Over time everything evolves. Travel Highway 152 enough over the years, and you find this to be true. Combine an extremely high volume of vehicles traveling this road with mother nature, and you are bound to have some “weird” areas of travel. Pacheco Pass defiantly develops some strange quirks. With every repair, a new or different quirk arises.

I commute to the Salinas Valley, but I have commuted in all directions with the exception of the Merced and Modesto areas. Most commuters start in Los Banos and meet back up at the fly-over near Casa de Fruta. I decided to discuss today road nuances in both directions of this stretch.

As you leave Los Banos and cross both the bridge after Volta and then the aqueduct bridge, take caution. In wet weather both of these become very slippery. Yes, new commuters slide out of control. Let’s add in the Forebay bridge to that “slippery when wet” group of bridges.

Now picture cresting at the San Luis Visitor Center eastbound. You begin going down a slight hill before entering a left banking curve to the left, before the Rock Bridge. For some reason that left bank wants to unnaturally pull you to the edge off the highway.

Watch it! If you do happen slightly veer off the edge, the four- to five-inch drop will sheer the inside of your driver side front/rear tires.

There are other minor nuances in the road before reaching Dinosaur Point. But a real “steering wheel grabber” is the open area on both sides of the pass with no adjacent hill, just before the final ascent.

Hold on! The cross-winds can literally blow your car off the road. Yes, it’s scary. Be careful traveling down the grade–too much speed and the humps in the road may swing you off path into the center divider.

Should you safely fare downhill, you will remember the last major westbound nuance. In fact, you only need to encounter it once, and you will never make that same mistake twice. There is a bridge at the bottom of the grade, just past El Toro Road, which would be on the right. Quick sidebar…on a rare occasion, wild boar attempt to cross the freeway. Again, super rare, but hit a boar and the impact is serious for both parties.

Back to that last major nuance. Coming off of the hill, you will most likely average 75 miles per hour. At this speed in the right lane, you will encounter a very pronounced dip in the road. A tad more speed, or if you don’t have luxury shocks, and you will definitely feel a jolt with enough force to make you say “whoa.”  To minimize the effect of this experience, I highly recommend using the left lane while crossing the bridge.

The road is pretty smooth as you proceed to the Gilroy/ Hollister split. Looks like I’ve run out of room here. I’ll have to describe eastbound next time.  TO BE CONTINUED….

Rob Robinson