Joyrides Around San Diego

Jack’s latest book is a No. 1 Best Seller on Its 10 drives will take you on the back roads and beautiful byways of San Diego County. A perfect companion for a San Diego day trip staycation. Read more.

Buy online from
Buy online from Also available at some Barnes and Noble stores. Best Sellers by Jack Brandais

Jack's titles in Amazon Top 100.
Jack’s titles in Amazon Top 100 on July 2, 2017.

Joyrides Around San Diego was the No. 1 Best Seller in San Diego Travel category from December 25-30, 2016. It was named an Hot New Release 24 hours after its publishing on October 27, 2016. It returned to the No. 1 spot on on July 1, 2017.

Spectacular Sunrise, the trip over Sunrise Highway was an Amazon Hot New Release in the San Diego Travel category starting 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.

New Releases

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.

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.

Individual Drives on Amazon Kindle

Joyrides around Southern California. Map courtesy Google.
Joyrides around Southern California. Map courtesy Google.
  • 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.
  • 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

Weekend Driver San Diego

The 2003 book of columns from The San Diego Union-Tribune. It’s out of print, but you can sometimes find copies on

Driving Companions

If you’re a serious road enthusiast, check out these titles.


I can certainly describe driving experiences, but a few TV programs really capture the experience of a road trip. And it’s not easy to do. There’s a lot of boring crud on the tube from people who know how to drive and take pictures, but not put together television programs. It’s not the same, folks. Here are a couple of the best; e-mail me with your suggestions.

  • Alton Brown’s FeastiFeasting on Asphalt: The River Runng on Asphalt: The Food Network star too two excellent drives across country, east to west in the First Season, and south to north in the second season, The River Run (plus the book, which includes recipes). Far from a cooking show, Alton takes viewers through all the exploring, fun and fears that go with a true, wandering road trip. Brown and his video crew take off on motorcycles, with all the associated hazards. For example, in the first season, he has an accident near Las Vegas and breaks his collarbone. When you watch the first season’s extras disc, turn on the commentary for some interesting thoughts from the always talkative Brown. And in the second season, he starts at the tip of Louisiana, where I visited in my Natchez Trace trip. He also stops in at a Maid-Rite cafe in Iowa; not the one I visited, but one of the others that remains of this obscure chain (see my comments on Maid Rite’s revival). Click on the links to find out more and buy.
  • Rick Sebak’s A Ride Along the Lincoln Highway: An outstanding show that picks up just enough of the history, people and scenery of this pioneering transcontinental span. Sebak’s show is lively and interesting, with excellent pictures and good interviews.

The Bill Swank Collection

San Diego’s baseball historian, Bill Swank, has a swell collection of titles. I’m a die-hard Padres fan and also, as you might have guessed, a San Diego history buff. My old friend Bill has dug through his huge personal collection and shared a few goodies with us. Go to Bill’s page on to find more.

  • Baseball in San Diego: From the Plaza to the Padres: A neat collection of historic photos from nearly a century of America’s pastime in the city.
  • Echoes from Lane Field: Fascinating history of the Pacific Coast League Padres.
  • Gold Leather Helmets, Black Hightop Shoes: Baseball isn’t the only thing covered and it’s all about Bill’s high school, Mission Bay High in San Diego.
  • Bob Chandler’s Tales from the San Diego Padres Former Padres announcer needed a solid writer and baseball guy to help write his memoir. Bill was the guy.

Other Books

Auto History

Frankly, I find the boardroom history of the car companies fascinating. Big business, big decisions, big men, big bucks, big successes and big failures. Here are some of my favorite auto business books.

  • Engines of Change by Paul Ingrassia picks 15 cars, trucks and SUVs to illustrate the changing American scene since the advent of the automobile. A fun and quick read.
  • Taken For A Ride: How Daimler-Benz Drove Off With Chrysler, by Bill Vlasic and Bradley A. Stertz. Here’s a contemporary story of auto industry intrigue. Vlasic and Stertz, veteran auto industry writers, paint a breezy tale about how an American industrial icon was taken over by a German industrial icon… and why Chrysler was surprised. Especially relevant now that Chrysler and GM have since been through bankruptcy and Chrysler is now an arm of Fiat.
  • Disaster in Dearborn: The Story of the Edsel, by Thomas E. Bonsall. Whether you’re a car history nut or business professor, this well-written and documented book talks about the culture at the car companies during the 1950s, how the Edsel came to be… and not to be.
  • The Fall of the Packard Motor Car Company, by James A. Ward, and More Than They Promised: The Studebaker Story, by Thomas E. Bonsall. Really these are companion books, since Studebaker and Packard ultimately went down together. The inside-the-boardroom intrigues are fascinating.
  • Kaiser-Frazer: The Last Onslaught On Detroit, By Richard M. Langworth. Anything that Richard Langworth writes is great, and this hard-to-find book is no exception. Another auto industry business story with an unhappy ending. It’s subtitled “An Intimate Behind the Scenes Study of the Postwar American Car Industry,” which was an amazing time of huge companies getting more huge and small companies disappearing. Find out why one disappeared.
  • Glory Days: When Horsepower and Passion Ruled Detroit, by Jim Wangers. It’s a breezy look at the good old days when cars were fast and the admen were faster. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to meet Jim Wangers, you’ll hear his fast voice throughout this book… it’s like having a conversation with him.