A friend who’s relatively new to San Diego and has a Mini Cooper Hardtop but has never explored our great back roads, even though he owns a car that’s perfect for exploring back roads.

What a shame.

He’s like many people I’ve met… they seem almost afraid to get off the freeway.

So, on this Labor Day Weekend, here are five short trips that start an hour or less from central San Diego, meaning you can drive up for lunch and be back home for dinner. And, by the way, they’re all in Joyrides Around San Diego in both print and Kindle, plus each drive is available individually on Kindle.

  • Rancho Santa Fe: Just off of Interstate 5 is one of the wealthiest suburbs in the world, the estate-filled Rancho Santa Fe. Even if you don’t care about history or celebrities (residents have been or are names ranging from Bill Gates to Bing Crosby), it’s a beautiful area, with a quaint downtown and a rambling, historic hotel. Interstate 5 to Via de la Valle; follow the signs east to Rancho Santa Fe. Get Kindle book.
  • Descanso and Pine Valley: In the southeastern corner of San Diego County, get off of Interstate 8 onto its predecessor highway, Old Highway 80. The little mountain towns from Descanso to Pine Valley are not much more than settlements, but there are a few shops, restaurants and other attractions along the way. Interstate 8 east from San Diego; exit at Highway 79 or Sunrise Highway. This part of Old Highway 80 runs between Descanso and Pine Valley. Get Kindle book.
  • Oceanside Harbor and Beach: The quaint yacht harbor in Oceanside has restaurants, boat rides, fishing and other activities for the whole family. It’s adjacent to the beach, which runs south for several miles. Check out the Oceanside Pier, which is south of the harbor. Interstate 5 to Oceanside Harbor Drive. Get Kindle book.
  • Pala: This small town has been home to Native Americans and Mission San Antonio de Pala for just over two centuries. It’s the only California mission—actually an asistencia (sub-mission)—still serving its original Native American tribe, the Pala Band of Mission Indians. With a rustic general store and cafe, plus the mission open for tours, it’s a real throwback to the 19th century. Then you can drive across the road to the huge, 21st century Pala Casino. Interstate 15 to Pala Road/Highway 76, east to the town of Pala. Get Kindle book.
  • Classic Cars: The Deer Park Winery and Auto Museum is a hidden gem if you like old convertibles and wine. Collected by the late Robert Knapp and now operated by his kids, the museum has three buildings full of restored cars and other memorabilia. It’s just north of the (Lawrence) Welk Resort off of Interstate 15 north of Escondido. Get Kindle book.

Just do me a favor and get out of town at least one day this weekend.


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