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 San Diego Miata Club

Rock & Roll Run

Dr. Monte Marshall

Is there such a thing as an educational car club run? You bet! Recently Dr. Monte Marshall, a native San Diegan and retired San Diego State University geology professor, guided fascinated members of the San Diego Miata Club on a geological tour of some of San Diego’s beautiful countryside. The tour was organized by SDMC member Les Smith.

Dr. Marshall has excellent credentials. After graduating from the San Diego State Geology Department in 1966, he went on to receive a PhD in geology and geophysics from Stanford. At one point in his long and interesting career, he served as the first professor from a non-communist country to be a faculty member at the university in St. Petersburg since the 1917 revolution. He remembers “having to stand in the snow to buy a loaf of bread, and make my way up and down stairwells and along the dark corridors of my apartment building when the stores were out of light bulbs. The tenants were stealing them to use in their own rooms!” He has also taught at the University of Rennes in western France and his last sabbatical was at the University of Prague. We were unbelievably fortunate to have him teach us, too.

Our run began as it often does. We converged on a restaurant, where we fortified ourselves for the day’s activities. The Bread Basket restaurant in Alpine is billed as the “Home of the original Bread Basket” and features “From Scratch” bread, assorted pastries and specialty bakery goods. Judging by the large Saturday morning crowd inside and out, I’d say that it’s a pretty popular place to eat. If you’d like to check them out for your own weekend brunch, they are located at 1347 Tavern Road in Alpine (91901). That’s about 24 miles east of San Diego’s I-8/I-15 interchange. Just take the Tavern Road exit off of I-8 and then proceed a short distance south to the shopping center on your left. It is a great place to begin (or end) a scenic drive.


Before we left the restaurant, Dr. Marshall presented a short lecture, complete with a slide show. His specialty is geology, so he prepared us for the geology that we would be seeing on our drive. We also learned a little bit about earthquakes. Then we were given route maps for a 91.6 mile run. Ten stops were planned along the way.


From the restaurant, we headed out in our Miatas on an exploration that included the Sunrise Highway and the area around Julian (yes, I stopped to buy one of their famous apple pies).


Learning about the geology that surrounded us was an excellent reason for a car club run. Every so often, after we’d driven for a while on scenic back country roadways, we stopped at one of the pre-determined places, where Dr. Marshall would teach us about the geology of the area. It was just like a university field trip – but with no exam afterwards!

One of the many breathtaking views on our run

Each stop was interesting and yet different, and our route maps gave us a brief synopsis of what we’d be learning from Monte along the way. For example, this is what was to be discussed at Stop #5 at Inspiration Point: “(Elevation 4,600’) This is a great view of Banner Grade (Stop #8) and the desert mountains. The closest large, active, dangerous fault EAST of San Diego, the Elsinore Fault (Zone). It runs down this gorge/canyon – can you see it?”

For about as long as I’ve lived in San Diego County and as I’ve driven north on I-15 to Temecula and Las Vegas, I have often admired the huge, rounded boulders scattered up the sides and on top of the tall hills (short mountains?). I had always assumed that the boulders were deposited there long ago from some receding glacier. Dr. Marshall told us how they really got there. While I admit that I was paying a lot more attention to my photography instead of what Dr. Marshall was saying, I still managed to learn that the boulders were what remained when the mountains around them weathered and basically dissolved into dirt over time.


We ended up cutting our Rock & Roll Run short. Thanks to Dr. Marshall’s wealth of information and our never-ending questions, we ran out of time. Needless to say, we had a great time.

A keeper: MAZDASPEED MX-5 (Miata)

By the way, this run reminded me of how much I enjoy membership in car clubs. I had been thinking of selling my Miata and getting something else, but my enjoyment of the run prompted me to decide to keep the car after all. I strongly recommend buying a car that is associated with an active car club. Being able to participate in their activities is a big benefit of ownership. In addition to the San Diego Miata Club, I have personally belonged to the San Diego chapters of the BMW Car Club of America and also the Porsche Club of America. Both clubs hold social and driving events throughout the year. You’ll find that there are many other such clubs in the area too.

Jan at work – photo by Jack Frater

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to Enjoy the archives and more at  Drive safely and do join me again next time.

Copyright © 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #193 AutoMatters 

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