California Highway 74, or the Ortega Highway, is a thread of winding road passing through and over the Santa Ana Mountains to Lake Elsinore and the Temecula Valley.
I road tripped this Sunday morning, starting in San Juan Capistrano. After a few housing developments the road gains altitude, and becomes desolate and steep after Nichols Canyon. Nichols Canyon is home to the “Nichols Research Institute.” (Now the Quest Diagnostics Nichols Insitute,) some sort of biotech testing place.
Seven years ago I was on a similar road trip (sans camera) and I passed this building. Curious as to what was past the guard shack I simply drove in, knowingly waved at the security guard, and proceeded up the hill. All the doors were locked so I was only able to see a few buildings and lobbys, but there was a nice koi pond in the garden between the two buildings. You can barely see the secretive glass buildings atop the hill above the trees.
I was taking the turns at a moderate pace remembering warnings of “be careful – many accidents,” when traffic suddenly halted about 15 miles up. In no hurry I contently waited about 15 minutes. When we started creeping forward it was obviousy the accident had been a fatality, as they were loading the deceased into a van. Somebody’s life had ended here Sunday morning at 9:30am – while most likely out for a simple drive just like I was. Comments in the “Southwest Riverside News Network” and OC Register express the family’s emotions.
I stopped at the crest and took some pictures of Lake Elsinore, (above,) and a cool float plane down at the docks. I also swung by “Hells Kitchen,” a biker bar (I didn’t go in,) and “Lookout BBQ” – (it was closed.)
Driving through Lake Elsinore I stopped for coffee at the Circle K, and after pulling in noticed a flatbed tow truck with the mangled motorcycle, and a second two truck pulling a car – with no more damage than an out of place tire, deployed air bag and a crumpled front corner.
Eavesdropping I heard one of the drivers explaining the car was navigating a sharp turn too fast, came upon a slower car – and veered across the double yellow lines, (on a blind curve,) in order to slow down.
In the oncoming lane was a motorcyclist from Newport Beach.
In Lake Elsinore I enjoyed three tacos at Los Panchos, a Mexican restaurant and supermarket. I then headed back to Orange County via the 15, 91 and 241 freeways, instead of a return trip on Ortega Highway