Route 66 Honeymoon – Needles, CA to the Finish Line at Santa Monica Pier!
Waking up in Needles, we found out why it has been named the Hottest Town in the Country. It’s a strange type of climate for someone who never experienced anything but humidity. It’s hot, but it’s not suffocating. The fact that 105 degrees could be NOT suffocating is dumbfounding to me. Needles is a town that is trying, but there just isn’t a lot of money coming in. There was a lot of history there, though, that is worth exploring.
The nearby landscape is incredibly stark. I would have more photos….but it is just this. Hours and hours of THIS.
Ludlow doesn’t have much left, but they did salvage their old cafe. Sadly, their old bank collapsed a couple of years ago.
The Dry Creek Station in Newberry Springs has gone through several incarnations, now abandoned. They have a Pistachio Festival every year and the line of old-looking buildings in one of the photos below are part of that. I loved the Route 66 they had painted on their road…mainly because it told us we were still going the right way.
Daggett is another old mining town in CA. The Desert Market used to be where miners would exchange their loot for money. The Stone Hotel was supposed to be renovated but unfortunately, it looks like progress has stopped on the rehab. The odd-looking pointy building is locally known as “The Ski Lodge Roof House.” It was originally a visitor’s center in the ’20s but now someone lives there. With the luck I had with small-town dogs on this trip, I’m lucky Cujo didn’t come running from behind the house and take off my right leg. Daggett was blissfully angry-dog-free, however.
Barstow is where I-40 dead-ends into I-15, and it’s a relatively busy town. The Sante Fe Railroad is fairly sizable here as well as a local military base. I would like to add that their local McD’s is in a massive train car, which actually makes it…well, cool. Barstow had a lot of cool, Route-66-era signs and buildings. The locals were pretty friendly too.
Victorville is this odd hub in the middle of the Mojave. We drove miles and miles and miles and saw nothing, and then…all of a sudden…Victorville. They have what looks like a cool California Route 66 Museum…I say “looks like” because it is evidently closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Of course. They had some interesting murals and artifacts outside, but what really struck me was the grave for “Brownie,” a stray dog who lived at the train station and greeted WWII troops as they passed through Victorville.
Cajon Pass, CA. It’s right off the interstate and this is all it seems to have, but really, what else do you need in life besides a gigantic cannon aimed right at San Bernardino?
The next few sections are noticeably sparse, and I will be point-blank honest. Many areas in Metro LA are desperately unphotogenic. We thought it was about to storm, but no…if you’ve never seen it, I can’t even describe the smog in LA. There is a haze of smog nearly 150 miles thick covering the area that you can see for miles away. That, and half the people we saw looked like they belonged on “Lock-Up.” In fact, San Bernardino was downright terrifying. So as we were driving on Route 66, we didn’t feel totally comfortable stopping in the first few areas. Once it got safer (around Fontana and then beyond) we were so exhausted from the lack of pure oxygen in LA…we had gotten used to fresh air in the desert… that very little seemed worth pulling off and photographing. Now, as I look back on that afternoon….yeah, I don’t regret that decision at all.
Fontana, CA. This used to be citrus country, and the orange stand and the restaurant behind it was worth the stop.
One of the bus stops between Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga.
Rancho Cucamonga is a huge wine community. In fact, the oldest winery in California is here. The area is very ritzy-looking, but despite the high-brow appearance, they love the tackiness of Route 66 and embrace it.
This is still Rancho Cucamonga, but I would like to add that, at night, this lamp spouts out fire. Yes, real fire. That is all.
Crappy photo, but it’s freaking San Dimas. Of “Bill and Ted” fame. Adam so wanted his photo in front of a San Dimas sign playing air guitar, but sadly, none seem to exist. San Dimas is a huge equestrian community. Who knew?
Huge neon sign in front of the still-running Golden Spur in Glendora, CA.
Azusa used to have a killer drive-in theatre, but Azusa Pacific College bought the property and demolished it. However, they saved the old sign and now use it to promote their activities. They also supplied one of my favorite Route 66 sign shots that I took on the entire trip.
In between Azusa and Pasadena are Monrovia and Arcadia. Arcadia, especially, is quite nice, but it was pretty suburban and therefore nothing really stood out to photograph. So thus I give you, in all its glory, the emblem on the side of our abode in Pasadena, the Saga Motel. Behold. It is medieval. Awesome.
Pasadena was probably our favorite spot on California’s Route 66. The food was great, the people were nice, and it had a great small-town vibe. If you’re ever passing through, grab some pasta at a local chain called the Novel and then have a pint at Lucky Baldwin’s. The staff are some of the friendliest in LA and – I don’t normally photograph my food – the Novel has some incredible fettucine alfredo with asparagus and mushrooms. Also, Pasadena has a thrift store called Out of the Closet. File that under “Ideas Someone In Atlanta Should Have Surely Thought Of By Now.”
The next day, we ventured forth to the finish line! Again, we passed through many neighborhoods, including Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Why are there no photographs? Because it was incredibly underwhelming. The weather was overcast, the neighborhoods were incredibly sketch with the exception of West Hollywood (which has a lot of nice restaurants, stores, and a very boastful gay porn theatre smack in the middle of their main district), and every time we tried to roll down the windows, it smelled like someone had left a pile of wet towels in the dryer overnight. So, with no stops, we went straight to Santa Monica.
It took us over an hour.
Finally! Santa Monica! After 30 minutes – no joke – we finally found parking and headed for the pier. It was cloudy and cold, but no matter…we were minutes from our goal!
SUCCESS! The very end of Santa Monica Pier, at the Pacific Ocean.
We headed back onto the pier and stopped at the official Route 66 booth, run by the former president of the California Route 66 Association. The guy working the booth was awesome and took our photo with the official sign. Actually, the REAL official sign is about 10 stories tall further down the boardwalk, but…of course…it was taken down two days earlier to be moved to the front of the pier. It’s okay; this sign works fine for now.
My first step ever in the Pacific Ocean. It felt like the North Pole. This didn’t last long.
The sun! We ran back up to the pier and took another photo, then took advantage of the park.
We bought tickets for the plunge drop and the Ferris Wheel. These were taken on top of the Ferris Wheel.
We grabbed a bite at the Mexican restaurant, Marisol’s. There were pigeons everywhere, but luckily, I like pigeons. This guy was true L.A., ready for his closeup.
We met a cool couple, Julie and Kim, at the pub. He was the first Swede I’ve ever met with dreadlocks. We hung with them quite a bit…he and Adam bonded over their mutual love of Star Trek. I’m glad to see true nerds – people who are proud of it – span coast-to-coast.
We finished! The official plaque ending Will Rogers Memorial Highway.
If you have never taken the journey of Route 66, I can’t recommend it enough. It will change your life. Route 66 characters at the beginning of our trip informed us of the experiences we would have, the people we would meet, and how it would impact us…and I believed them. I had no idea how much it would affect me. The sheer beauty of a part of the country I’d never seen. The graciousness of the people we met (yes, even in LA!!) The architecture, the history…
The only thing I can’t understand is why we met so many other Route 66-ers from foreign countries and hardly travelers from our own. Why wouldn’t we want to delve into this part of our history, travel the road so many before us took? These towns need us, these people want us to come visit and meet them. The towns, sights, and locals you meet along the way will stay with you forever.
We are without a doubt taking this trip again, hopefully with a few extra days tacked on to really explore the towns. We want to really get to know where we are, see how other people live, and remind ourselves that there IS a world outside of Atlanta. We get so caught up in where to go, what to do, where to be seen here in Atlanta that it can be really humbling to meet residents of these small towns who are perfectly content wearing Walmart jeans and hanging out in the local diner. We should all have that kind of ease in our everyday lives. And that is what I’ve taken from Route 66.
That, and my new husband and I are capable of spending two-and-a-half weeks in an SUV together without one of us throwing the other into the Mississippi. That would be proof right there, folks, of a solid marriage. Case closed!