Monthly Archives: June 2018

Inches from the finish line

Day 14.  Leaving the hotel in Barstow.  It’s out of town a little, in an area filled with shopping centers.  Or I should say, half filled.  As I drive away from the hotel, to my left is the crowded shopping area, and to my right, a vast expanse of open desert.

So today is the final push on to Santa Monica. It’s supposed to be 63° there, but it’s a dry cold so it won’t be too bad as long as the sun is shining and the wind isn’t blowing too much.

Out on the old road west of Barstow I come across the remnants of the old Dunes Motel.  Great old place with several bungalows, all very square in mid century architectural style.  And a cool color of green too.  Abandoned now, but still in reasonable condition from the outside anyway.  I think it’s for sale.

You don’t have to worry about doing any yard work out here.   There is no grass so just rake the sand once in a while.

It’s sad that this is the last day of the trip.  Only have 100 miles left.   On the right is a ranch with an entrance sign that says The Two Sixes Company.  The sign is made of yellow letters spelling all of that out, but in the center are two big red number sixes.

Guide book says it’s easy to miss Hodge and sure enough, came and went without notice.  Between Hodge and Helendale I see a small sign on the side of the road that says “stop littering your desert.”  I haven’t seen much litter out here.  Maybe because of the sign, or maybe because the people who ride this road aren’t litterbugs.  Helendale is the next town and it’s represented by the old. There is a sign for Helendale.  It lists no population and I might be astonished to see a person here.

Helendale looks like an oasis in the middle of the desert.  There is an old gas station here with a giant parrot statue.  It’s the mascot of the old Poly gas company.  It’s green.  The station is closed, and judging by the prices on the pumps, its either been closed for a long, long time, or they went broke selling gas so cheap!  Regular is 18 cents per gallon.  Premium, is 21.

Here I am at the bottle tree Ranch.   Six and a half miles east of Oro Grande.  There are hundreds of bottle trees here all decorated with much more than just bottles. There are cans and old car parts, lamps, railroad signs, toys, things that move.  And there is color everywhere, not just the color of rust.  May be 1000 of these trees in here. It’s very impressive. The creator, Elmer, is an interesting dude too.  Long white beard and a wide brimmed hat, he’s been at it here for 18 years.

He says that people have started to bring him things to include in his sculptures.  While I was there two people from Spain stopped by.  They come every year to do a short stretch of old Route 66 and this year the bottle tree ranch was part of their trip.

Onward toward Victorville!  Off to the right are the mountains but not too far away, on top of a hill I can see three old jets.   Commercial jets.   I don’t know what they’re doing there,  there’s some sort of air park here. I don’t know how they got there either.

In Oro Grande I found five or six little antique shops. They have the same kind of stuff we have at home.  Rust and dust, mid century,  route 66, farmhouse.

Just outside Victorville there is Emma Jean’s Holland  Burger.  An old truck stop café first opened in 1947.  The café itself is in a fabulous mid century cinder block building thats painted green and has a flat roof.  Great neon sign too.  Closed when I went by but the menu looks like its got great hamburgers!  There is an historic plaque out front that tells the story of Emma Jean.  Her son Brian runs the place now.  Because its such a cool looking building its been in several movies.

Across the street there’s a truck depot with two windmills.  This is the city of Los Angeles Victorville switching station providing power and light to the area.

The California Route 66 Museum has a lot of route memorabilia, including the giant hula girl from the old Hulaville Museum.  She’s 15 feet tall and yup, dressed and dancing like a hula girl.  Part of the museum is a tribute to Dale and Roy Rogers, famous cowboy stars of the big screen.   They lived here in Victorville.

The museum also had a hippie Volkswagen bus for tourists  to sit in like we are riding the road in the 60s.

Old town Victorville is pretty much all closed down but they do have a lot of route 66 signage painted on the boards on the windows. They’re trying to remind people that it was here. I don’t know whether they’re planning on restoring anything but they’re working on it.

New Corral Motel is in the middle of a strip mall area on the edge of Victorville.  Great neon sign with a big horse on it. Looks like it’s in pretty good shape.   It’s got a pool, grass, a lot of customers. Just very strange amid all of the storefronts and parking lots.  Old meets new.

Looking west toward Los Angeles there are mountains and on the east side of the mountains there are a lot of clouds.  Big puffy clouds.  Billowy clouds.  And there are some on the far side of the mountain. I’m not sure which way they’re going or whether that means it’s raining in the mountains.

The Summit Inn and Diner was an iconic spot along Route 66 since 1952.  Elvis refused to eat there because his records weren’t in the jukebox.  Unfortunately, it was destroyed by a forest fire in 2016. All that remains is the sign, and the barren parking lot. The hills surrounding the spot still show the signs of having been burnt to a crisp.  But they say they are rebuilding.

I don’t know what our altitude is on this summit, but we’re up in the mountains and there are some bigger ones up ahead.

I’m  headed for the trail marker where the Mormon Trail and the Santa Fe Trail crossed.  The marker is at the end of a dead end street, and you have to go through a homeless camp to get there.  A couple of tents and an old van.

Back on the freeway to go to the Wigwam Motel. To my right is the dry creek bed of the Cajon River, or creek.  This was created by the San Andreas Fault.  It hadn’t even occurred to me, but I hope there’s no earthquake.

I just drove past somebody riding a horse down the side of the road.  They were wearing snake boots and a cowboy hat.  Small town.  Still in cowboy country.

Have passed by several places with old signs. These old motels  look like they cater to  long-term residents  now. One called the Dream Inn, the  Valley Motel has a new sign but it’s an old building.  There is the Motel Holiday. The liquor store has a nice old sign.  And there is the Motel Oasis.   They have a cool sign.  All of this, but hardly in the high rent district.  Very little of Route 66 runs through glamorous places.

Motel San Bernardino has a nice sign. Part of its neon, part of its backlit.  All of it is still functioning.  Further up the road is the world famous Motel Motel.  Ooops, just Motel. I don’t know whether that was open or not.   Doesn’t look like it.

And right up ahead is the Wigwam Motel.  I’ve been waiting for this moment for two weeks! It’s got an aqua colored fence around it and I can see 1, 2, 3 and then  4, 5, 6, 7 of the teepees. The Wigwam is very well kept up.  The owners have had it for about 18 years.  It took three years to fix it up, so its been open for 15 years. They have a little shop there so I went inside.   The man at the desk was very happy to talk about his place.  They have a pool.

Down the road is the Elray Motel which is a little more typical of your Route 66 motel.  The Moana Motel is an old building.  Kind of a rundown and plain sign but I thought it was interesting because it was neon and Hawaiian.

Fontana has plenty of Route 66 attractions including the famous historic site of  Bono’s Restaurant and Deli.  The building has some really cool metal work on their columns with grapevines and great paint. It’s purple and the leaves are green and out front on the sidewalk there’s a giant orange where they would’ve sold oranges.  It’s cute painted white with the green kind of a sea foam green trim.

There are also a number of Route 66 motels here.  Rose Motel, Dragon Motel, Fontana Motor Lodge, Sand and Sage, Sunset Motel, 40 Winks Motel, Cheryo Motel and the La Villa Motel.  A curiosity is the home that used to be gangster Al Capone’s hideout.

The main street through Rancho Cucamonga is Citrus Avenue.   The town is the former home of orange groves and wineries.  Jack Benny, Bugs Bunny and the Grateful Dead all mentioned Cucamonga in their work, and I knew there was I reason I’d heard of this place before. Turns out this is one of the most affluent towns in California.  Looks like a more affluent community with its streets lined with palm trees and greenery and flowers.

The old Richfield station is on the side of the street and it’s got no entrance off the sidewalk.  There’s a fence around it and there’s no stopping or parking anytime so I’ll scoot into the neighbors lot and snap a pic.

There’s a walking bridge that goes over the highway with pictures of the old cars and a map of the old Road painted on it.  Then I get to the Sycamore Inn which has a neat old neon sign.   It used to be a stagecoach stop.  Across the street is the Magic Lamp Inn.   It’s got a sign with a magical lamp like Aladdin’s lamp.   The Californian Trailer Grove was off on the left and had a neat old sign.

The towns here all run together along this part of the road.  It’s hard to tell where I really am, but in Uplands, there’s a Madonna statue.  This is one of twelve all along the route that are called the Madonna of the Trail.   She stands on the corner and blesses Route 66 and its travellers.  She stands about 20‘ tall.

Paloma Mexican Food in La Verne has a nice sign with a picture of a Mexican guy with a sombrero.  The sign also has a yellow triangle, a red circle, even a mid century star!

Now I’m in a high rent district.  I get  green grass, big old trees.  Palm trees, orange trees.   I see pools and even some high fences and walls around some of these estates.  There’s a golf course.  Swanky.

The Alta-Dena dairy sells milk in a little shop and next door is what used to be Tommy’s Burgers.  It’s a Frosty Freeze now but they still serve up a great milkshake. I know this from experience!  It’s an old walk up place with tables for dining outside.

Coming into Azusa there’s a theater marquee.  The Foothills Drive-In Theater. Now closed, but the sign is well preserved.

Just before Duarte I cross the San Gabriel River and off to the right are the San Gabriel Mountains. They are different from the mountains in the desert because they have trees on them all the way up to the top.  Lower here.

There’s the old Park Inn in Monrovia with a nice sign. The Aztec Motel looks like old Aztec ruins but it’s supposed to look that way.  I had to pull into their parking lot to check the directions, and from what I saw it looks like a nice place.

This is the slowest section of the road.   I’ve spent about two hours going five miles.  Too many stop lights.  And too many cars! Colorado Boulevard headed into Pasadena.   Watch out for that little old lady !

Colorado Boulevard through Pasadena is lined with palm trees.  Real tall, skinny ones just like you see on TV and in the movies.  The  Pasadena Motel has a faded sign but you can still read it.  On the other side of the street is the Highway Host Motel.  This is a faded building.  The Whistle Stop train store has a cool old neon sign. It’s been in business there since 1951.   And here is a place called Out of the Closet Thrift Store with a neon sign picturing a Hawaiian shirt and an old ice cream chair and something else I couldn’t see because I was going by too fast.

Pasadena keeps getting bigger and bigger.  I thought I’d been through the downtown but now I’m getting more and more downtown.  There is a lot of traffic in Pasadena.  The Arroyo Parkway, also called the 110, is a freeway with S curves everywhere.   It was the first freeway in LA and it’s famous for really bad traffic .

First glimpse of the LA skyline. I’m  on Sunset Boulevard.  There are a lot of shops and businesses and restaurants on this road, so there’s a lot of traffic too.  I’ll just have to do my best with sightseeing for a while.

I must be near Dodger Stadium because I just crossed Vin Scully Avenue and the Avenue of the Athletes and there are a bunch people wearing Dodgers T-shirts.

Oh, and here is a bowling alley with a big sign on the roof. Jensen‘s Recreation Center has a sign on the roof with a bowler who’s throwing strike after strike.  The ball moves down the alley, and the pins go flying! This is a very mixed kind of neighborhood with cafés and bistros and homeless people swearing at the trash cans.

Just passed the Paradise Motel on Santa Monica Boulevard as I approach Beverly Hills.  I’m looking for  Jethro Bodine doing some double naught cyphering with his eighth grade education. When they describe Santa Monica Boulevard as a busy urban street what they mean is that it runs through the slums.  Not real bad but it runs through a less then splendid urban area.  I’ve spent two weeks driving back roads, country roads, and freeways and now I find this this downtown LA stuff is for the birds.

There is the Hollywood sign in the mountains but I’m cruising by so fast I can’t really see it.  Need to keep my eyes in the road and the sign, and the mountain its on, are down a side street here.  Beverly Hills.   Not so swanky with the roads all torn up.   And here, crossing Rodeo Drive,  some crazy guy dancing on the sidewalk making weird noises.

Here I am on Santa Monica Boulevard, in Santa Monica. My first sight is The Café 50s. It has a neat neon sign with a neon clock.  Along this road there is a lot of 50s kind of architecture and style.   But I’m not quite at the end of the road yet.

I think I can see the ocean from here as I’m looking down Santa Monica Boulevard with its towering palm trees waving in the breeze. It’s probably still about 5 miles away.  I think I can see the ocean at the end of the road.

Twenty-two blocks to go.    Turn on Lincoln Avenue and go down to Olympic.   And that’s the end of the road.  There is a sign.  End 66. Mel’s Diner was on the corner but it’s closed, but being redone.   It had a nice mid century flying over hang roof.

So, in the darkness of the late evening, I come to the sign marking the end of the road.  A normal street corner.  What a let down!  After two weeks of driving, and 2400 miles of road behind me, that’s it?  Lucky for me, and the rest of the world, the “real” end of the road is really where the road ends.  On the Santa Monica Pier.

Tomorrow I’ll be going there, and my trip will reach the endpoint.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?


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California or Bust!!

Day 13.   I’m going to be leaving Arizona and heading into sunny California where it’s going to be 63° here in May.  The last state of my journey.  I have to fill up with gas so that I don’t get stuck in Needles, California with no gas.  I heard it’s over four dollars a gallon there.  Needles it seems to me is famous for having absolutely nothing there.  And I somehow have it in my mind that Snoopy’s brother lives there.

Leaving Kingman headed toward Oatman.  There are some windmills slowly spinning in the desert here and the terrain reminds me of Palm Springs in California.  The mountains and the desert palm trees, but it’s not as pretty as Palm Springs and there’s no mid century architecture here.

Slightly lost, I encounter Divine intervention as I turn left at Andy Devine Avenue.  Once again being lost puts me on the right path.

The Oatman Highway takes me across a wide valley and then up the mountain which is very steep. The road is narrow and it winds and twists all over the place.  Just for giggles there are wild burros and Longhorn sheep wandering the road.  Free ranging across the road.

The land is cheap out here. You can buy a 40 acre ranch for $20,000.   And here somebody else is selling 1 acre plots just so you can say you own a piece of the mother road.  Maybe I’ll get one as a souvenir.

I’m going through a depression called the Sacramento wash.   Apparently when it rains it really floods.   Right now it looks kind of dry as a bone.  There are these weird looking little scrubby palm trees, palm shrubs.  On the side of the road, in the desert and mountains are groups of probably five or six of them.  Nothing else growing out here.

Burros standing on the side of the road eating rocks I guess. They just stood there and stared at me until they finally calmly walked off.  Where are the sheep?

The town of Cool Springs is a shack on the side of the road.   There’s a gift shop and a snack bar.  The food they are cooking smells good, but it’s not time for me to eat.  I think it’s a hot dog.  There’s a bulldozer hanging over the side of the mountain behind the building, and a picnic area if you climb 200 feet up the hillside.  There are several cars stopped here. A weird thing I’ve noticed is that you can drive for miles and not see another car, then you get to a place like this and its crowded.

Now the road gets interesting. Moving speedily along at 15 miles an hour, winding and twisting, there’s nothing on the side of the road to keep you from going off the edge.  It’s 100 feet straight down. Would not want to do this one at night.

Grinding up the mountain I stopped on the side of the road at the scenic overview.   There is a set of rock steps that go pretty steeply up the side of the hill.  They are cut into the mountainside.   There are about 30 steps that go to a man-made spring fed pond. The view back is really spectacular.  Down there you can see the winding twisting road and the mountains you just came up on.

I got a little surprise when I reached the top of the stairs and approached the pond.  There was a prospector there with his dog. I don’t know where he came from because there’s no car here other than mine. He looked like he’d been living up here for a while.  I think he was trying to hide from me until he realized I was coming all the way up the stairs.  He just popped up out of the rocks.

He told me he was mining fire agates and he showed me two jars full of them.  He was washing them in the pond and he showed me some dirty ones, and the polished ones he was wearing around his neck.   He said this is the only place where you can find them and then he disappeared off into the side of the mountain somewhere so that I could take some pictures. I have no idea where he went.  It must be a cave or something that he went into because I couldn’t see him again. I’m sure he doesn’t want to be bothered.   Several cars have driven by here but nobody stopped other than me so I guess he’s not used to visitors.

Just below the top of the mountain there’s a little pull off.  I got out of the car and walked up a path I saw and found a weird cemetery there.   I don’t know whether it’s real or not.  There are probably 20 wooden crosses spread out in the area, flowers on the ground, and there’s a big rock that’s painted with some words of wisdom.  There are ribbons and bows in the bushes, and all over the ground nearby there are a lot of stacked stone cairns.  Turns out that this is a real cemetery.  Many motorcyclists have had their ashes placed here, and markers erected, because they wanted to be in this place where the road provides such a glorious ride.

Going down the hill is just as much fun as going up.  Use low gear.   Off to the left about halfway up the side of the mountain there’s an orange car that obviously rolled down the mountain and crashed.  Or was pushed.  It’s pretty well smashed up.  I don’t know where it came from. I don’t see a road up there.

They used to mine gold here, and they still find some and run small mines. Down on the sides of the hills there are buildings that were made of stone to blend into the hillside. Probably where the miners lived so nobody could find them. I don’t see any prospectors. There’s a mineshaft and the entrance to the mine.  Barbed wire going all around some kind of a mine here.

There is also some kind of large pipeline running through here. It passes through a big swath of clear cut and dynamited gash in the middle of the mountain.  It looks terrible.

I didn’t see any longhorn sheep but I know they’re up there.   I did see a lot of funky little short cactuses that have big blooms of flowers on the top.   Kind of a yellow or green.  And everywhere you look there’s burro poop.

Now approaching Oatman, famous for its wild burros. Coming around the bend in the road Oatman seems to be about 20 trailers.   I see one yellow building here and I don’t see a burro anywhere.   There’s a pretty pink trailer that’s really funky looking.  I think that’s mid century.  I hope this isn’t the town. There’s Nob Hill and a nice airstream.  Somebody’s got a boat.  Ha-ha.  Then there is the white bird trading post.

Oh, here’s Oatman. It looks like a real town.   I’m still waiting to see the burros  and gun fights in the wild, wild western show.

Now I see the burros. They pretty much do whatever they want.  They walk down the sidewalk and up on the porch of the shops.  Just stand there and let people pet them. Signs say they bite, but people are always trying to feed them.  And they certainly do poop.

As I walked down the street a cowboy was playing his guitar and singing Blue Suede Shoes.  But he substituted the words cowboy boots until I pointed out to him that I was wearing my blue suede shoes.  He sang the song again correctly.  A little while later the same cowboy was part of the wild west show.  He and his partner robbed a bank and then shot it out with each other to see who would get to keep the money.  No one won.

There are a lotta motorcycles here in town.  I know they love to ride on that road.  I would.

From Oatman the road winds its way to the border with California just past Topock.  And the Colorado River marks the border.  The last stop on the Arizona side is the Topock 66 Spa and Resort. I pulled in to see what was going on there and found a café with live music, and a marina with surprisingly big boats.  The marina is actually in a small tributary of the river, but when you cross the old bridge into California you can see that the river is very wide, and carries a good deal of recreational motorboating and pontooning traffic.  The water in the river is green.  So different from the muddy and black waters of Georgia rivers.

In California the first place I stopped was the Park Moabi Regional Park.  Down the crumbling road is an old billboard, made of rock, welcoming travelers to Historic Route 66.  From here you can also see the old Trails Arch railroad bridge which now carries a pipeline.  This bridge appeared in the movie The Grapes of Wrath.  You can also see the bridge that currently carries I-40 traffic across the river.

From here it was on to Needles, which turns out to be quite a bit more than nothing.  It’s an old railroad town and there are a number of old rail cars to be seen as you head toward Amboy.

In March of 2018 “Mad” Mike Hughes put Amboy on the map by launching himself toward outer space in a steam powered rocket.  At about 350 miles per hour he propelled himself to about 1850 feet, and then came down with a thud, landing in the Mojave Desert.  He believes that the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee and wanted to go up in space to see that fact.  His flight was inconclusive in this area, and he plans to build another rocket to be launched from a hot air balloon to go much higher.

Amboy has a much more grounded attraction in Roy’s Motel and Café.  The whole complex is being restored at this point, but you can get gas there, and a snack, and use a restroom.  Roy’s may very well be the one place on Route 66 that has appeared in more TV commercials than any other.

Outside of Amboy, in the distant desert but visible for miles, is the cone of Amboy Crater, an old volcano that has left its mark with a lava flow across the desert, and through which the road passes.  There is supposed to be an old scraggly tree near there that marks the former site of Bagdad, the ghost town that once housed the Bagdad Café.  This place inspired the movie of the same name, which was actually filmed down the road in Newberry Springs.

Ludlow is the next stop to check out the Ludlow Café and Coffee Shop.  The building is described as “Googie” style, which I couldn’t describe other than that it had an angled stained glass window.  A big one.  They also had a decent cup of coffee.  But what’s most interesting about this place is the historical marker out front that describes a roadbuilding plan so weird that it could only be fiction.  Or the work of the United States government.

As part of our nations massive road building campaign of the late 1950’s, someone thought it would be a good idea to blast a hole through the mountains for the road by using 23 nuclear bombs.  The plan was scrapped when someone really thought about what that might entail..

In Newberry Springs I passed by the Bagdad Café.  I haven’t seen the movie so it didn’t mean much to me.  Maybe I’ll see the movie now.  I also passed by the remains of the former Whiting Brothers Gas Station, also called the Dry Creek Station.  It has a fence around it so you can’t get a good look.  And a very angry dog inside the fence.

Dagget comes next and while there are other things there, the coolest thing I saw was the old Dagget Café. It is interesting because of the roofline.  It goes up to a steep peak, and at the lower edges curves down and under.

The next thing you know you’ve come face to face with the Marine Corps logistics base in Barstow.  They built the base right in the middle of the road, so you have to make a detour around this sprawling facility.

Barstow is another old railroad town that owes its location to the Santé Fe railroad.  In fact, to accommodate the expansion of the railroad yard, the whole town was moved several blocks in 1925.

Barstow also houses another of the fabulous Harvey House Hotels.  The old Casa Del Desierto, called the finest remaining example of the depot style hotel.  Of course it’s no longer a hotel.  It houses some government offices and a railroad museum and is used as an event venue. While I was there a large group of people were celebrating a wedding with a reception.  I didn’t go inside, or crash the wedding.

After dinner at a very nondescript chain place, I went back out hoping to see some of the wonderful old neon signs lit up in the dark.  It was a little disappointing.   The cactus at the Stardust was lit up, as was the sign at the 66 Motel, but the Desert Motel was dark.  There is also a movie theater with a sign, but it too is dark.  So is the El Rancho.  More and more of these sigs go dark, or are switched to LED lights. It’s just not right!

Tomorrow I push on to Santa Monica and the end of the road.  It’s kind of sad to think that the trip will be over.  But what a ride it’s been.  Hollywood, here I come!!

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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