Whizzing along at 55 mph, another bronze plaque, a California Roadside Historical Marker, half-hidden behind azalea shrubs, is only noticed after passing the turn-out.  One day you must remember to stop and read what took place there.

In the meantime, it’s cold, you’re busy, and getting out of the car to read some historic plaque isn’t going to happen during your drive-about.

Check out Marael Johnson’s “California Why Stop?  A Guide to California Roadside Historical Markers.”  Similar to Ruth Pittman’s Roadside History of California both books make for either good armchair reading to anyone encumbered by wanderlust, but unable to physically get out on the road, or, as planning tools for your next California cruise.

I won’t list every marker along the coast, only the Top 5, from south to north:

1. San Clemente: La Cristianita – The first Christian baptism in Alta California, performed by Padre Gomez, a member of the Portola Expedition in 1769. Placed by State Park Commission in cooperation with Orange County, 1957.

2. San Pedro: Casa de San Pedro, Hide House Site – The first known commercial structure on the shore of San Pedro was built here in 1823 by the trading firm of McCulloch and Hartnell to store cattle hides from the San Gabriel and San Fernando missions.  Richard Henry Dana described this hide house in Two Years Before the Mast.  Thus began the development of the Port of Los Angeles.  Placed in cooperation with San Pedro Bay Historical Society, 1979.

3. San Luis Obispo: Site of Ah Louis Store – Here in 1874 was established Ah Louis Store.  The first Chinese store in the county.  It sold general merchandise and herbs, and served as a bank, counting house, and post office for the numerous Chinese coolies who dug the eight tunnels through the mountains of Cuesta for the Sounterhn Pacific Railroad, 1884-1894. Placed in Cooperation with San Luis Obispo Historical Society and Sons and Daughters of Ah Louis, 1965.

4. San Francisco: Entrance of the San Carlos – The first ship to enter San Francisco Bay, Aug. 5. 1775, the Spanish packet San Carlos, under the command of Lt. Juan Manuel de Ayala,became the first ship to enter San Francisco Bay.  A month and a half was spent in surverying the bay from its southernmost reaches to the northern end of present-day Suisun Bay.  The San Carlos departed Sept. 18, 1775.  Placed in cooperation with San Francisco Twin Bicentennial, Inc., 1975.

5. Trinidad: Tsurai – Directly below was located the ancient Yurok village of Tsurai.  A prehistoric, permanent Indian community, it was first located and described by captains Bodega and Heceta June 9 – 19, 1775.  The houses were of hand-split redwood planks designed for defense and protection.  The village was occupied until 1916.  Placed in cooperation with Heritage Trinidad and Humboldt County Historical Society, 1970.

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