John Vonderlin: (Post 1906 Quake/Fire) All roads lead to/from San Francisco Or Let’s Sell Some Cars

Story from John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

Hi June,
   Here’s the Corrected Text version of
the “How the Auto Has Brought City-
Dwellers Close to Nature,” from the
June 9th, 1907 issue of “The San Fran-
cisco Call.” It is interesting that while 
the auto had made some serious inroads
into the horse and buggy paradigm since
the 1905 article I sent you, it was still a
fair weather friend, as mentioned in the last
paragraph. This is only an excerpt that
concerns the Coastside. There are also de-
scriptions of Yosemite, Fort Ross, Clear
Lake and even Twin Peaks trips in the full
article available on the “Chronicling America,”
website of the Library of Congress. Enjoy. John
That there is a hub of the universe every
one knows.  That there is a. hub of the
automobile world and that hub is San
Francisco every one does not know.
But such is the fact. San Francisco, sit-
ing among her hills, forms the hub of
an immense wheel from which innum-
erable spokes radiate in the direction
of the four earth corners. Some of
these radiating spokes form broad
highways in the automobile world;
others are but ramifications, byways of
the roads themselves, but all  lead to
haunts of unsurpassed beauty, rest and
loveliness, undiscoverable, inaccess-
ible save by that reducer of time and
distance, the almost ubiquitous auto-
One of the most beautiful and pic-
turesque roads leading out of the city
has been practically unknown until a
few weeks ago when the Automobile
Dealers’ Association of California held
an endurance run to La Honda. When
that run was first suggested hardly
any one of those anxious to go knew 
what the road was like. So some of 
those who wished to do their machines
and their steering powers credit went
quietly over the course before the date
set for the contest. When the beau-
ties of the road were discovered amaze-
ment was universally expressed that
such exquisite spots should exist un-
known and unheralded just outside
San Francisco.
In order to take this particular trip
one must follow the 
San Mateo road.
Just before the heart of the little sub-
urban town is reached, one comes to a
bridge, but the bridge must not be
crossed, for it is the road just to the
right of it that leads to some of the
most enchanting bits of scenery in all
California. This road is so shaded with
tall, drooping trees that it resembles
a broad lane. For a mile or so there is
a gradual descent, then comes a reach
of open country, and then the auto be-
gins to climb a hill. It is a steady
chug-chug upward for about a mile.
until several branch roads leading to
private homes are passed, one has only
to follow the path which shows the
result of much travel to be sure that
he is in the right direction. When the
summit is finally reached a splendid
panorama bursts upon the eye. Far
down, some hundreds of feet below,
spread to right and left, is the Crystal
Sprlngs lake, where the water
for the city is corraled. Mountains
rise on every side and, in the field and
woods which border the lake there is
an impression of neatness and form
that conveys the feeling that one is
passing through the park of some
vast estate.
From the summit overlooking the
lake the road runs down to the shore,
and an easy coast all the way. A
crossing is made about the middle of
the lake, and then comes one of the
most deceiving bits of roads in the
whole run — the distance from  the
bridge to Burns’ store, about three
blocks away.
It is the steepest grade. Practically
every car has to go into a lower gear
to make it. From Burns’ store it is
mountain climbing for over three miles.
It is climb, climb, climb, following the
canyons as one gets deeper and deeper
into the mountains, twisting, turning
and retracing, till at times one thinks
he must be going in a circle. But every
instant, magnificent scenic effects are
dropping into view. The kaleidoscopic
picture is suddenly punctured when the
highest point is reached and Spanish
town valley unrolls before the eyes.
Down, down, twisting and turning, rib-
bons the road until it reaches the level
floor of the gorge where it disappears
in the distance, an undulating line to-
ward the sea. If this road is followed
until near Halfmoon bay, or Spanish
town, the sullen booming of the surf is
heard, sounding like a rolling bom-
bardment in some distant battle. To
the right, through the haze that over-
hangs the shore in the early morning,
looms Pillar  Point, an eternal monu-
ment over the graves of  those  souls
that found their last  harbor in  the
green depths of the merciless sea. It
is a point dreaded by the mariners
along the coast, for many a stout ship
has  gone ashore there, driven by ad-
verse winds and tldes, though in full
sight of  the Golden gate.
Halfmoon bay reached, the road
leads through the main street, in a
southerly course. The town is a quiet
little place, restful and peaceful, where
the inhabitants seem to extract pleas- ;
ure and contentment from the long
languid days as the bee extracts honey
from the shading vines. Thoroughly
Spanish in character it has all  the
happy-go-lucky air of the days long
past when the rush of the American
for the elusive dollar was yet a  night-
mare of the future. As the car winds
slowly, through the village, one is
greeted on all sides by smiling maids
and matrons with the familiar “Buenos
dias, senor,” in the softest of musical
tones. Speeding along a barren shore
for some miles, a bridge is crossed. and
a quick turn is made to the right and
the long grade begins. Straight up
the cliff sides for nearly five miles this
road mounts with never a halt till one
feels the ascent is endless. Higher
and higher yet and a dazzling glimpse
of the coast line with its miles of
white ribboned surf billowing in the
sunlight is obtained. The air, clean
and salt from the sea, puts, if possible
a keener edge on the appetite, and
the thought of a good, square meal
is not dismissed promptly as you
feel that your poetic instincts should
   The grade ended, the downhill work
commences.  Turning  slightly-inward,
San Gregorio  is soon  reached  and a
sharp  curve made, over a third bridge
in the direction of La Honda.  Now, the 
heavy wraps  that were put on when
the trip began are thrown off and
one feels the  heat  of the pervading 
Sun.  A few  miles through open coun-
try brings the automobile to more
shaded roads  and  then come the red-
woods followed by La Honda where
even the  most  ardent stops
to get rid of the  pangs of hunger.
Resuming. the journey which so far has
covered  some 54 miles, one starts out 
on a long grade of fully five miles.
First redwoods, then shaded country,
until suddenly  the road plunges into
the clear tops of the mountains. Now
like a  stage effect at the end  of  a
Christmas pantomime,  the.exquisite 
Santa Clara valley, in all its beauty
breaks into view. One simply cannot
go on; he is spellbound. The blue
waved bay, the  red university  roofs of
Palo Alto and the rest of a superb
prospect stand out in such a way, that
it is  almost impossible to believe that
one is not in a dream. From this sum-
mit, with its climax of beauty, it is a
coast  of  13 miles  down  the mountain
to  Redwood and then the  home  jour-.
ney is but a matter of hours.
    Hundreds of these short, but enviable
trips are now possible to the automobiles
in the summer days now rapidly
approaching, and the remembing of
scenes visited, long drives in the cool of
evening, or wild bursts of speed through
the open country, will prove valuable
assets in the short days of winter when
the hum of the  motor  is  no longer heard
in the land and the cars  stand silent in the