In Rancho Cucamonga, where I grew up, you can drive 45 miles south, east or west and barely feel like you left the place. Driving north is the rare exception as it takes you up over the Cajon Pass, into a portal to that very different, high desert world.
Here in San Diego we are surrounded by these “portals.” The cliffs of Torrey Pines and a walk along Black’s Beach are certainly transportive, the coastal drive up the 5 freeway is other-worldly as you reach the barely touched expanse of Camp Pendleton, or of course down south into Mexico, but none so striking a change happens until you drive east. My wife, Puja, and I got our first taste of this about a month ago when drove out to hike Mt. Woodson. The urban effects of the city rapidly drop off as you pass El Cajon, into Lakeside and find yourself in the rising elevations of the Cleveland National Forest.