On Oct. 9, 1975, the Reader published a story on driving shortcuts. It was written by then cabbie Ray Lilly and contained 14 San Diego shortcuts when gas went for about $.57 per gallon.
In 1977, San Dieguito High School student Teri Brown began driving her mom’s 1972 Chevy Nova. Brown learned much of the shortcuts and backstreets that Lilly wrote about on her own, and now applies that 40-year driving experience throughout San Diego County — to her current Uber gig driving a 2013 Hyundai Sonata.
“I know San Diego pretty well,” Brown said on December 30, “from Chula Vista all the way to Oceanside, as I’ve lived all over the place.”
Brown’s been driving with Uber since 2015 when she lost her job as a technical trainer. She read Lilly’s 1975 shortcut guide and says much of his shortcuts are still relevant 43 years after. For this story, she and I spoke of shortcuts that save us time driving around San Diego County.
“I have a shortcut coming down the I-15 in the evenings to my house in Allied Gardens, or anywhere in Mission Valley,” she said. “You can come down Kearny Villa Road parallel to the 15 and then it turns into Ruffin Road. I’ll keep on that, having to go west on Aero Drive for a bit to meet up with it again by the police station, then take it to Gramercy then to Mission Village: which takes you right down to the stadium.
“Going out to Santee in the afternoons via the 8 can be pretty tough,” she said, “so I will go via Mission Gorge Road sometimes. There are three lanes and just a few lights, so it will often save some time that way.”
Regarding Lilly’s Hillcrest to the San Diego International Airport route, Brown has alternatives. “You can go down Washington Street all the way to Pacific Highway and get to the airport that way. You can also take Pacific Highway north to Barnett, then Lytton, then Rosecrans, then Nimitz — and that can be better than through Sassafras if there’s traffic.”
Lilly wrote about routes from San Diego State University to downtown: “the shortest way in distance is to take El Cajon Boulevard to Utah, Utah to Pershing [and] Pershing to B. But there’s too many lights and too much traffic; that’ll kill you.” Brown agreed, and suggested: “Best to get to the 94 or 8 from College Avenue to 163 south.”
On the flip side though, driving from downtown to SDSU at about 5 pm: the 94 and 8 freeways traveling eastbound and the 163 northbound are congested, so I personally take Market Street all the way to to I-15 north, then exit on El Cajon, then travel eastbound where if you time it right: the lights are synchronized all the way to College Avenue. Don’t take University off of the I-15 because it’s only a one-laner for a few miles at a time driving through City Heights. Brown agreed with me.
A couple of weeks ago December Nights at Balboa Park drew an estimated 350,000 visitors. “Never go down Park Boulevard (from Hillcrest or downtown by City College) because it’s just one lane [in certain areas],” Brown said. “I find it easier to be west of 6th to begin, like down on 1st or Front Street, then as I get closer to Laurel Street make my way east and look for parking. You can walk or take an Uber or scooter the rest of the way for just a few bucks.”
During Easter visitors start to flock to our city. “It’s tough to get to the beaches during Spring Break and in summer,” Brown said. “For Pacific Beach: I would go in through Ingraham then cut over on Rivera and get down via Pacific Beach Drive which is usually better than taking Grand or Garnet. For La Jolla Shores: I will sometimes go all the way up the 5 to Genesee Avenue, way past La Jolla Parkway, I know, then you can get in from the north and have that gorgeous view coming down along UCSD and Scripps.”
Then we have Comic Con International in summer that draws an estimated 200,000 attendees between the convention center and downtown surrounding areas — during the four-to-five day convention. “I find it easier to approach from uptown through the lower streets (Front or 2nd) down to about K Street because there’s much less traffic than between 5th and 10th.”
I then asked: “What about through Logan Heights?”
“Coming in the back way through Cesar Chavez is a good option, but there’s only that one road in (to Harbor Drive) so it can be congested, too, but not nearly as much Gaslamp.”
What about he Del Mar Fairgrounds, home to the San Diego Fair, Del Mar Horse Racing Season and Kaaboo Del Mar?
“Anything at the race track is going to be bad,” Brown said. “I always come through Del Mar Heights Road, down to Highway 101 and then north, or sometimes I’ll go past the race track [up I-5] to Lomas Santa Fe and then backtrack down through the side streets.”
Brown doesn’t have a solution for every spot in San Diego County.
“I think some of the worst traffic is going up the 805 from about Mission Valley up to Sorrento Valley,” she said. “In the morning anytime after about 6:30 am, it’s horrid. Sometimes I would detour over to the 163 and come back via 52, but even that isn’t much better. Genesee Avenue used to be a good way up and back in the afternoon — but that route has gotten just as bad. Some people will go all the way over to the 5, but that’s really out of the way if you start in mid-city or East County. So for this I have no answer.
“I will often rely on my backstreet knowledge, but will occasionally use Google Maps mostly to verify traffic and will sometimes compare it with Waze.”