Saturday, September 20, 2014

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Seaport Village to Old Town San Diego

San Diego's Seaport Village picks up our trip North on Highway 101. The area we will be passing through skirts the edge of Downtown San Diego and could be called a road of planes, trains, and automobiles. It is also a road through time as it goes from San Diego's modern Downtown to the old original heart of the City in San Diego Old Town.

San Diego Santa Fe Depot
An inviting station welcomes rail travelers to San Diego (Wikimedia commons)

Driving North on today's Pacific Highway we go past a row of condo towers on the edge of Downtown that offer expensive bay views. Before long, the parking lots of the condominiums give way to a busy strip of car rental companies. We'll  leave Pacific Highway to basically go around the block visit the Union Station or as it is also known, Santa Fe Depot. A busy transportation hub, it is where Amtrak lines as well as San Diego's excellent light rail system  and the famous Tijuana Trolley all converge.

The old San Diego train station is replaced by the Santa Fe Depot(Wikimedia Commons)
Santa Fe Depot was built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Called by some a "Jewel in the Crown' of Santa Fe Stations. It IS a beautiful old train station. It has a splendidly over the top Spanish Colonial architecture with some notably high quality tile work done by local artisans at the time of the stations construction. It opened in 1915 as replacement for a much smaller Victorian style station that had been their since 1887. In a way it is a shame because the Victorian Station was still relatively new, featured a gorgeous Gothic tower and vast quantities of Victorian "gingerbread" decoration.

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe did not cut corners in building a larger more modern facility. Designed to accommodate expected crowds for the Panama-California Exposition that began that year. The Colonial Revival design was used to be in keeping with the design of the fair buildings. Over the years it was the first place many sailors and marines would see as they passed through San Diego for service at Camp Pendleton or Naval Base San Diego. It saw many of the classic 1920's and 1930's Hollywood royalty as they would make their gambling and drinking trips to Tijuana,

The tiles still shine in the California sun.(Flickr User Konrad Glogowski/CC)

YouTube gives us several views. SDpostcards starts us off with a slick professional view. Next we return to a videographer we have seen before. travelandtransitions gives us a good tour of the station from the point of view of a San Diego tourist. Sorry about the sound quality though. The next video, posted by WhistleStopUSA focuses more on the trains outside the station than the station itself, but that is a huge part of experiencing a train station.Another huge part of the train station experience is actually riding the train. Our last video from stntylr101 gives us that viewpoint as well as nice Beethoven soundtrack.

San Diego International Airport 

Strip Clubs and Rental Cars indicate we are close to the airport on Pacific Highway (Flickr user Paul Sullivan.CC)
The tracks for the Pacific Surfliner train from Los Angeles will run parallel, maybe a half  block back from Pacific Highway all the way past Old Town, where we are headed today.A few budget motels and some gas stations break up the row upon row of rental cars and shuttle buses. The roar of low flying jumbo jets and a view to the left means that we are passing the San Diego International Airport.

San Diego International Airport or Lindbergh Field as it was originally named when it was opened in 1928 runs alongside the Pacific Highway. Until; 1967 the main terminal was located on Pacific Highway. The It must have been a busy scene with jet set travelers Navy Seamen and Marine from the local bases and Highway tourist cruising the coast or headed to Mexico all coming together at the edge of Downtown San Diego on Pacific Highway.
Landing At San Diego International Airport as seen from Pacific Highway (Flickr User Tim Wang/CC)

These days Pacific Highway is not the front door to the airport that it once was. So we motor on by, heading North, past more rental car lots. We are surrounded by planes, trains and automobiles. As we go by lets take a look at the airport through the eyes of YouTube.

Our first clip is from the end of the era in which Highway 101 would go past the airport. Soon after this film was shot, Interstate 5 would open and Highway 101 would be decommissioned in San Diego County.The Digital Implosion posts a Navy testing clip of the XFY-1 Vertical Takeoff Airplane from May of 1955. It's an interesting aircraft and the backgrounds give you a little bit of the feel of the airport in that era.

Plane geeks might like my second video, a more recent filming of  Spotting at San Diego Lindbergh Field Airport uploaded by YouTube User linjeflyg.

Finally, we have an excellent clip, landing at San Diego International Airport view from the flight deck uploaded by YouTube user n37ba. It's a rarely seen (at least by me) view of a landing at San Diego International Airport, It was the pilots last flight before an age 60 mandatory retirement. He still has the skills.

Finishing the Drive to Old Town San Diego
The rest of the way to Old Town San Diego is a fairly boring jog alongside freeway on and off ramps for Interstate 5 and warehouses and parking lots lining the area between Pacific Highway and the railroad line. There is a YouTube dash cam video courtesy of user Milique Mason. The dash cam video features some driving on Interstate 5 before taking the exit for Pacific Highway. It joins the old Highway 101 or Pacific Highway right after the 2:45 point of the video before bringing us home to Old town and the close of this weeks drive.

We made it! Welcome to Old Town San Diego! (Flickr User keith_rock/CC)

Playlist Additions

The Movie

This weeks theme is Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The theme is lifted from the title of the 1987 film. Its a hilarious film and the interplay between stars Steve Martin and John Candy is priceless. Martin plays a tired, somewhat cynical business man, While Candy is a boisterous glad-handing salesman. They just want to get home to celebrate Thanksgiving with their family, but everything that can go wrong does. They are repeatedly hit with problems that force them to re orientate and try to get home some other way. They are a classic odd couple and I love it because I love 80's comedies and naturally road movies always get my attention.

The film is one of the few Thanksgiving classics and it features one of the all time great movie rants delivered by Steve Martin. Anyone who has ever endured the cattle car system that is American transportation has felt like this at some time. The language in this clip is definitely NSFW.


Planes, Trains and Automobiles suits this strip of highway quite well. It also gives us an opportunity to introduce a band from San Diego called Slightly Stoopid.

Slightly Stoopid are a San Diego based Alt-Reggae bad that was formed in the Ocean Beach neighborhood of San Diego. A famed surfing beach, Ocean Beach was where Slightly Stoopid arose as a beach party band playing music that was similar to Sublime's alt-reggae sound from North on Highway 101 in Long Beach. A couple of Southern California beach kids, they have a more reggae, less alt alt-reggae style and a little more Jamaican sound of vocals than Sublime had. In 1995, Bradley Nowell, lead singer of Sublime, singed to a deal on Skunk Records, Sublime's indie label.

A standout track that Slightly Stoopid perform is a cover of a song that was written and recorded by John Denver, before it became a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary. It's a song that has been covered by a lot of artists. Leaving On A Jet Plane fits our theme so well that a trio of versions of the song make this weeks play list additions.

John Denver wrote Leaving On a Jet Plane in 1966. He had originally entitled the song Babe, I Hate To Go, It was included on his self released album that only had a run of 250. Mostly going to friends and family, Peter, Paul and Mary got a copy. They were so impressed by the song that they decided to cover it on their Album 1700 in 1967. That year also saw covers of the song by the Chad Mitchell Trio and Spanky and Our Gang.

The Single That Took Off (Wikipedia)
1969 saw the release of the song as a single by Peter, Paul and Mary. This time the world sat up and took notice. It rose like a jet taking off to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Peter, Paul and Mary had there biggest hit ever. Mean while John Denver's career was taking off as well. He was performing with the Chad Mitchell Trio when he went solo. He included the song on debut solo album Rhymes & Reasons re-recording it again for his John Denver's Greatest Hits.

The video clip I found has Peter, Paul and Mary performing the song with a very young John Denver, This weeks playlist begins with the addition of the version from Album 1700. However, I actually have it from the 14 disc box set Next Stop Vietnam. An outstanding set, it comes with a detailed article filled coffee table book with chapters on each aspect of the war such as home front, in country, protesters, blacks in the war, and so on. Highly recommended if you have the do-re-mi.

Next up on the playlist is a live performance of Leaving On A Jet Plane, by Slightly Stoopid. They are performing this track in 2003 at place we will be visiting as we travel North on Highway 101, Santa Cruz CA. I picked it up from a now defunct Sublime fan site that had a ton of bootlegs from a bunch of Sublime influenced bands. If you want to hear what they are like these days, you can get a bunch of shows at Archive.Org. The video clip is from a far more recent performance than the playlist addition.

As a third flavor of Leaving On A Jet Plane, we have a punk rocking send up of the song by Me First And The Gimme Gimmes. They are kind of novelty act that takes older soft rock songs and redoes them as punk rock anthems. Kind of cheesy, kind of silly but toe tappingly good. They are a band worth checking out. The video fan created and for some reason features lots of scenes of plane crashes. Sick humor, I guess.


The Santa Fe Depot and the tracks that run parallel to Pacific Highway, the old Highway 101, inspire our next mini set. We start off with the hit song written for the 1946 Judy Garland hit The Harvey Girls. On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe  was written 1944 by Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren. In 1945 the world seemed to mad for the song. Charting versions were released by Johnny Mercer, Bing Crosby, Tommy Dorsey and Judy Garland. The most successful of these is from Johnny Mercer who rode that train straight to Number One on the Billboard charts. The Mercer version makes the playlist.

Remember Casper the Friendly Ghost? He was pretty popular in his day. In 1963 an LP was recorded titled Musical Adventure In Make-Believe. I always thought Casper could be a bit wimpy and this album doesn't change my opinion. In a strange premise Caspar imagines all of the various machines like a rocket, a tugboat. a helicopter, and a motorcycle policeman. Throw in a few life lessons and you have an album. In this track he was a Train.

Musical Adventure In Make-Believe was featured on  the WFMU blog's 365 Project, where they posted a downloadable album every day in 2007. These were general strange oddities and thrift store finds. Some fun strange stuff. Have I mentioned I like novelty records? On August 21, this album, along with a few other children albums were posted. The links are still up if you need some Casper in your life. Its a free download, but WFMU is a community radio station so if you gave them a donation, I'm sure they would not mind, and it's tax deductible.
Amtrak No. 51 at Santa Fe Depot (Flickr User vxla/CC)

With lyrics like "sitting downtown in railroad station",  One Toke Over The Line fits in seamlessly with today mix as well as today's travels, A 1970 hit by the duo Brewer and Shipley from their 1970 album Tarkio. Its the lament of a down on his luck traveling hippy. The song that has a good country singer songwriter feel so typical of the early 1970's. Hunter S. Thompson referenced the song extensively in his famous book Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas.

Our Video of train songs has a bonus though. None other than Lawrence Welk had his cast perform the song which he calls a "modern day spiritual". I'm sure some of the members of his band had to smirk a bit at that one, musicians being musicians, If that story is hard to believe, I added the clip to the end of the set.


Rental car lots line a good chunk of the road we are travelling this week. And they are where Steve Martin lost his cool with the counter person in the film Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. So, a few rental car songs will end this weeks additions to playlist.

It's a Rental, by Rik Roberts is a funny song. I was unable to find a clip to share with you, but the premise is you can trash the car,'s a rental. Its got a pretty twangy country style, You can hear it by buying the Car Talk Car Tunes CD, which well help Click and Clack as they ease into retirement.

No video could be found for It's A Rental, so as an alternative I give you a great Avis commercial from the 1970's where they talk about their new computer, while a man call for help from a pay phone. Its wonderfully dated. Strangely though,, at the end of the commercial the man in it mentions the cloud. Hmmm.

The theme song of a 1976 comedy film of the same name, Car Wash, by Rose Royce (clever, huh?) make our list next. The film was the story of a day in the life of a Car Wash in Central LA. A multiracial group of Car Wash employees goof off through the day while washing the cars of a rotating cast of characters. The song has a great groove and was a big hit scrubbing its way to number one on pop/r&b charts. My version is from a budget CD that was sold as an Old Navy promo item. Included it because, every Car rental place has guy who is working at the Car Wash.

I found a great YouTube clip from the movie, I had to use it, but it cuts the song off before it is over. So I forgive me if I went overboard, but I threw in a clip from Soul Train. You can't go wrong with Soul Train.

Closing out the weeks playlist additions we have Beck from his album Guero, Rental Car. A nice student project video accompanies on our video playlist.

Signing Off and Coming Attractions

This post ran kind of long, sorry if I got a little carried away. I hope you found something fun in the mix and maybe we even learned something too.  If you like what I am doing here, please tell a friend or share a link on your favorite social media. Before you leave the page I'd love to hear from you in the comments. What is your favorite way to travel? I suspect you might be able to tell, I like a good road trip. Here's what we have coming up.

Mileage Stats

Route 66: 0 Miles/1 State/676 Tracks/161 Videos/31 Posts

Highway 101: 22 Miles/2 Countries/1 State/512 Tracks/205 Videos/23 Posts

Interstate 95: 84 Miles/1 State/30 Tracks/70 Videos/9 Posts

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