The West Coast version of the King's Highway, El Camino Real is an historic road that connected a series of Spanish missions hundreds of years ago. It starts in San Francisco, follows the coast down through Los Angeles and San Diego, then runs into Mexico, terminating in Mexico City. Much of El Camino Real is still in use today. US 101 between Los Angeles and Ventura runs on sections of it, and it can be exited from Interstate 5 on numerous points. Some sections have been renamed, but if you're driving up or down the west coast, and you see a bell hanging from a curved pole on the side of the road, you're most likely travelling on El Camino.

Most communities tend to have trendy stores on El Camino.

Spanish for "the road to the king". Often refered to as the Royal Road or King's Highway. A historic road that runs from San Francisco to San Jose and most likey further south. However, almost all traces of it have been lost. It disappears somewhere around Lafayette St in Santa Clara, just a bit west of San Jose.

The stretch of El Camino that runs from San Francisco down near San Jose is anything but glamorous. It is riddled with strip malls, nail salons, and 24 hour liquor stores. The nice thing about El Camino is that most consumer level businesses like to have their store located on El Camino due to the high traffic on the street. So, if you need to find, say a new bed, all you need to do is drive long enough on El Camino and you will eventually find a mattress store. My theory is that if you can't find it on El Camino, it probably doesn't exist.

In the Jargon File / New Hackers Dictionary, the road El Camino Real is amusingly referred to as El Camino Bignum. At first this may seem like an exaggeration, but once you get lost on it, you realize how long El Camino Real really is.

The street numbers on El Camino Real reset every ten blocks or so as you move from city to city. When visiting the area and discovering the road for the first time, this can be quite problematic. While trying to find a hotel at a certain street address, I kept going south while getting more and more confused until I found myself in Sunnyvale. Unfortunately, the hotel and the Model United Nations conference I was attending were near Stanford, up in Palo Alto. Oops.

The El Camino Real can be translated several ways into English, however, it is usually just called the "King's Highway." It was the route connected the 21 California Missions created by the Fransiscan missionaries in helping to claim Alta California for the Spanish empire.

It generally follows the route of US Highway 101, but it does have some occassional sudden appearances in some places (For example, there is a portion in San Gabriel that is suddenly signed out of nowhere and continues to San Gabriel Archangel and then disappears). The original idea of saving the history route was brought up in 1892 by Anna Pitcher, Director of the Pasadena Art Exhibition Association to the Women's Club of Los Angeles. However, no action to preserve the El Camino Real occured until 1904 when the El Camino Real Association was formed, it also created the use of the bell marking the route. Originally there were 450 iron cast bells, but they were vandalized, stolen, etc. Today the replacements made by CalTrans are usually concrete and can be adopted via the Adopt-a-Highway program.

There are also several other different El Camino Reals, here are 2 other ones:

  • El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro -- This 1,800 mile trail goes from Mexico City to Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the United States, this route runs along approximately Interstate 25 between El Paso, Texas and Taos, New Mexico.

  • El Camino Real de los Tejas -- El Camino Real de los Tejas and variations in the primary route were used for more than 150 years as the principal route between Mexico City, Saltillo, Monclova, and respective presidios, and the missions near the present Guerrero, Coahuila, Mexico, on the Rio Grande and Los Adaes in what is now northwestern Louisiana.

A long, straight road in extending from Sunnyvale, California, to San Jose, California. Like the perpendicular intersecting Lawrence Expressway, the traffic lights on this street forsaken all drivers who just a couple seconds late at right the lights. The really cool part about El Camino is that if you time it right and go at the right speed you can drive for half an hour in mid-day traffic without ever stopping or hitting a red light.

I'm pretty sure there used to be some glamorous story to this King of Highways but now it's just another long straight road dotted by stores on both sides.

Some notables stores that I can remember are a Super Tung Kee Noodle House where engineers from all the office buildings in a 2 mile radius congregate for lunch, a Starbucks with a drive-through window, Rainbow Carwash, a rare do-it-yourself car wash place that's been in business before Silicon Valley, a small Koreantownship with a place called Korean BBQ Buffet, the most delightful place for anyone, and lots and lots of car lots (how punny).

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