Those headed to thoroughbred racing the next couple of months in Del Mar, Calif., might save some time and aggravation by using the old Coast Highway rather than Interstate 5. Drivers are generally in a hurry to get to the track, what with their wallet bulging with cash; sometimes less eager to get home once that wallet is empty, or happy to stop off and celebrate if the wallet is even thicker.

The track opened in 1937, a project fronted by crooner Bing Crosby and his pals from Hollywood. It started out as a vacation playland for the rich and famous; to some extent it remains that today. Then, you might have cruised down the coast from Los Angeles in your Deusenberg, using U.S. 101, today’s Coast Highway. You also might have taken one of Santa Fe’s racing specials ($6.95 from LA round trip, including admission to the track), which pulled into a special spur just behind the grandstand, or flown into the Del Mar airport (the what?).

Old Del Mar postcard.
Old Del Mar postcard.

Anyhow, if you’re headed south to the track, consider exiting at Oceanside and following the route in my Quintessential California Kindle book. It’s just $2.99, so it won’t make much of a dent in your wagering for the day. Or, download it on your way out of the track, then take the more relaxing route back north.

If you, like me, go to Del Mar from San Diego, consider exiting I-5 at Genesee Avenue, then heading west and north to Torrey Pines Road. It’s the old 101 and will take you to Coast Highway in Del Mar. The Torrey Pines beach area is absolutely beautiful; it’s especially beautiful if you’re headed south again after racing with an empty wallet. There’s no charge to look at the view, and you’ll get a great San Diego day trip to salvage your staycation.


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