From Needles to Santa Monica – the End of the Road
As I continued on Route 66 from Arizona into California, I realized that I really had to eliminate the majority of my final stops due to a dinner date with some old friends in Los Angles that evening. However, a few curios still managed to peak my interest.
At 8:45am I pulled into the Santa Monica Pier and hit the end of Route 66. In total, it took me 10 days and 3,657 miles to get through the whole stretch, though I missed the first 100 miles of it from Chicago to Springfield, Illinois, as I had never intended to do the entire route. I guess I’ll just have to finish it up one day. -Thursday, October 29, 2009
Highlights of Driving Route 66 in California:
The Produce Checkpoint
No, California is not another country, but in some regards it might as well be. Upon entering the state, I was forced to stop at a produce checkpoint and swear that I had no plants, fruits or vegetables in my car.
A Night in Needles, CA
A border town with pretty much nothing to do, it was significant because it was the first time I had ever seen gas costing more than $3.50 per gallon. Now, a year later, it’s unfortunately all too common.
Abandoned Buildings and Gas Stations
All across the desert, I didn’t have to drive far to find beautiful abandonment. Tumbleweeds blew across a landscape filled with the remains of a once-bustling Route 66.
From East Amboy to Ludlow, Chambless, Barstow and Daggett , every few miles, I would find myself pulling over, bracing myself in the surrounding wind storm to snap a photograph or just stand there and take it all in.
Roy’s Café – Amboy, CA
Since 1938, Roys has been selling gas and motel rooms for weary travelers. Now located in the heart of a ghost town, it is refreshing to still see it in operation and maintaining its 1950’s architectural charm.
Graffiti and Tires
On a random stretch of Route 66 near Chambless, CA, I came across a mostly-demolished old building covered in layers of graffiti. Surrounding it were abandoned tires and other sorts of broken car parts and automobile waste as well as the remains of the building. Exploring the area made me feel like I was on some sort of archeological mission into the history of that particular area.
Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe
Nestled away in Victorville, California, this restaurant was used as a filming location in the movie Kill Bill.
The First McDonalds
Located in San Bernadino, CA, the location of the first McDonalds is now a museum filled with pretty much every Happy Meal toy ever made and amazing photos and stories from the early days of the most well-known franchise on earth.
The Wigwam Motel – San Bernadino, CA
Having stayed in the Wigwam motel in Holbrook, AZ, a few nights earlier, I was very excited to compare the differences between that and one a mere 45 miles outside of Hollywood.
Needless to say, each room had a large HDTV, air conditioning and heat, a high ceiling and modern furniture including a queen-sized bed. This was a far cry over the one in Holbrook, which felt like I was still staying in 1965.
After braving a typical Los Angles rush hour, I finally pulled my 1995 Dodge Avenger down Hollywood Boulevard and met up with my friends Athena and John for sushi above the Kodak Theater where the Oscars are held. Leaving by way of a walk down the red carpet, I then explored the handprints on the floor, stopping to reenact a photo taken of me in front of Jack Benny’s hands in 1987.
Santa Monica Pier – The End of the Road
I thought that I had reached the end of Route 66 back then. I had stopped to take a photo in front of a plaque commemorating it and headed north to my new home in San Francisco. Eleven months later, while back in the area, I found myself on the actual boardwalk of Santa Monica Pier. There stood a tall sign, far more publicly announcing the end of the road than the plaque, and at that moment I finally finished my trip across the country.
Random Observations from Route 66 in California
In California, Route 66 is often poorly maintained and filled with holes and bad paving patchwork.
I love when the Route 66 emblem is actually painted on the road.
There may not be much to see, but it’s possible to drive Route 66 in California for the majority of the way between Arizona and Santa Monica.
I saw a big solar energy plant on the side of the road.
The Marine Corps Logistics Base in Bartow, California, is placed smack in the middle of Route 66, leaving motorists no choice but to get back onto the interstate for an exit to bypass it.
I made it almost all the way to Los Angeles before seeing an In-and-Out Burger.
I would have seen the world’s largest McDonalds that actually stretches over the freeway it’s so big, but it was on the interstate and not Route 66, so I’ll settle for having been close to it.
In a lot of places in California, the speed limit is both on signs and spray painted onto the road.
I made it 3,337 miles without hitting traffic, going all the way from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to the 101 freeway in Los Angeles.
I’ve gotten to be quite an expert at packing my car in the morning. In the beginning it took nearly 30 minutes to find a spot for all the stuff I had taken into the hotel room the night before. By the end, it took maybe 5.
Apparantly, Meth addiction is a huge problem in the USA based on the aggressive TV and billboard campaigns against it that I have seen all across the country.
All hotel rooms are non smoking yet they all have ash trays.
For a brief second I thought I would be able to see the Joshua Tree, but it required a 90 mile detour and I was short on time.
I try to never let my gas tank get below half full on this trip, since I never know when I’ll hit a long stretch without gas stations. This is the opposite of how I do things normally when my car is frequently riding on fumes.
I had breakfast at a McDonald’s in Malibu and the majority of the other patrons were Latin Americans getting ready to go to work at some rich person’s house in the hills.
Speaking of the houses in the hills of Malibu, they are absolutely gorgeous, massive and awe inspiring.
A pet store/vet in Malibu offered acupuncture services for your pet.
I stopped for a papusa, which is a traditional El Salvadorian food, in a little store about 100 miles from Los Angeles. In addition to my meal, I wound up having a 15 minute conversation with a Nicaraguan woman in Spanish about her home country. Thank goodness my Spanish came flooding back to me.
On the 101 North in California, I was in the left lane and noticed a woman tailgating me. After pulling over one lane, I looked over and she mouthed, “thank you.” I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before.
Highway 101 randomly ends for a few miles at a time quite often on the drive between Los Angeles and San Francisco. There are no lights or intersections or any clue as to why, just a sign that says, “end freeway,” shortly followed by a sign that says, “begin freeway.”
All along Route 66, brown road signs let me know that I was on the Mother Road. Now, every time I see a brown sign I get excited before remembering that it’s for something completely different and historic. The strangest ones are the brown Historic Route 99 signs in Northern California. Like, did someone just mess up and hang a 66 sign upside down?
I miss 75mph speed limits and no worries when I go 80.
It was a weird feeling driving up to San Francisco for the first time, looking at the skyline and realizing that I’m home.
At mile 4,081 I finally pulled up to the front door of my new apartment in San Francisco.
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