Friday, August 5, 2011

Highway S-2 San Diego Desert Ride

I leave San Diego in the morning and head about 75 miles on the I-8 east to the S2 and the little town of Ocotillo. I pass through less than a mile of the town's poorly-maintained streets and unnecessary stop signs as I make my way to the start of the desert road.

There aren't many roadside amenities, so pick up gas before you go. There are a couple of gas stations in Ocotillo at S2 and Interstate 8. A couple of campgrounds along the way with meager mini-marts and NO gas. The Lazy Lizard bar
is a real gem of a desert pub in Ocotillo. At the other end of S2 in San Felipe, several miles before Warner Springs, The Log Cabin has great food and cold beer but has no normal operating days and hours. Well worth a stop when they are open. Beware that it is VERY HOT in the summer. Take lots of drinking water and a cell phone (although service is spotty). Enjoy snacks and cold sodas at the Butterfield Station convenience store while you look at the old fire trucks.

You'll see some fine scenery along the way, including fantastic panoramic views of the Laguna and Volcan Mountains and desert shrubbery (awesome blossoms in springtime). Part of the route follows the Old Butterfield Stage Route which can be easily accessed. Old stagecoach wheel tracks still survive after almost 150 years. The pink desert hues of the Borrego Badlands can also be seen from an overlook along the highway.

Look for the best wildflower blooms from March 27 to April 2, though they can bloom as early as mid-February.

Road Quality: The road is normally kept in great condition. There are some long, straight stretches intermingled with many great, fun twisties. Watch for the Border patrol checkpoint and sand on the road. As well, be careful of a few tight sweeping turns as the road was built in an original desert roadbed and remains flat throughout some of the turns with little to no bank angle. It's not hard to hit 100+ MPH on the straightaways, then come into the turns...

An alternate route for those coming from the north or east: From Warner Springs, about 60 miles northeast of San Diego, head southwest on hwy 79 and then get on S2 (San Felipe Rd) heading south. You'll cross hwy 78 and continue on S2 heading south and into the Anza-Borrego Desert Park finally ending up in the town of Ocotillo and at Interstate 8. I encourage you to turn right around (after gassing up) and doing it again in the other direction as you will be amazed at the difference in panoramic views.

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