Wednesday June 13 - Friday June 15, 2012
It was to be a partly cloudy day here in Southern California with high temps in the 70’s. It was one of the cooler days of the trip. We left Pasadena to bring this journey to a conclusion. The expressway was a block from the motel but true to form we stayed with 66 to the end, making our way down to Santa Monica beach where we were able to park near the pier. On the way down we passed some of the known 66 icons but traffic really didn’t allow for much in the way of picture taking. Lorna took a bunch of on the fly shots more as a city visitor than a Route 66 traveler as many paces welcomed us as. I learned later in the day that taking drive by photos in bright light is not as easy as it looks.
It was breezy driving through town but down by the beach and even up on the pier it was calm, sunny and warm. When we got up on the pier we went over to the “End of the Trail” kiosk and met Henry who was working the stand that afternoon. Route 66 as a highway had a few endpoints in the streets over the years but they are now just points on map and hardly celebratory. The Santa Monica Pier has become the popular endpoint for modern travelers of the Mother Road.
As Henry explained, his boss, Dan Rice had traveled the road and at the end of it realized there was no real endpoint, nobody to greet him and the ending sort of fell flat. He had seen in an old movie an “End of the Trail” pictured up on the pier. This was never a real sign, just a movie prop but he worked to establish the sign as a permanent fixture on the pier. With hard work and petitions the sign was installed and he got exclusive rights to operate his kiosk and sell “End of the Trail” merchandise. Henry was a real nice guy to talk with, he hadn’t done the trip but he knew a lot and had photos of many of the local celebrities we had met or learned about. He leant a certain credibility or validation to the journey we undertook. It had been real, not a dream. Dan has written a book about his 66 experience and I need to get a copy.
Yes, you guessed it, more T shirts. I got the “official End of the Trail” shirt and they had a neat shirt mimicking the Hampton Historic Sites signs that we had been watching for over the last 3 weeks.
Afterwards we walked down to the sign snapped some pictures and asked a fellow on a bench to oblige us and he took a few of Lorna and I by the sign.
With that began the transition back to reality and the world off of the old road. We had decided to do the classic double decker bus tour of Hollywood and the surrounding communities so we bought our tickets there on the pier. No time to wait around for a lunch so we celebrated with ice creams so we could catch the next bus. For me it was a banana split: fruit, nuts for protein and the waitress added a great source of calcium. The bus tour offered plenty of distractions as the GPS triggered recording narrated the tour. We could hop on and off as desired with buses ever 20-30 minutes along the route. The narration mostly in a British voice was kind of hokey and it was layered thick with what sure sounded like paid plugs for business that would be great places to get off the bus . Apart from the small annoyances it was a nice easy way to get a glimpse of the streets, landmarks and communities we have heard in a lifetime of TV and movies. We didn’t spot any celebrities aside from some costumed superhero characters up on Hollywood Boulevard. We did hop off to walk the Walk of Fame. Lorna had me take pictures of some favorites and I posed with the “America” star. We missed the boat on the Beach Boys, it was too late when I realized it meant back tracking from the drop off point. The time went by fast and we realized there wasn’t time to follow through with the downtown LA part of the trip. We hopped the return leg bus and began the trip back seeing more spots like Sunset Strip. As the sun got low in the sky the mist rolled in and it got downright chilly, especially for me in shorts and polo shirt. We survived and once back at the pier we went to the car for some warmer layers. We did a little more sightseeing. The line to get into Buba Gumps was absurd and at 8:00 other places were shutting down. We headed out looking for something to have on the way “home” We grabbed a quick bit to eat at an IHOP and told the GPS to find our way back home where we settled down for the night.
That got us to Thursday morning. We had set this day aside to unwind and set-up for the trip back, it was also a contingency day but I’m glad we didn’t need it. Between sorting and shipping souvenirs, balancing luggage loads and getting all of our squirreled away belongings out of the car the day was well spoken for. We did manage to chill out at the theater seeing men In Black 3 which was a fun flick.
Friday morning we headed out to LAX. The highlight was passing the Slauson Cut-Off made famous by a line in a Johnny Carson Art Fern sketch ….. Get out and cut off your Slauson! We did get to validate the new digital luggage scale with it matching the airline scale as close as one could imagine. The flights home were entirely as planned and the nearly 5 hours cross country leg wasn’t as bad as I expected. The bags made it and by 1:00 or so we were home with enough jet lag to keep us puttering till about 3:00 AM.
Saturday morning came not much more than 4 hours later and it was a most surreal experience. I would wake up look around and try to figure out where I was and what was outside in the neighborhood and then I’d fall back to sleep. I think this repeated 3 or 4 times until I realized I was home in our own bed.
That pretty much sums up the trip. In some ways I expect to be processing this experience for the rest of my life. In the near term I do want to write some sort of summary or closing comments that capture what I do understand of the last 25 days. If I think it comes out coherent I’ll add it to this blog as an epilogue.