CARL MARSEE INTERVIEW
The following conversation with Carl Marsee took place on a Saturday, December 2, 2006 in Gorman, California. Carl currently holds the position of Treasurer with the Ridge Route Preservation Organization - Mike Simpson
Q. Give me your background and tell me how you got started with this organization.
A. Well, I've always been interested in history. I worked for the City of Pasadena for 34 years as a Civil Engineer for the Public Works Department. They had their one hundredth anniversary; I think it was in 1986. So they had in the Public Works vault all kinds of fantastic records. In the '30s they prepared what were called sewer maps of the entire city. They were on cloth and they were done in ink. There were over a thousand of them and they were all done by hand. While I was there they started microfilming everything. They were throwing all of the old drawings away..microfilm and toss them! So, I grabbed a couple of the really nice ones but all the rest of them were gone. They were doing that with a lot of the old original glass plate pictures of different areas and they were clearing them out.
Q. They threw those away?
A. Yes. There were two of us in Public Works that were really interested in history. We would go down and check the trash once a week to see what was in there.
Q. That's too bad. They could have donated them to the library.
A. I was an assistant draftsman to start out, which is about as low as you can go. I was an associate engineer when I left. I had my own office. I found in storage that they had a roll top desk. It was the city engineer's in 1927..a beautiful, gigantic roll top desk and it had just been in storage. So when I got my own office I asked them if I could use it. I used it for the last five years. Then when I left I knew it would go back in storage, so I talked with the Pasadena library and asked them if Public Works would loan this to you could you guys use an historic roll top desk. It's still right now sitting in the main library on exhibit which is fantastic. I've always been interested in history. Coming up here, one of the first things I did was go down to the museum to see if I could help.
Q. So after you retired, you moved up here [Pine Mountain Club near Frazier Park] from Pasadena?
A. My wife's folks have lived up here for about twenty-five years. They retired and moved up here. Linda's mom passed away about seven years ago and her Dad is now 89. I retired in 2000 and I told my wife we can't let your Dad live up there alone because of the snow and everything. He was 82 at the time. So I said he's either going to have to move down here, which is Duarte near Pasadena, or, we started thinking about it, we could move up there. He was living in Pine Mountain Club. So we ended up moving about a mile from him. He's still living by himself. He passed his own driving test, but we're only about a mile from him so whenever he needs help or so forth, we're right there to help. We've always loved this area. We've been coming back and forth to his place for sometime. I actually experienced my first white Christmas at his house up here because I was born and raised in Southern California. So I spent the first white Christmas up here at his house. So we decided to move up here and did in 2002.
Q. So your background is as a geologist or a civil engineer?
A. Civil Engineer. I graduated from Long Beach State with a degree in Engineering which at that time meant you were also a licensed surveyor as well as a civil engineer, but I've never done any official surveying. It's grandfathered, so I'm still technically a licensed surveyor. Pasadena was a fantastic city to work for.
Q. How many years did you work for Pasadena?
A. Thirty-four years.
Q. So, you and your wife moved to Pine Mountain Canyon Club and you got involved with the local museum in Frazier Park?
A. We went down to see if we could help or do whatever we could do. At the time they had an opening on their Board and asked if I'd be interested in being on the Board and I said yes, of course, I'd be honored. So, that's how I got involved with them. One of the other Board members was Anne Ride. She owned 125 acres up off the Ridge Route and she was also a member of the Board of the Ridge Route. They ended up selling their property, 125 acres, and bought 40 acres up near San Simeon. So they were moving and she went off the Board at the museum and the Ridge Route. I was asked temporarily would I come to one of the Ridge Route meetings in her place. So that's how I got interested with the Ridge Route and being a civil engineer the Ridge Route was really a lot more appropriate or interesting than the museum, although the museum is fascinating. I basically attended the first couple of meetings and then when Anne left they asked me if I wanted to be on the Board for the Ridge Route which I said yes.
Q. What year was that?
Q. Scotty set up the Board in what year?
A. It's been ten years for him.
Q. Jack and Sidney Kelley have been on the Board all along.
A. They've been giving tours all along on the Ridge Route. Fantastic. Basically, since I was the new man on the Board they made me treasurer. That was the beginning of 2005. So I got all the records, this is the end of 2005, and I happened to notice there was no income and no expenditures. They had a balance of about $3,000. But there was nothing in 2005. So, after I looked at the records I called Scotty up and I said hey we can't do anything if we don't have any income or anything like that, and so I got permission from him, I said I want to get us some business cards, stationery and we started doing some things and then, since I live up here, he took me on a couple of tours of the Ridge Route..oh no, that was when we lost the 125 feet on the Ridge Route.
Q. In the storm.
A. As a civil engineer I could see why. All of the drains were plugged and so forth. So in January 2006 I called Scotty up and I said would it be okay with you if we could get some work days and clean some of these drains out so we don't lose any more of the roadway. I said I'm up here and I can coordinate it, you know, I can do that type of thing. So he said yes and we had our first work day in February of 2006.
Q. Up until that point nothing had been done. Angeles Forest wasn't maintaining it at all.
A. They had one person to maintain all twenty some miles of it.
Q. Going back historically when traffic was diverted to Highway 99 in 1933 do you know if the Ridge Route was maintained at all at that point? Or has it been since 1933 that the Ridge Route was not maintained? Did it just fall into disrepair?
A. Well, it was hardly ever used after 1933 because people preferred to use 99 which was shorter and much fewer curves. But my understanding at one time was there were twenty people assigned to maintaining the road. But I don't know if that was during the time pre-'33 or when. I'm amazed at how many people knew about it and actually when the freeway was crowded they'd take the Ridge Route.
Q. You mean when the 99 was crowded?
A. No, the 5! My son was coming up for Thanksgiving two years ago, and he stopped in Castaic and he said the traffic was at a dead stop going up the hill from Castaic. I said get off in Castaic and hit the old Ridge Route and he took the Ridge Route all the way to Templin Hwy, came back over to the freeway and it was wide open. So, he bypassed all that traffic just by coming up the old Ridge Route. But at that time it was closed in 2005 further up. I read Scotty's book and when I got to finally meet Scotty and even be on the Board I was really excited.
Q. Did you read the book in anticipation of getting involved with Ridge Route, or had you already done that?
A. As I was getting involved or the possibility of getting involved with it, I was reading it and thought it was just fascinating. I'm sure my Dad who has been in L.A. since 1920 has been on it. He passed away when I was twelve, so I really don't remember him telling any stories about it. Just reading the history and stuff on it and having it that close and the fact that it is in the National Forest so it's exactly the way it was back then is wonderful. You don't have buildings that you have to ignore and pretend aren't there. This was the way it looked back in that period. It's just fascinating. Right now we're reaching the point with membership and so forth if we can get some fairly steady income or some grants, get a grant writer, then we can look at places like the gas station across from Brian's Diner in Gorman to use as an interactive center. We could lead tours from there. For people who can't go up on the Ridge Route we could do a virtual tour. We could show exhibits there. If they wanted to do a tour or wanted information we could give it to them. We could lead the tour out of here on weekends from up here. It would be really great..really good.
Q. It would be much more visible.
A. Well, even Fort Tejon..I've probably passed that a dozen times before I stopped to take a look at it. People are going through here all the time, so the more interest we can work up the more exposure we're going to get.
Q. Would you say that's the most immediate goal in terms of making the Ridge Route more accessible to the public?
A. Right now we need publicity, we need to make it known, and, of course, what we're doing on the work days is phase one as far as maintaining the road so it doesn't get any worse as far as damage to it.
Q. You have a formal outline of several different ways to preserve and maintain the road.
A. There is so much potential. What we would like to do.there's four different phases. One, is to keep it the way it is. Eventually it would be impassable if we just did everything that way. Another thing is to restore it the way it was originally with the original concrete, a twenty foot wide concrete road. What Scotty and I have talked about what we would like to do is maybe get a mile or more of that.select it where it's in good state right now, take out the asphalt, get it back where it's just the concrete road so people can see the twists and turns, what it was really like to begin with. Now, the thing is the asphalt was done in the '20s when it was still being used, so the asphalt portions are still historic. They were straightening it out, getting rid of the old curves and so forth. A larger portion of it we would simply restore the asphalt, make it back like it was back in the '20s. Now, we have to keep in mind that it's fire access road. So, you've got to be real careful because that early road, you know, sometimes had you slow to ten miles per hour because it curves, so we have to make sure that we work with the forest service and that it meets their standards as far as fire access and so forth, which really wouldn't be that hard. There are an awful lot of potholes. Probably the next step.the first one we're going to start this December.we're going to photograph the whole region to show the condition it's in right now. The next step would be the repairs that the feds are going to do that starts in June.
Q. Specific to the places where the road washed out.
A. There are twelve places where the road was heavily damaged by the 2005 storm. There were funds allotted because it was a disaster area, so they're going to repair those which are major repairs.
Q. Scotty says there's an issue as to whether it will be repaired with asphalt or concrete.
A. Now, all we have to do is really, I think, make the people that are responsible aware that the road is on the National Register because the National Register sets forth certain requirements that they have to restore it to such and such a standard. That's what we've got to watch for.
Q. Is it your understanding that if the Ridge Route attained Scenic By-Way status that the requirement would be more stringent for them to bring the road back to its original condition?
A. You would have more agencies involved, I think, and therefore you could put more pressure on them. You could say this is a Scenic Byway and it's also on the National Register, therefore you should restore it the way it should be. If they consider it just a fire access road they're going to just put asphalt on it and that's it. We've got to keep pushing and making them aware that this is not just a fire road but an historic part of California and that it needs to be restored. Again, we will have to help the forest service decide which parts to restore to what state.
Q. Do you have any sense how invested the Forest Service is in pushing the historic preservation aspect of the road?
A. Up until last year, 2005, the Forest Service actually didn't own it. You've heard that story?
Q. Scotty explained it to me in our last interview. [An excerpt of the interview with Harrison Scott appeared in the Fall 2006 edition of The Ridge Route Sentinel. The interview can be read in its entirety here]
A. The Forest Service was saying L.A. County was supposed to maintain it, and L.A. County was saying the Forest Service was supposed to maintain it. So, nobody was maintaining it because they always pointed the finger at the other person. Well, now that it's been designated that the Forest Service does own it, because they were given it by L.A. County. They have been very cooperative in working with us because they have historians and so forth on staff.
Q. I guess what I'm saying is are they a resource we can rely on to speak to the federal authorities about implementing those funds, making the decision on whether the repair will be done with asphalt or concrete? Will the Forest Service work with the Ridge Route to apply pressure to the appropriate agencies?
A. I would say yes because Scotty worked very close with the Forest Service archaeologists and historians when he was preparing the paperwork for the designation to be placed on the National Historical Register. The Forest Service was instrumental in helping us get the designation on the Register. I think they would be very helpful in backing us as far as what we want, but the main thing is financial. How much money do they have to make these repairs? If they say, okay, we're going to put it back in concrete we can only do half of what we would do with asphalt. Fortunately, with the oil prices as high as they are today concrete and asphalt cost-wise really aren't that different. It used to be that concrete was a lot more expensive than concrete was when gas was cheaper. If you think about it, the part we've driven on up there probably half of what needs to be restored up there is asphalt that was done in the ‘20s. The only thing I think we have to argue with and it's not nearly as important in the ‘20s they used a lot larger aggregate in their asphalt.
Q. You mean concrete.
A. No. In their asphalt. I mean, they used pretty big gravel, pretty big rocks and things for doing the asphalt. Today, the standards are a lot tighter and it's a lot smaller. Now really if they paved it in today's standards like this versus what they were doing in the ‘20s probably the average person wouldn't even notice it. But that's the type of thing where maybe we can compromise. You don't have to use the big asphalt because it would probably require big aggregate in the asphalt that would be a special mix and it may be more expensive. We could probably compromise there. But as far as concrete versus asphalt I feel that we should stick to it. In other words, concrete in place of concrete; asphalt replaced with asphalt.
Q. So in the portions that were damaged was it mostly concrete?
A. Mostly concrete. Again, another one of the compromises that is a possibility is they used square reinforcing bars back in the ‘20s. I'd have to check. I don't know if the National Register would insist upon square ones. You don't see it. It's not visible. So that's another area where we could perhaps compromise and use regular reinforcing bars. But alignment-wise that is very important. We want the road to be where it was then.
Q. Are we requiring the oil companies to remove their pipelines from the road?
A. Yes. The Forest Service is doing a good job of monitoring this. The utility companies are cooperating with the Forest Service with regard to road repairs. So that's good. This next year I'm really trying to get the workdays, the tours and membership shifted over to a new staff simply so Scotty and I can help work on getting grants. Being a civil engineer I will work directly with them on doing the actual road repair. We will decide with the Forest Service, okay, we want to restore this mile and a half section in just concrete. There've been many landslides up there as you know, many places where you can't do that. I mean, the original road is completely buried. So we would have to select maybe a mile section that is in fairly good shape, none if it has been buried in a landslide or so forth and restore it so people could really see this is what it was like.
Q. I think it should be done where Suede's Cut is located. That's the most dramatic part of the road for people to drive.
A. Yeah. You've seen the monuments that we have set up at the different sites right now. Those were done by a separate agency. To me, it's exciting to stand there and take a look and see what's really there. I see us doing a lot more of that, too. Suede's Cut, for instance, like you said. Have a monument there showing the original one, even down at Beale's Cut. That's not on the National Register, it's on private property. Originally, Scotty wanted to restore and save everything that wasn't already destroyed. It's almost impossible.
Q. Are you talking about outside the Forest?
A. Yes. Outside the Forest boundaries. Just above Lebec. I was driving one time on the Old Ridge Route and here's a big sign, right, at the side of the road and it was talking about a future commercial development going in there, you know, twenty-two acres or something like that. Well, it's private property around there. We can't really control that. We can protest and say this is an historic road and you shouldn't do that, but you know how things are with that. So, I'm trying to talk Scotty into concentrating on the portion that's on the National Register which is all within the national forest. There's no commercial, no private property, no houses. If we can restore that, maintain that, and do the tours on that I think it will be an excellent example of what the Ridge Route was.
Q. Most of the emphasis should be put on that, but some effort should be directed to documenting the other places like Dead Man's Curve, and at least take photographs of that for the museum, if and when those aren't available anymore and they're gone. We should have some historical record of those things.
A. Definitely. And we would probably work directly with Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. They have a fantastic photo collection: Ridge Route, Beale's Cut, everything. They have been very cooperative in working with us. When we get our information center started up I'm sure we'll get a lot of their pictures as we do the different tours. Scotty has got a lot in his own collection. Did you get to see his collection? I haven't.
Q. Of his newspaper articles and all of that?
A. His photographs, postcards.
Q. No. I've seen his binders of newspaper articles going back to the very beginning.
A. He's done so much research. And to think he lives as far away as he does. That's an awful lot of work. So, that's what I'd like to see. But during 2007, I see us basically forming two groups. One, to maintain what we've been doing this year , keep the interest going, maybe pursue the interpretive center, do the workdays, do the tours and so forth. Meanwhile, we have a group that's working with the forest service and the feds doing the actual repairs. Because we told people that we don't think we will be able to restart tours on the whole Ridge Route until 2008.
Q. So, are you going to undertake the grant writing responsibility as well?
A. No. We're going to try to get a grant writer. But again, we're now back up to $3,700 in our checking account which..one of the ideas that we had which would be great to get somebody on is we have three car clubs that are working with us, antique car clubs, we were going to go together with them, take pictures especially in the spring when the wildflowers are out, and do a calendar, split the cost and the profits between the car clubs. To get a thousand calendars which I think we could sell without a problem is going to cost about $3,000 down payment to get everything done. Well, that would completely deplete our bank account right now. So, we're going to have to build up to where we can..we took pictures last spring with one of the car clubs and it's fantastic, I mean it is calendar quality easily. That is a very workable thing. It's just a matter of getting the finances where we can say, okay, we're going to invest three thousand dollars, do the calendars and so forth. Right now, that's been my responsibility and it's been just been one of those like priority number seven.
Q. Are you saying that would be a revenue generator to help with the grant writing?
A. To help with the grant writing, the interpretive center, all of those things. Right now, we're really strapped financially. The workdays don't cost us anything. Anything we can do to bring in more revenue and then we will find the best way perhaps to invest in a calendar where we can bring in even more revenue. Then, when we build up enough where we could do a.if we could get somebody to simply say, okay, you can use my garage for an interpretive center.
Q. Do we know who owns the property across the street from Brian's Diner?
A. I can find out. I know the real estate agent that sells out of here.
Q. It's worth asking.
A. Right. But what I'm saying is that if we got something like that right there we could have maybe two or three workdays, have guys come down, paint it, put in a wall, you know, fix it up, we could have a work day. That would be very workable. The calendar is very workable. The guys brought six of their antique cars up, we spent one whole day..we have our own photographer who volunteered. We spent one whole day taking pictures. It was fantastic. We could take pictures up on the old Ridge Route, too. We were concentrating then where the flowers were that day. But these are all workable. Right now I'm the only one who's working on these things and I just have to set priorities. The more we can get people involved the more I'd be able to do.
Q. I talked to Scotty about the car clubs and getting them involved. He understands the importance. Of course, he's invested in working at the government level which is the best use of his time. From a public relations standpoint I think it's important that we create an image in people's minds of these old cars traveling on the Old Ridge Route and try to create some nostalgia where parents bring their kids and start looking at the Ridge Route as something that's not just an anachronism but something that's contemporary and fun for people to go out and spend a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon visiting.
A. You can take tours.
Q. Yeah. Come on up in the old cars. That's kind of what I was thinking. From a PR standpoint, it's so important to get a face on the Ridge Route. So many people are saying it's just an old road, so what?
A. When Scotty did the tour with Huell Hauser they rode in an original Model A, no new engine, it was the old engine, they actually overheated twice on the tour. Scotty has promised me that once we get the road fixed up and we start the tours again that he will get me a ride all the way on it in an original Model A. To me that's the reward.
Q. The other thing we talked about and this is much further down the line because it involves expense and tremendous amount of strategic planning is getting the landslides removed from the roadway and finding a place to dump the dirt. It is going to be expensive to do.
A. Well, under the National Register, like I said, there are four different ways you can approach it. In the areas where we have major landslides and so forth we can do that first category. In other words, retain it the way it is, keep it passable, point out that here's where the road went right back into the mountain, but has since fallen down. In those areas we can keep it at that level. The second or third level where you restore it the way it was then, we're only going to be able to do that in some pretty select places to where it's the full concrete and so forth. It will all be passable.
Q. But you're saying that the areas where the original concrete road has been buried by the dirt we may not be able to do that?
A. We may not be able to do that. Plus, a lot of things like Granite Gate, I mean the gate, if you remember there where there's a rock on the right sticking up, the mountain came clear out to there and it was a narrow passage by the rock. That mountain's been cut away. I mean, it would cost an awful lot of money to put the mountain back and restore a narrow pass through there.
Q. But the road still goes out there.
A. It does and we may be able to restore that particular portion.
Q. I'm saying just get all of the dirt out of the way that's covering the road.
A. You're right. There are a lot of places basically and I'd have to give the forest service credit for this over the years, as they've gone through and cleared out landslides and stuff, they've piled a berm along the outside edge, whether it was on top of the road or just a berm to keep it from washing out anymore. So, it was more or less to help maintain it at minimum cost by pushing all that dirt out there. That's not where it was originally and part of it's burying the road but it's keeping that part of the road from washing out right now.
Q. Ideally, you could and should be able to go through with a bulldozer and take out the dirt.
A. We have to restore the original drainage if we do that.
Q. But you're not going to know that until you start clearing out the berm.
Q. You'd have to do it in stages and then suffer the consequences of removing the dirt and then discovering there's no drainage here anywhere.
A. Not really. As a civil engineer now, you can tell places that need to have a drain. For instance, some portions of the old Ridge Route had a curb. My understanding it was six inches wide and ten inches high. The curb was primarily to keep cars from going off the road, but it also acts to collect water, you know, on the drainage. Well, as a civil engineer, curbs can be very helpful in preventing erosion but they can also cause it. If you do a curb around here then end it, that's where the water's going to go off. The curb's going to collect the water, it will go down to the end and dump. You can create a real problem at the end of the curb depending on where you end it. So, that's what we'll have to look at. Okay, if we clear this dirt off and we get the original road back what kind of drainage problems are we going to create and does the drain that's already there will that take care of it? Okay, let's clear the drain out and it will work just fine. Or, do we need to add a curb along here? Again, we're talking about something that's almost a hundred years old. So, an awful lot has happened over the last hundred years.
Q. Hypothetically, is adding new drainage defeating the historical integrity of the road? That's a question you would have to ask.
A. Probably not because the reason they built the Ridge Route on top of the mountain on the ridge is to minimize the drainage problems. If you notice, there are no bridges, there are no major canyons crossing the Ridge Route. That's the advantage of building it on the ridge. You're up at the top, there's very little drainage coming down the hill. If there was drainage coming down in a canyon for instance, they built a drain there. They knew at that time that they were going to need a drain. So what we would have to do is either clean out that drain or replace it. Many of the old drains back in the ‘20s were done with corrugated metal pipe which was great at the time. But corrugated metal pipe is metal and what it tends to do is erode on the bottom. So right now, if we actually sent a camera back up some of those drains they would probably be horseshoe shaped. The bottom would be completely eroded out and what's holding the drain up is simply the corrugated part on the top. Well, we could replace that with new corrugated metal pipe. Historically, it would still be functional and so forth. So, that's what I think we'd have to do. If we restored it we would try to put in drains and things that were equivalent at the time, but make sure it was adequate.
Q. But it's a tremendous expense.
A. We'd have to have grants and so forth. Private, historical.
Q. I know Scotty talked about at some point having people adopt sections. If we could get major companies to come forward...
A. That would be ideal. Another fantastic idea . . . this area is not used at all. But can't you see having marathons up there? It would be very easy to close the road off. It's perfect as far as no traffic, no cross traffic, you could do marathons as a fundraiser. There are so many possibilities. Bicycle and running relays. Car tours with antique car clubs. You could have bicycle marathons. But again, right now, you can't even think about it because there are so many potholes and stuff up there. This is once we got it to that stage.
Q. It's a great idea.
A. Once we get it to that stage, then as far as raising funds to continue to me that's not really a worry. We could do marathons, we could do calendars. What we're doing at the museum is we're creating that little gas station façade. Hopefully, on Saturdays we will have one of the car clubs bring up a Model T or Model A, park it underneath, take pictures of people sitting it the Model T or by the Model T, sell it to them for 50 cents or a dollar and that's how the museum would raise funds.
Q. You'd have to have the guy with the Texaco cap on cleaning your windshield.
A. I just saw "Back to the Future." It was so neat when he went back to the '50s and he appears in front of a Texaco station and these three guys come running out to check the air in the tires, wash the windows . . .I remember those times. One of the reasons I mentioned on this list is to look at the seniors. A lot of the interest that we're getting right now are people where either their parents or they have gone on the road. That's why they're interested. Okay, they're going to be gone pretty soon. I mean, within the next twenty years. Over half of those people. So, we've got to build an interest for the younger generation and an interest in realizing how historic it is and how important it was. Plus, with the traffic that is being generated now, like I said, my son took the Ridge Route in order to get up here, there are a lot of people that would take the Old Ridge Route, say for Thanksgiving coming up here, just to avoid the traffic on the freeway as an alternate. They probably would. The other alternative is to drive all the way over to Palmdale to hit 14 and go back which doesn't make any sense. You're going 50 miles out of the way. Also, Scotty has done such a good job of collecting the old pictures and so forth, if we get an interpretive center, we could actually have one here in Gorman, I'm thinking would be first, and another one in Castaic on either end. If you could do a good job presenting those, you would have an excellent history of the Ridge Route.
Q. As you go along the Ridge Route and actually see those places in the photographs at the site where you're standing is really important.
A. Like I said for me, a lot of what I'm doing is because I'm looking forward to that ride in the Model A that Scotty said he'd do when we get that thing restored. To me it would be a highlight. He said there were certain stretches that they actually had to back up.
Q. Because it was too steep?
A. Yes. You actually had to back up it. Fortunately, there are a lot of places like Dead Man's Curve and places up here that people aren't really aware of that still exist. I've gotten three inquiries in the last four months about people that want to see Dead Man's Curve.
Q. Is it on private land?
A. I think it's in the Interstate 5 right of way. But , the best place to see it is from a private road. The road goes around a corner and there's a gate and a sign that says Private Property, Do Not Enter. The place you see it from is right before you get to that sign. So on the tour, I took the fourteen cars that one time down there we turned around right there and you get a fantastic view. It's a picture view. That's where they took the picture from. Dead Man's Curve is a horseshoe. One end is about twenty feet above the I-5 elevation-wise. The other end is about five feet below the I-5. Heading south, you can get off at the lower section. You have to cross the truck lane, so you've got to be careful going in and out because that's the truck lane. I took my dog down there one time. It was funny, because to hike down from the private road down to there you have to cross a creek and there's a wooden bridge across it, just a plank, maybe a two by twelve across it and I could not get my dog to walk across it. So, I ended up carrying the dog on this two by twelve balancing him going across. Once you get over you can walk the whole thing. I think there's a barbed wire fence partway where you get out of the freeway right of way. What I'm interested in is down in the canyon below it is where the cars supposedly went off. That's all been burnt off.
Q. You could do it during the winter.
A. We could do it as a member's tour and just limit it by the number of people.
Q. That area should be preserved.
A. I think the property it's on belongs to Tejon Ranch. I've built a model . . . I've been envisioning this interpretive center for a long time. I built a model about the size of this table of Dead Man's Curve. It's about two-thirds complete. It's like a railroad model. I'd never done it before and I had a ball.
Q. Did you use plaster of paris or salt and flower?
A. Now, they actually have an impregnated cloth that's got a dry plaster mix on it, you dip it down in the water and then you can just lay it on there and it hardens into plaster.
Q. But you had to form a base underneath.
Q. What did you use?
A. I used . . . what's the eighth inch wood?
A. First, I used aerial photographs, I used pictures that I took out in the field, and I drew the contours so it would appear approximately the way it really is out there. I drew those, I did a contour map of it. Then I took cross-sections about every six inches, cut those out on a band saw, set them up that way, then I used cardboard, I cut out cardboard strips, I glued it to this side, twisted it, glued it to that side, and then those hardened. Then you put this plaster thing over it. I was experimenting. I'd never done it before, but it came out really good. It looks very cool. Now, the problem I was having and Don Smith was a life-saver with this, in order to get Dead Man's Curve on a model this size I had to go down to "Z" which is the smallest scale to get it to fit. What I was hoping to do is get all four stages, in other words I was going to show Dead Man's Curve as the original Ridge Route, then do a three-lane Highway 99, a four-lane Highway 99, and an eight-lane freeway all the same size models so people could compare them. But Don put together these old cars at "Z" scale, I mean you put together model cars, right? These things, all the parts are on a piece the size of a credit card. The spokes, the wheels, the steering wheel were separate. I bought a couple of those with this whole thing in mind and then I thought there's no way you're going to put that thing together, you shake too much!
Q. It's about that big.
A. It will set on your thumb. We've got several of those already made. Poor Don, I said, okay, we've got enough of these for the road itself. I said, this is Dead Man's Curve. I want you to make a couple that fell off. He said, "you mean I've got to squash one end of them?" I said, yes. He did one or two of those. I'll send you some pictures of those. My problem is I was doing it in the garage and it's three feet by two feet. It was just taking up too much room and right now we don't have any place at the museum even to show it. So, I've got it stored away up in the garage.
Q. So, you really need an interpretive center.
A. Oh, I would go wild. One of the things we want to have and I've already got the map printed out is we would have a scale model of the whole Ridge Route. It would be about ten feet long and about two feet wide. I've got it all printed out from the computer and I have made those types of models before, too. Now again, ideally, you would pay somebody to make these models, but if I could get some volunteers we could make these exhibits ourselves. What you'd have is a little Christmas light at Tumble Inn, at each of those. You'd press the button, it would say "this is Tumble Inn," and up above it would light up and they would show you pictures of the Tumble Inn and so forth. It's not hard to make.
Q. I'll help you do it. I love that stuff.
A. It's fantastic. When you come up to see Dead Man's Curve I'll take the model down. I had, and I have to follow through and go back, an email from a person the other day, they're not even a member, they said they were fascinated with the Ridge Route and I've got to go back and re-read it, it was either their kids or a kids' group they work with, Boy Scouts, were interested in Dead Man's Curve and they said could we see it, you know, would we be able to see it? So, I'm thinking if we could get a Boy Scout group interested they could help us complete this. I've got basically the ground complete, but what we're trying to do now is put trees on it. What I found is . . . we have pictures of the old Dead Man's Curve. It had a railing all the way around the outside. The original one did.
Q. Did it have a curb all the way around?
A. Oh, yeah. From aerial photographs which are plentiful now, I was able to plot out exactly the curve that went around. At first when I looked, I thought well it was probably semi-circular. Well, when I looked at the aerial photograph it's a curve but it's not semi-circular any way, it just followed the mountain. So, I was able to plot that out, so no it really looks like it. But, what I found out was that "HO" scale which is the next scale up from "Z" the ladders for HO scale make a perfect railing for the sides. Unfortunately, I didn't buy enough ladders, but I've started them on there and it looks fantastic. You just glue this ladder around the outside and it looks just like the old railing.
Q. What are you using for the terrain, for the dirt?
A. I experimented. It's plaster, but what I did . . . I got all the plaster on it, then I got the powdered paint and I just sprinkled the powdered paint on it dry and then took a water bottle and squirted it and it impregnates the plaster and it looks really good.
Q. It's got texture.
A. Oh, yeah, it's got texture. I've got little horses and what I did . . . the real thin wire that's about this size . . . I cut pieces of the wire and I used a pin to drill a hole in the plaster at different places, put those in for a fence and it looks like a fence going up the side of the hill. It's these pieces of wire that are the fence posts because that's about the right scale. But I've had so much fun playing with that. You can get Z scale horses, you can get Z scale people, and you can get 1920s cars. I've been able to do that. The only thing we've got to look for is ..most Z scale is European. Z scale is a European scale. So, if we went to the ‘30s, the ‘50s, and then the ‘80s, we'd have to make sure we could look on the internet and find Z scale vehicles that we could either modify or make look like that particular era. The ‘80s are no problem.
Q. But they're European cars.
A. Not all of them. I was amazed they had Model As. And a lot of it is depending on how you paint them and so forth. But the ones that I'm using are really detailed scale models. It's museum quality.
Q. It sounds like a lot of fun.
A. Well, up here in the winter time you can't do an awful lot with the snow out there, so I would go down in the garage and work on the model. I had a ball.
Q. I talked to you at point about having a whole map, a topographical map of the whole Ridge Route.
A. I've already drawn up a plan and it's about the size of that garage [Carl refers to an abandoned filling station across the street from Brian's Diner] of . . . basically what I was suggesting to Scotty was a double trailer and I think it was thirty thousand dollars. For thirty-thousand we could actually buy a double trailer and have it brought up here and put on the site. With this double trailer I had drawn it up where we could have all of these exhibits in there. You would have one room where you'd show pictures. You know, we could have one with a TV screen where you could do your virtual tour of it. It would seat maybe half a dozen people.
Q. Why don't you have something like the Huell Hauser video where people could come in, push a button and watch it.
A. We could show the Huell Hauser video. Also, do, like I said, the virtual tour on Google Earth. With Google Earth you can put your own identification things on it. Using Scotty's book where he gives the mileage as you go up the road, you can measure up the mileage and at two point eight miles, you know, was such and such a place and put a marker there. Then you go on up. Well, then you can go back and you can fly this and stop at each of those. That would be a fantastic tour.
Q. I also like the low-tech thing where you push the button and the map lights up.
A. Oh, we'd have that, too. And pictures galore all over the walls. I'll have to show you the plans I drew up for this. I get carried away sometimes. I go too far! I think Scotty wanted to do something more permanent than a two trailer thing. But for now . . . we can't wait ten years to get up enough money to build a nice museum. If we got a grant...What we're trying to do now with the workdays and the tours is get a reputation, get publicity, get a knowledge, because once we get a firm enough reputation I'm sure the car clubs would join in with us like with the calendar. They'd say, okay, we'll pay for half of it, you guys pay for half and we'll split the cost. But we've got to establish a reputation. Like I said, in 2005 there was no money brought in. All that people knew about the Ridge Route was Scotty's book.
Q. The truth is we're working at a disadvantage with the road shut down in terms of generating momentum.
A. If they do the major repairs starting in June 2007, okay, that's going to make it accessible again. But, you've seen the condition of it when we've gone up there. The fact that they take the gates down, and that one stretch is repaired doesn't mean that it's going to be everybody can go up and drive on it again. Or even with the old cars. It's in bad shape. There are giant potholes.
Q. Another thing that wouldn't cost us any money but would just be labor is to get all of the rocks out of the middle of the road.
A. Scotty did that for years. He'd go up on weekends and just clear the rocks off. I had a guy volunteer a bobcat [small bulldozer]. We took him up there. . . I've got a picture of him carrying a rock that's as big as that whole table thing there carrying it off. I'm sure we could get people to volunteer a bobcat for the weekend. You know, come up on a workday.
Q. We need to take the dirt and rocks away somewhere. The forest service won't allow us to throw it down the side.
A. There are a lot of places that I have seen as a civil engineer if we dumped our rocks and dirt in this particular area it would really help stabilize the roadway. So, if we can designate those areas, then we could take the rocks, dump them here and would do good. The forest service would be fine with it. But the other thing is, like I said, in the ‘20s they cut a lot of the hills off to straighten the roads out. If it falls within that mile stretch that we want to restore to the original, we could dump the dirt there and help make it look like the original road. You know, we're not going to replace a mountain or the side of a mountain, but if they just cut the nose off of something then we could build that back. Dump it there.
Q. But then you cover up the asphalt.
A. That's the area where we would restore the original curvy concrete. This is what we're going to really be able to do strongly once we get these pictures. We're going to cover every foot of the road visibly where you can see the condition it's in.
Q. Do you take the photographs straight down or at an angle?
A. I've got to get together with Dave, he's the photographer, and what we were thinking . . . we could get in the back of my truck and I could back the roadway. So, he would be shooting from the back of the truck down onto the roadway. Now, depending on the curves, depending on the lighting, you know, you could cover fifty feet or you could cover one hundred feet, or maybe only twenty feet if you were at a tight curve. So, I told him we're going to pay for the film. He has a camera that he said would put the coordinates on the picture when he took the picture. Now, I've also got a licensed surveyor who has his own surveying company who has said I'll help you in any way you need. So, he's going to help me make sure when we take these pictures we do it in such a way that he would probably get us an aerial photograph or map or whatever that would show exactly where all of these pictures were taken and which way they were facing. We would have an excellent record. Again, what I'm seeing too is we'd be limited in time by the sun. . . we'd wait until the sun got straight up and we could shoot all the way through. I think it's pretty dark up there in some of those canyons.
Q. That's the problem with Google Earth. Sometimes you get the shadows interfering.
A. I've told my wife on several occasions . . . we've been up here for four years now, and I told her as a retired civil I could not think of a better retirement than I've got right now, simply because I'm living in the mountains which is fantastic: clean air, no traffic, four seasons out of the year, plus on my hobbies I'm doing the things that I really enjoy, you know history, restoring roads, I mean, I can't think . . . if I had planned my retirement which I didn't, I can't think of a thing I'd more enjoy than working at the museum and working on the Ridge Route.
Q. Doing things you're passionate about.
A. It's fantastic. And my wife has backed me the whole way. She's been the Porta-Potty Princess, you know driving on there, and supporting everything which is great. I'm really pleased. Is there anything else?
Q. No. Thanks.
A. Well, thank you.