Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mountain Springs Station

Crossing Imperial County
Stop #1 - Mountain Springs Station
Beginning this trip from San Diego is pretty simple, just hop on interstate 8 and head east till you reach the county line. However, the Cadillac is coming down from the Salton Sea, so use of a little backtracking and side roads is in order. Taking S6 south from Westmoreland and hanging a right on
Imler Road
so as to sweep by the Naval Aerial Gunnery Range in hopes of seeing the rockets red glare and bombs…etc. Then a right on S80, the road they used before the interstate to get the full effect of local flavors. First stop if it were still there would be the Wind n’ Sand CafĂ© at S80 and
Brown Road
, the body double of Chuck Yeager’s hangout in The Right Stuff. Then it’s on to Plaster City, so named for gypsum and the wallboard that comes from the plant there. It’s a company owned town but mostly known by off roaders for the open areas east and west that they share with Navy practice bombing targets.

From the Cadillac in this environment it isn’t hard to imagine rolling up to Rosewell, and combing the desert night for aliens with the factory spotlight. Something happens in gripping the spotlight’s handle, a flushing sense of power and control as the TV themes from ‘Highway Patrol’ and ‘Dragnet’ play in the mind. Time to move on though and join up with the interstate at Ocotillo and head up the pass.   
Though Mountain Springs Station didn't last long it was an important part of the necessary eastward trail from San Diego, a city lagging behind Los Angeles in establishing land routes. It appears that Peter Larkin was the landowner and Joe Stancliff was his partner with the oxen teams that assisted the wagons.  Eventually a new road was cut and eased the steep grade and remained in use as part of Hwy 80 until Interstate 8 was completed. One anonymous quote of conditions prior to the civil war:  "Only the courageous or the desperate attempt to cross the mountains between San Diego and the Colorado River."

Plaque Instription: No. 194 MOUNTAIN SPRINGS STATION In 1862-70, about a mile north of here Peter Larkin and Joe Stancliff used a stone house as a store from which ox teams pulled wagons up a 30% grade. The San Diego and Fort Yuma Turnpike Co. used the site as a toll road station until 1876. The crumbling house was replaced in 1917 by another still visible to its east. But road changes, beginning in 1878 and culminating in today's highway, have left the older stone house ruins inaccessible.

Location: Site is 200 ft West of westbound lane, I-8 (P.M. 2.3), just North of Mountain Springs Road, 2.3 miles East of county line, Mountain Springs. Plaque is located adjacent to Desert View Tower, approximately 100 yards distant from the Desert View Tower landmark plaque.
Google maps: 32.658968,-116.099738

The story line for Pete Larkin and the station came to mind one day while running as well as the concept to have spoken rather than sung verses.

Here’s a link to a video sample of the song:


Now the trail east from San Diego is a mighty tough road you see
It wiggled and strayed San Antonio way, back in 1863

There's lizards and snakes and for goodness sakes,
all  kinds of things reptilian
If you make it through, be proud of you, you're a pioneer Californian

When you reach the top, plan to stop, at Pete Larkin's creation
Have a drink at the well and rest a spell, at Mountain Springs Station

You'll come to a grade that's the steepest made,
some say it's over 30 degree
And the shade you're in it's a 110, that is if you can find a tree.

In the winter it snows and the wind it blows,
enough to make your britches freeze
And the reins go stiff and the brakes do slip,
and the oxen huff and sneeze.

There's a clear blue sky and apple pie, and Pete'll tell a story or two
About the local folk and a couple of jokes, there ain't much else to do

Before his stay there were earlier days, of the mule back postal trail
The city men would laugh and grin, and call the route 'Jackass Mail'

Pete's got supplies that'll please your eyes, all your good provisions
A traveler's dream here at the spring, but you have a bigger mission

You've come to know it's time to go, no time to sit and dally
No time to kill it's all downhill, unto the Imperial Valley

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