I’m standing in the parking lot of the the old Kelso, Calif., train station last week and a beat up old Toyota Camry approaches.

It late afternoon and still hot, a bit over 100 degrees. The Camry’s windows are all rolled down and two young women are in the car.

“Is this San Diego?” I swear the passenger asked me. They looked like young college students on a road trip. “Our GPS doesn’t work.”

I should say. No, Kelso isn’t San Diego. We’re in the middle of the Mojave Desert.  It’s about 280 miles, 4 hours, away.

Aside from the old train station, now the visitor center for the Mojave National Preserve, active railroad tracks and some Union Pacific Railroad buildings, there’s nothing but sand that’s similar to my hometown.

I give them the easy way to the 280 miles to San Diego… south on Kelbaker Road, right at Interstate 40, left at Interstate 15. When Interstate 15 ends, you’re in San Diego.

They smile and drive off.

For our intrepid ladies, they probably left Las Vegas and found I-15 backed up, as usual. They saw several cars exiting and think, “hey, maybe they know a shortcut.”

One of the routes from Las Vegas to San Diego provided by Google Maps cuts through the Mojave National Preserve, down Morning Star Mine Road and Kelso Cima Road, right to the old Kelso train station.

But, they hadn’t programmed the route on Google Maps before leaving, Because Google Maps and others working on smart phones download maps as they go along, it ran out of maps somewhere in the desert. It doesn’t download every map in the country, only what it thinks it needs at that time.

I was surprised to see how much traffic was going by the train station, then down Kelbaker Road to I-40. I know I-15 can be a parking lot at times, but this is a really lonely road in the middle of nowhere.

All of a sudden, you’re in the middle of nowhere, asking some guy with a camera if you’re in San Diego. Of course, the young women will have a great story to tell about their joyride. And that’s not so bad.


  1. I have enjoyed you articles, I have driven many of the routes that you talk about, your story about Morena Blvd was interesting and prompted me got out some of the map that we have in the Library. I found a number of maps that I think you would enjoy seeing. We have a map from Motor Age of National Highway of the US from 1917 and others of San Diego from the 1940’s. The Automotive Research Library of the Horseless Carriage Foundation, 8186 Center Street, Suite F, La Mesa CA 91942. Phone 619-464-0301, “Mac”

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