I started this 5-part series on Hwy 39, Beach Boulevard, because the state of California has a 22 mile patch they are giving up on. Let me explain.
This wonderful wide 50mph thoroughfare that runs from the beach to the mountains basically ends in the canyons and foothills where Orange County meets L.A. County. There are a couple more small communities, LaHabra and LaMirada, and then the road narrows and just quits for a while. At this point we have traveled just 20 miles from the sands of Huntington Beach.
LaMirada has two places I love dearly and have garnered many hours of enjoyment. The first is the LaMirada Golf Club. During my 9 years as tournament director for the Newport Harbor Men’s Golf Club, I held many tournament outings there…wonderful memories. The second place in LaMirada that I really miss is the LaMirada Civic Theatre.
There was no lack of quality theatre venues in Newport Beach, where I spent 18 years. However, the civic theatre in LaMirada was a special venue. Cathy Rigby and her husband, Tom McCoy, formed McCoy Rigby Entertainment Company and booked and scheduled the seasons. Some of the finest theatre in Southern Cal was and is still enacted there. One of my favorite musicals was the Peter Pan show starring Cathy Rigby, who then took the show to Broadway where it won numerous awards.
One can drive a few miles from there to the Industry Hills Golf Club and play two Championship courses which back in the 90s were rated the toughest on the west coast. They have tamed them down somewhat lately. The first time I played the “Ike” (Dwight Eisenhower Course), I lost 9 balls. When I finished I felt like I had been in a cage match. My favorite experience is finishing the 9thhole and driving your cart onto a funicular(basically a golf cart elevator) and it carries you to the top of the next mountain to the 10th tee. I know of no one who ever tried to walk this course. The longer and even tougher course at Industry Hills is the “Babe” (Babe Zaharias Course). I only played it once and felt ready to give up the game when it finally ended. The views are spectacular, the punishment is medieval. Honestly, the two courses are great for good golfers, not hackers like me.
Back to Hwy 39.
When we leave these canyons and foothills, the perfect place to build all the dozens of golf courses in this area, we are at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. The town of Azusa sits along the I-10 Freeway and for whatever reason a small mountain road starts winding its way upward from Azusa, and the State awarded it the name of Hwy 39. It does line-up with Hwy 39, Beach Blvd, on the map, so I imagine that made sense at the time. However this 22 mile stretch is one of the most dangerous, thrilling, roller-coaster, messed-up excuses for a road anywhere. It has been flooded out, burned out in the middle of forest fires, pot-holed out and very high-maintenance. The road service for the state highways, Caltrans, said enough is enough. If the road is to be maintained, they hope the Forest Service will take on the project.
Don’t bet on it.