SANTA YSABEL — Ever hear of a bakery with a toll-free telephone number? Well, the fresh bread at Dudley's Bakery is so popular that people often call in their orders from miles around.
That's because Dudley's is literally in the middle of nowhere and regular customers want to be certain of getting their favorite loaves after a rural drive through San Diego County.
Twenty-one varieties of bread draw visitors from near and far into the bakery, where up to 4,000 loaves pop out of the ovens daily. You'll find the unimposing bakery building at the junction of California 78 and 79 in this country crossroads that's named after a historic Indian mission.
Established by the Spanish in 1818, Santa Ysabel Mission is just down the highway from Dudley's Bakery and also worth a visit.
Other treats are in store in nearby Julian, a Gold Rush town that recalls bygone days with homemade apple pie, horse-drawn carriage rides and a turn-of-the-century hotel.
sh Scenic Country Road
Begin a savory sojourn by driving south from Los Angeles on Interstate 5 to Oceanside and exiting east on California 78. It heads inland as a freeway to Escondido, then becomes a scenic country road through central San Diego County.
Just before the junction with California 79, look left for a parking lot that's usually jammed with vehicles even before Dudley's Bakery opens at 8 a.m. (closed Monday and Tuesday).
Mary and Dudley Pratt moved to Santa Ysabel in 1963 to re-establish a bakery business they had begun in El Cajon. Few people gave them hope for success in the remote hamlet, but Dudley baked as many as 43 varieties of bread and his reputation grew.
The bakery was well established by the time Dudley Pratt died and Mel Ashley and his family took over the operation in 1976. Today 35 employees turn out nearly two dozen varieties daily.
The top seller is raisin date nut bread, followed by Danish apple nut, Mission seven-grain, jalapeno with chopped peppers, and sheepherder sourdough. Other choices include Cheddar cheese, onion rye, German black, Irish brown, sweet French, potato and one called barrel that's white bread baked in a coffee can.
Most are 1 1/2-pound loaves and cost $1.10 to $1.50. Customers first fill out an order blank indicating the kind of bread and number of loaves, and whether they want them whole or sliced. Then they line up at the row of cash registers and the cashiers put together the orders from the racks of fresh bread behind them.
Pastries, Coffee Available
Phone-in orders are picked up at a special counter; call (800) 225-3348. The bakery closes at 5:30 p.m., but sometimes as early as 4 p.m. on Sundays.
Dudley's Bakery also has tempting pastries, pies and cookies. Coffee is available, and there are a few tables in case you can't wait to dig into your sacks of take-home goodies.
Some ovens used by the area's Indians in earlier times have been uncovered at a Spanish mission site a mile north on California 79. Visitors are welcome daily from 8 a.m. until sunset at tiny Santa Ysabel Mission.
It began 169 years ago as a branch of the mother mission 50 miles southwest in San Diego. The original buildings fell into ruin when California's missions were secularized in 1834.
Early in this century a chapel was built as a religious center for the Indians, who now live on reservations. Missionary work is carried on there today by a Catholic priest.
Adjoining the chapel is a small museum that recalls the mission's past. Displays tell about the mysteries of the lost treasure of Santa Ysabel and its missing church bells. Entry is free but donations are appreciated.
The Indian mission's annual fiesta will be held June 21, beginning with an outdoor mass at 10 a.m. Some celebrants arrive on horseback and the day's activities include Indian dances and country-and-western music. Food and drink will be available.
Return to the California 78 junction and go east seven miles to Julian, a mountain village that gained fame with a gold strike in 1870. Head up C Street and a rough road to the Eagle Mine, where you'll hear entertaining tales of early mining days and be led into dark tunnels that have yielded millions in gold.
Guided tours operate on request at this century-old working mine from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Adults pay $6, kids $3.
It's easy to tour Julian on foot, but you'll have more fun seeing the sights from a carriage. For the past year, English-born Suzanne Porter has been taking visitors on half-hour horse-drawn trips through town and the countryside. The tab for riding in one of her country carriages is $15 per couple.
If you decide to spend the night in Julian, you can book a carriage to take you to dinner and then go for a romantic evening drive ($20). Call (619) 765-1471.