating in a hike to Black Mountain Lookout. A wonderful trip, although better done earlier than our June trip, when it must have been nearly 100F! Probably best advised only for the 4wd crowd though.

More recently we did your Japatul and Back door to the Lagunas trips and enjoyed them both immensely. Yesterday we did the Back door to the Lagunas, stopping for a hike to Garnet Peak from the Penny Pines trailhead, then on down Kitchen Creek road to 8, then retracing the Japatul trip in reverse on the way home. I’m looking forward to your Borrego Byways trip the next chance we get.


Hi, John. Hope you’ve found all the columns here at!

More from the mailbag…


Thanks for the several weekend trips you have written for “Wheels” in the sdo union-trib. We have been taking them during the week, since we are now retired.

Your selection and notes of things to watch for are much appreciated. The printed format, with photos and the “Loop De Luz” box which we used today, with exact details, is most helpful. Next week we try Japatul Valley trip.

Know your research and writing are appreciated.

Ed, Mission Beach

Ed: Watch out for those curves on Japatul Valley Road!

More from the mailbag…. Ben in La Mesa writes…

Hi Mr. Brandais,

We retired here from Cleveland, Ohio 8 years ago.

We have used your various stories to guide us to back-country and out-of-the-way places to have a better knowledge of the area.

We will be taking your proposed trip through Viejas and on to Laguna the first Wednesday we have free.

We try to visit some place or go see something special every Wednesday and have had great fun going on your proposed trips.

The most recent excursion was the one you laid out on RT 56 through Rancho Santa Fe, past the Crosby Golf Course and we lunched at Hernandez Hideaway and had a great fun day.

We have a Chevy Van which handles the back roads real well, BUT then, we never HURRY and frequently pull off and let hurried locals whiz by. Keep covering, and perhaps even repeating, day trips like you have in the past.

We really enjoy them.

Thanks……… Ben in La Mesa

Thanks Ben. Keep cruisin’ in that van.

Back to the letters. Ralph writes…


I have a Corvette and I love taking the top off and taking your “Road Trips”. I have taken almost all of the ones… but I lost one of the articles from the UT!

You had a road trip that went off of the 76 towards Fallbrook, and went by a cool stream on part of the Indian Reservation. Is there any way you could get me this info so I can also take that road trip?

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Ralph, that’s probably Wilderness Gardens County Park, which is just east of the Pala Casino on SR-76. It might even have water in it this time of year (spring), since we’ve had close to average rainfall. It’s part of Drive 9 in Weekend Driver San Diego and included on this video I did with Channel 10.

Another place with a cool stream is Black Canyon Road, but I wouldn’t take the Corvette there since it’s all dirt. Black Canyon Road is Drive 7 in Weekend Driver San Diego; I’m revisiting it later this month in the next column, which will be posted April 20. So, if you have an SUV in the garage next to that Corvette, give it some exercise on an easy dirt road.


I just got home from going on the drive that you described through Santa Ysabel and Mesa Grande Road. I have to say that it was AMAZING!

I am writing you to thank you for giving such clear directions and sharing your experience. I wish you would’ve mentioned the presence of law enforcement because I definitely had some close calls with my radar detector. Anyway, I’m also wondering if you have any other suggestions for roads similar to mesa grande.

Also, I’d like to make a trip out towards the desert for some rally type driving (I own a Subaru WRX). You know any good drives through the desert? I’d love to hear back from you.


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Hi, Thomas. Watch out for those bears and smokeys in the mountains. Headed out to desert, take Montezuma Valley Road (see the Desert Daze story, one of the trips in Weekend Driver San Diego), but don’t go flying off the curves; you might hit an endangered Big Horn Sheep.

Here’s an e-mail from another road addict who has much better toys that I have.

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Thanks for the on-line newsletter. I want my book signed too.

I’ve been a fan of your for a while. I’m a car enthusiast first and foremost. Well, not just cars. Anything with wheels or wings. You motivate me to get out and use my gear.

I was born in Detroit and the driving bug hit me early. We like to drive many of the same things as you. My daily driver is a Nissan 350Z roadster, comparable to your Miata (Miata’s won’t carry my golf clubs, except in the front seat). I also off-road in a Jeep Wrangler. Two years ago I got back into motorcycle riding, this time on a Honda ST1300. I leave home in my Lazy Daze motor home, pulling the Jeep. My wife drives a Maxima, the four-door sports car. To get somewhere in a hurry, I fly a 66 Piper Cherokee (wanna get high with me?). I ride bicycles, on and off road, and there’s a golf cart somewhere.

So we could be brothers with different Mothers, we have so much in common.

I like driving so much, I made a career of looking for fault in other drivers, pulling them over, and signing them up for a “violators club”. Made ’em sign documents “not as an admission of guilt, but as a promise to appear at the date and place checked below”. I prayed for a high speed pursuit, just to prove my superior driving skills!!

So I’m a groupie of yours. Don’t let that scare you. Print guys don’t get any feedback, I assume. Not like the talking heads on TV.

But, I admit I get lost a lot on the back roads. So now you offer GPS navigation. I have a unit in EVERY vehicle I own, even the motorcycle and airplane…..I need it just to get home sometimes.

So keep up the work (I have to assume you have a day job, too) in these bad
times. Folks like me look forward to your work. If you need a driver or passenger, or GPS tester, I’m OFF THAT DAY! Or a cup of coffee and conversation. And you have to sign my book.


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Thanks, Bruce, and see you on the road!