Friday, July 27, 2007

West Lilac to Pala, the Rough Way

Early this afternoon, after arriving at the West Lilac Road bridge and taking pictures and more pictures, I decided to drive eastward down West Lilac Road to see where I'd end up.

Before I begin the story, let me share a little more about where I started my journey. Although I didn't take any pictures of them, there were several private houses on West Lilac Road, including one that was under construction. All in all, it seemed like a nice place to get away from things, yet the houses are only a few miles from Escondido and Temecula.

After returning to my car, which was parked on West Lilac Road near Old Highway 395, I drove eastbound across the bridge and started moving down the road. I didn't have a map with me, but I had read an article a few days ago and vaguely remembered that West Lilac Road hooked up with Lilac Road. I figured I could follow Lilac Road up to State Route 76, then get back to the freeway from there.

Actually, I did have a map with me. My trusty Motorola Q was by my side, and I had previously loaded Google Maps onto it. Google Maps has worked out pretty well for me, except for some occasions when it thinks it doesn't have a data connection. I could have found my location on Google Maps and figured out how to get around, but I didn't think I'd need it. (As we'll later see, Google Maps wouldn't have helped me much.)

Seemed easy enough as I headed eastbound, passing some more houses. Eventually I passed a sign that said that I was in the unincorporated community of Valley Center. However, there wasn't any valley per se; everything was kind of hilly.

After a while, West Lilac Road intersected with Lilac Road as I expected. If I turned right, the sign said that I'd head toward Valley Center (or, I guess, the center of Valley Center). If I turned left, I'd get to State Route 76. Everything was just as I had expected.

I apologize now for not taking a picture of the sign, or of anything else that I saw after crossing over the bridge. The roads here had no shoulders, and there wasn't really a good place for me to stop the car and snap away.

Back to Lilac Road. It's too bad that I didn't take any pictures, because some of the places were wonderful. There were little plots of woods here and there, and I even crossed a small stream at one point. All the houses had a lot of land, and some of them were labeled as belonging to some ranch of another.

As I proceeded up Lilac Road, I didn't see any additional signs for Route 76, so I knew I was on the right track. I passed a number of roads, including Couser Canyon Road, but I ignored them all because I was on Lilac Road, and (as David Christof would say) life is good in...well, wherever I was. Somewhere around Valley Center.

Soon, I did see a sign, stating that I was 6 miles from Pala. This was definitely good news, since I vaguely remembered that Pala had a casino of some kind. I was even thinking about skipping my planned Buzztime lunch in Temecula and getting lunch at the casino instead.

Eventually, I saw another sign, stating that I was now on the tribal lands of the Pala Band of Mission Indians. Casino, here I come. I was up in the hills, but there wasw a valley coming up ahead, and the casino could be there.

Then I saw another sign, stating that the pavement would end in 300 feet.

No problem, I thought. I could see the valley ahead, and I could see a huge multi-story building, so I just had to follow Lilac Road and I'd end up at the casino. This would make up for not visiting Pechanga earlier in the week when I was driving south.

The road wasn't completely dirt - there was some old pavement under there - so I slowed down and headed down the hill.

Eventually, I came to some houses, situated beyond a fork in the road. Unfortunately, there were no signs here, so I didn't know if Lilac Road went right or left. The road to the right seemed bigger, so I headed right.

Away from the casino.

And the road got rougher, with some indentations in the road that initially made me think that I had a flat tire. I slowed down more, and more, and finally decided that this couldn't be Lilac Road, and that I should have gone left instead of right. I backtracked, took the left road, and seemed to be heading toward the casino.

Very slowly. The road was still very bumpy, but eventually I saw a sign and found out I was on "Lilac Extension." That sounded promising. (Subsequently, I discovered that the road to the right WAS Lilac Road, and that it did intersect with State Route 76...eventually. I found this out on Google Maps, which didn't have ANY notations stating that either Lilac Road or Lilac Extension were unpaved.)

Since I was going less than ten miles an hour, I was able to take glances at the houses on the reservation. They seemed to be well-constructed, but it appeared that they didn't have sewer lines, and I'm not even sure that they had running water. I saw huge tanks outside the houses, but I don't know if the tanks held water, or something else. With the shaking in the car, I didn't bother to look for electrical lines. A definite difference from the houses that I saw at the beginning of my journey.

Finally I made it to State Route 76, made a left, and passed by the Pala Casino without stopping. I had pretty much decided to head up to Temecula as fast as possible, and the sight of Clay Aiken's name (he's playing the casino in early August) pretty much confirmed my inclination.

Moral of the story - it appears that the printed maps are still better when you're in the hinterlands, although I still have to check a printed map to see what it says about the roads in the Valley Center-Pala area.


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