Escape Southern California – Part 2, by Eastern Sierra Sage

(Continued from part 1. This concludes the article.)


California is a wonderland, because it has many diverse areas. I classify this state as having eight different diverse areas. (“Where I’m from, is where it’s at”!)

1) Southern California littorals: This includes San Diego County, Orange County, Los Angeles County, Ventura County, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo County.

2) The “Inland Empire” Kern County San Bernardino County, Riverside and Imperial Counties. Please Note: Most Californians would not classify Kern County as the inland Empire. I do because it is in-fact, Inland, separated by a coastal Mountain range and is largely desert like.

3) The Industrial Farm Counties, Tulare, Kings, San Benito, Fresno Counties.

4) Inyo, Mono and Alpine Counties. “The East Sierra”.


5) Northern California (aka “NorCal” but only called that by Southern Californians)

(Urban) Littorals: Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma Mendocino, Napa, Solano, Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara Counties.

6) Northern California (Undeveloped) Littorals: Mendocino, Humboldt, Del Norte.

7) Northern California inland (Traverse) Merced, Mariposa, Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Sacramento, Yolo, Sutter, Yuba, Colusa, Glenn, Tehama Shasta, Siskiyou (I refer to these Counties as “Traverse” because these Counties have two massively important thoroughfares the I-5 and California 99, Both are “Lifeblood arteries” of local, state, regional and international commerce. I also realize that compared to say, Orange County, These Counties are lightly populated, however, the people who run these counties are wise to not overdevelop these places.

8) Post-coastal-Mountain/Forrest region: El Dorado, Placer, Nevada, Sierra, Plumas, Lassen, and Modoc Counties. (Note: As I write this article, I would stress to the reader that this area was nearly destroyed by the Dixie fire, and the Caldor Fire. My Son is part of the efforts to fight the Caldor Fire. On Labor Day he informed my wife and I that there were vast swaths of forest that have 6-8 inches of ash on the ground, according to him, the area is a total loss.)

ROUTES of Egress

Leaving SoCal, “timing is everything”!

1) Southern California littorals: this large region is so densely populated, that I believe it to be a death trap. When everything goes wrong this will be the epicenter of bad Human behavior. There are so many roads and highways that lead to other highways, that it is virtually impossible for me to list all of the chokepoints of navigation.

2) In San Diego there is the I-8, which moves in an East-West direction. Taking this route, unimpeded will get you get you out of the San Diego Metropolitan areas and escort you to the East, through Imperial County to the Arizona state line. From the State line where it’s terminus is the I-10, which links Phoenix and Tuscon, Arizona. Imagine if the 2.3-4.5 million people in this region suddenly decided to go East in 1.8 million to 2.0 Million automobiles, on less than a full tank of gas, what would happen out in Imperial County. Have you ever seen the movie Mad Max? The Road Warrior? Imagine that, minus the cool Aussie accent. You get my point.

3) North out of San Diego, the I-15, which gains over a thousand feet in elevation and deposits the traveler into Riverside County, Traveling further north, the Highway splits into the I-2/15 this is one of those highways to another highway. It will lead you to CA-91, this is a “coastal” highway which terminates at the Pacific Ocean in the West and to Riverside California in the East, and essentially it’s a highway to another highway. I-15 continues to run Northeast through Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, The I-15 and I-10 Intersect in Ontario California. A natural disaster or man-made calamity could cause unimaginable problems for this interchange, BOTH highways have several high elevation overpasses that seem to defy the laws of physics.

Further North the Interstate comes upon a large Chokepoint of Navigation through the El Cajon Pass. This piece of terrain is CRITICALLY important, it bottlenecks the Interstate and the Southern Pacific Railroad, where it either elevates the Eastbound traveler to the high desert or lowers the Westbound traveler to the area that is traditionally referred to as the “Inland Empire”. The “El Cajon” is about 15 miles long and has many twists and turns, this challenging piece of road has often found the author of this article exceeding 90 miles an hour, while passing a CHiP car that never even flashed his lights, I was by far NOT the fastest vehicle on that stretch of road at that moment. At the top of “El Cajon” the highway flattens and straightens out while moving the traveler through Apple Valley/Victorville. Barstow California, which is home to the U.S. Marine Corps Logistics base and is the next and last big town on I-15, which terminates 188 miles to the East.

4) Barstow is also where I-40 begins and heads East 188 miles to Needles California, where it crosses the Colorado River and enters Arizona. I would like to point out that if the 5-7 million people in the Imperial and San Bernardino area left in say 3.5 million cars, with questionable fuel reserves, it would scour the high desert of any and ALL resources. The Road Warrior on Steroids!

5) I-15 comes upon US Highway 395, which essentially starts on the I-15 and moves North through the extreme High desert for 200 miles. It passes through the large town of Adelanto and then Kramer Junction, where it crosses CA 58, which terminates in Barstow California to the East and the I-5/CA-99 in the Northwestern portion of Bakersfield California. US Highway 395 continues North through about 3 small towns that restrict the speed of 70 miles per hour (MPH) to 35 MPH while going through these small towns. The Highway absorbs another state route: CA 14, out of the western Mojave Desert and ultimately Los Angeles. This merge is approximately 20 miles west of the town of Ridgecrest California, the home of China Springs Naval Air Weapons station, US 395 also has frequent flyovers in this region from Andrews Air Force base, which is located many miles to the East of US Highway 395.

6) US Highway 395 proceeds north from this area and starts to gain the traveler a considerable amount of elevation which is often hard to notice because of the long straight lengths of this highway. The next town of North is located in Olancha, California, Elevation: 3,650ft/1,110m, Olancha is notable because CA 190 is at the North end of town, heading northeast to Death Valley. North of Olancha is Lone Pine, Independence, Big Pine and Bishop,

7) North of Big Pine is CA 168. This Highway is incredibly steep, it gains almost 6,000 ft. of elevation in order to negotiate the Virginia Mountains at Westgard Pass. These Mountains contain Mt.Williams which for many years was believed to be the highest peak in the lower 48 states. I have driven this highway which eventually merges with CA 266 and then crosses into Lida, Nevada I cannot recommend this road to anyone who doesn’t have a vehicle that is in new to excellent condition. This Highway is closed in winter months.

8) Bishop is the largest town on 395 with a population of 3,746 at an elevation 0f 4,150ft. At the North end of this town is CA 6, which travels through the small town of Benton, and then crosses into Nevada about three miles from town. CA 120 begins in Benton and crosses US Hwy 395 South of Lee Vining California, then traverses through Yosemite National Park, after gaining over 4,000 feet in elevation. Highway 120 is closed from US Hwy 395 to CA 6 at Benton in the winter months.

9) US Highway 395 splits west from Bishop California and gains over 4,000 feet of elevation where it levels out near Crowley Lake. It then approached Mammoth Lakes California, which is Located on the West Side of the highway, on the East side and slightly South of town is Mammoth Lakes Airport, which can handle commercial size passenger jets.

Mammoth lakes is accessible in the winter months when it is the most populated, usually by people from Southern California who maintain Ski Chalet residences. This town can swell to as many as 100,000 during the peak skiing times of the Holidays. There are many rentable houses, condominiums, and townhomes during these times, often the locals will depart the area during the holidays while renting out their homes, for a very high profit. There are limited services in Mammoth Lakes, there are only two chain grocery stores, and few gas stations, where the price is hefty.

10) I have briefly mentioned the next town North of Mammoth Lakes called Lee Vining. Gasoline is even more expensive there year-round, there are approximately 230 permanent residences, and the elevation of this town is 6,781 ft. This town is on the South shore of Mono Lake, an unmissable landmark.

11) A little further North is an area referred to as Mono City, which has a small number of houses and is the start of CA 167, also referred to as Pole Line road. This road travels East North East for 21.3 miles where it crosses the Nevada state line and becomes NV 359 which terminates another 33.4 miles at US Hwy 95 in Hawthorne, Nevada.

12) From Mono City it is 19.6 miles North to Bridgeport, California. From Mono City the highway gains over 2,000 feet of elevation in order to negotiate Conway Summit, where the remainder of the route to Bridgeport is a long slow steady decline to Bridgeport, California elevation: 6,463ft. Population 575. Bridgeport is the County seat of Mono County. At the East Side Of town is CA 182 which moves North-Northeast for 12.7 miles where the highway becomes NV 338. NV 338 terminates in Yerington, Nevada 30.9 miles from the Nevada border. At the time I was writing this article, the gasoline price was $5.70 a gallon, for 87 octane gas. Now imagine a world gone mad and the prices that would be demanded!

13) US Highway 395 moves west out of Bridgeport, California. The next impotent landmark/Highway is CA 108 approximately 13 mile North from Bridgeport. This Highway is closed in winter. The CA 108-US Hwy 395 road junction is referred to as Sonora Junction. Sonora Pass is the Highest Point on CA 108, elevation: 9,624 ft. Four miles west on CA 108 is the United States Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. The Base is located on from the bridge that crosses the West Walker River all the way to Sonora Pass, the entire North Side of CA 108 between these two landmarks are the training area. I mention this facility because the Marines have been required to rescue civilians who drive around the gates that block the highway in early October when the state shuts the highway down for the winter. It is not uncommon for the California Highway Patrol to find abandoned automobiles after the snow melts in June and link those vehicles to reported missing persons. If any Highway is closed in California or anywhere in the Sierra, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GO AROUND THE BARRIERS. Find the long way around and arrive alive.

14) From Sonora Junction (Ca 108/US Hwy 395) it is approximately 15 miles north to the small town of Walker California, Population 721, elevation: 5,413. Caution: This stretch of 395 is perhaps one of the deadliest and most accident-prone on the entire length of the highway. This part of the highway has extremely sharp bends at places where the highway is narrow. Once the traveler is in Walker the highway flattens out because the highway parallels the Sierra front. From Walker it is approximately 14 miles to the Nevada state line at Topaz Lake. The Highway does reenter California 33 miles North of Reno Nevada. From Southern California, these are the major routes someone can drive out in order to “escape California” via US Highway 395, and the East Sierra corridor.

15) As soon as you enter Walker, there is a road called Eastside Lane. This road is a two lane County road. It parallels the large valley that contains Walker, Coleville and Topaz California called Antelope Valley. East Side Lane is paved from US Hwy 395 until the pavement ends at Topaz Lane, 5.8 miles to the North… The road becomes a gravel road for about 5 miles then it becomes a dirt road for 4 miles then the road becomes no better than a two rut dirt path. This dirt Path crosses the California-Nevada Border and drops into a town called Smith Valley Nevada where it ends at NV 208.

If anyone from Southern California is reading this I urge you to purchase maps, read the road atlas often, and review the Caltrans website frequently, for road closures and for closed roads. I own a collection of DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer books which detail all roads, trails and means to travel all the way down to foot trails. These atlas books are available for California and all of the western and inter-mountain states. I consider these to be essential if anyone were to bugout from any urban location in these states.

California: (“Why can’t we stay, why”?)

Some of the readers will wonder why anyone would want to reside in California to begin with. As for me, I retired from the Military in January of 2011 and made a decision to stay based on several positive factors in my life. A dream job opportunity, I purchased a home that was nicer than I had ever imagined I could ever live in, all three of my teenage children made their case with my wife and I, to stay in the immediate area so I would not have to move them again, during High school. The financial part of prepping is by far the most difficult, especially when all three Children decided that College was in their future. Thankfully, as a Disabled veteran, my children attended the California State University Systems with zero owed for admission, Child number two achieved a Master’s degree.

My career required me to train military battle staffs to exercise the seven warfighting functions, I started in the Operations Cell and ended up in the Intel Cell, Working for my boss who earned the title “Duke of Deuce’s”, he was ambitious and loved to teach others his craft I learned a lot about planning and how to factor in “critical considerations” to all aspects of my professional and personal affairs. When you go from being an operator to being a planner, your mental plasticity better be turned on!

This dream job ended up getting phased out about four years ago, catching me flat-footed. Fortunately, I was able to “prepare” because I am an avid reader of this blog. Losing that job was a financial blow, it also affected my capability to live my live according to my rules. Fortunately, moving onto new things was the best thing for my happiness and for my sense of inner peace, I was playing war on a Strategic/Tactical simulated level, frankly it was time for me to beat some of my swords into ploughshares. It forced me to change all aspects of my financial planning, it forced me to realize that I need to move on from the propane-heated oversized dream home I currently reside in.

I have a two-year to three-year plan that is changing into what I believe to be a six to eight month plan, Since purchasing this oversized dream home, it has increased in value by about 150%! The Housing bubble is about to burst and my window of opportunity will slam shut! I don’t know what will happen in the next 12 months, I am a Midwest transplant, I am not “Cali-fornicated”, but, I am a Californian! Maybe I will stay, or maybe I will “escape California”!