Saturday, June 16, 2012

The End of the Innocence

Tuesday June 12, 2013

We took our time getting started in Barstow. The end is in sight and we’re starting to cut ourselves some slack as we ease back towards reality. We’re not yet at the end of the road but you can see it from here as they say. It’s been an incredible journey but we’re starting our day in the 21st room in 22nights and we’re thinking that the route 66 mystique is thinning fast as we approach the coast. If nothing else the building traffic is taking us far from the meandering solitude that the old road has been gifting us with.

I forgot to mention yesterday that when we checked into the motel here in Barstow our room had towels folded to look like an Elephant, Rose and Seashell, pretty cool, you can find folk art anywhere.

So, with the mobile household under control we checked out and began to explore Barstow. One of the first stops was the McDonald’s, Barstow Station to be specific. From the street this is a sprawling McDonald's with Railroad cars integrated into the buildings, a big old wooden water tower complete with golden arches.  Once you get on the property you find that it’s a Greyhound bus depot with a slew of shops and eateries packed into a mall like setting. Apparently a lot of people pass through here on mass transit since the cars in the lot did not foretell the headcount inside. Anyhow. the inside was nothing special but the outside certainly was roadside oddity.

Barstow has good collection of historic murals painted on blank walls and integrated into storefronts. It is getting to the point where someone interested in history or a parents that are home schooling could build a curriculum from what’s on the walls found on a road trip.

The lodging business is doing well with most places operating and looking good. The Desert, Nites & Stardust Inns, and the Sands, Sage. 66 & Cactus Motels being noted for having that period look. The El Rancho - Barstow really stood out with a 3 faced aerial sign and a huge tiered motor court on a property that slopes up from the roadway. It was a tidy property that could have just come from yesteryear.  They have a route 66 themed sign near the pool with distance arrows to many US and international cities. Village Café, on the corner with lots of neon has seen surly seen generation of locals and lots of road weary diners. The Bun Boy is another 66 favorite.

Barstow has another Harvey House, Casa Del Desierto  this one competed in 1910 is more complete on the inside with some rooms restored and other underway. The building has largely been repurposed by the Chamber of Commerce and agencies. One downstairs dining room has been put into service as a grand ballroom and the other wings is in process. They also have a Route 66 museum with the California spin but it was also closed for the day. As one that has traveled the road there is some value to these museums but they seem far more valuable to the curious individual that has not been able to experience 66 directly.

Lorna trolled a few resale shops for glass ware and I captured a few more murals before it was time to say good bye to Barstow at about noon.

A few towns out of Barstow in Helendale it was once again desert like with sandy gravel stout blond plants and some green brush. Burdens Store and Post Office is boarded up and standing along the roadside. A giant Parrot sits on a towing company sign along with the Polly Brand Gasoline logo and the vintage price of 18-9/10 cents a gallon. The Sage Brush Saloon home of Sage Brush Annie is gone but the property owner keeps the legend alive with a mock facade of the original with silhouettes in the upstairs window. The Sage Brush filling station building now a private home sits next door with a pergola canopy supported by stone pillars like the Way-Way Store. If buildings like the Way-Way Store captivate you then this trip would be a treat.

Helendale’s real claim to fame is the Bottle Tree Ranch. Here in a large fenced in yard you wander through posts with lateral spikes, each supporting a bottle like limbs of a tree. With some “trees” having matching bottles and others assorted it’s a whimsical place. The real kicker is when you look up to see that each post has an eclectic topper like a sewing machine, skill, big jug, bird house, oil lamp. milk can, tractor seat, weather vane, bull horn, Gatling gun, wheels, pulleys, fan blades and assorted creations. There must be about 50 trees in this forest and interspersed at ground level are other eye catchers like a wagon wheel, rocket and wood stove. It’s all a foot steps from route 66 and free to visit, donations accepted in the box. From the looks of the material and welder out there it’s still a work in progress.

In Oro Grande stands the Mohawk filling station and Mini-Mart. I have yet to learn the age of this station but it goes back a good time. It’s now closed but 1970’s vintage pumps remain and it was open long enough to get on the convenience store bandwagon. Cold Beer, Wine, Ice, Soda Pop and Groceries are lettered on the facade.

Victorville is the home of Emma Jeans Holland Burger Cafe, home of the Brian Burger. It was after 1:30 when we drove by and the look of the place and crowd in the lot screamed. “ stop for lunch”. The few tables were full so we sat at stools at the bar and were served by none other than Brian. The menu read like burger heaven with all sorts of wonderful cheesy gooey toasted in butter wonderfulness. The daily special of pastrami on sourdough with melted cheese entrapping a handful of crinkle cut pickles looked really good but too hearty for my tastes that day. I went for the regular cheeseburger with the standard house trimming. mayo, lettuce, onion slice and tomato. Here tomato means about half a tomato, not a thin slice dispensed like it’s gold.  I had the equivalent of a side salad in the sandwich! Fries were good and it was fun to be at the counter with all of the action happening.

I didn’t see the usual posters but they had been featured on Diners Drive-ins and Dives. This makes at least 3 DD&D haunts that we ate at on this trip. Established in 1947 the founders have passed away. It’s now run by Brian the second generation and his wife Shawna. The place has a historic monument and plaque. It has been featured in numerous movies and TV shoes for its mid-century ambiance.

As you enter the village a big truss welcomes you to Old Town , Route 66 and sports the Victorville city seal. It’s really to cool to see the way some towns have gone out to declare and celebrate their part of the 66 legacy. 

The New Corral Motel has a nice sign with a big black stallion that is said to quite a neon sight when lit at night. As usual the local Route 66 museum was closed when we drove through so we didn’t get to see the 15 foot tall Hula Dancer that was rescued from a restaurant.

With that 66 had turn into I-15. The fast, busy, downhill freeway past Cajon Summit was quite a ride but it got us to our next stop really fast. The wide open roadway with a steep downgrade did nothing to relax Lorna but she recovered. She got some good on the fly pictures and we didn’t need to use the runaway truck lane!

In Cajon Junction we got off the highway and savored the last section of old pavement the old road was to share with us. Had I realized this we would have stayed even longer. As it was we drove it back and forth over getting back on the interstate. Here were remnants of 4 lane 66 and todays version is a blend of the old east and westbound lanes. Like elsewhere “Historic US 66” shields are painted on the pavement.

We found the vertical EAT sign behind a fence with the original eatery long gone.  At the eastern end of this spur is a dead end stub where we found a cluster of remnants with some new life. The neighborhood had a lot of cars but most seem to be commuters in a lot and along the road. Behind a security fence is an non-descript late 60’s service station with red trim that took a round sign on the mock chimney, Texaco?  The pumps are gone and it’s all clean and quiet.

Next door ins Tony’s Diner, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner. It may have had a filling station at some time judging by the blown out signs above. It’s probably been a while with the gas price section only having 2 digits for ??-9/10. It seems to been renamed along the way, an older aqua neon sign say’s EAT at ??C”S. It did have traffic.

Last on the strip and maybe the most curious was the Screaming Chicken Saloon in a converted filling station painted bright yellow. You can’t miss the giant rooster up on the old pump canopy. It’s the home to Hot Women and Cold Beer complete with a big Route 66 shield in the window. We passed on checking it out further and scrammed before some asked about all the pictures being taken.

Driving each way on this stretch in a valley we were running into some honking big black flying bugs. Most bounced off of the windshield with an occasional splat!

The guide book flagged this side road for elicit activity and there were more than a few folks hanging out in what seemed odd ways. Was it just the power of suggestion? 

I’m catching up on the blog of these last few days before the trip home and after reaching the end of the trail on Santa Monica Pier. This last quirky stretch of the old road will always have a special place in my memories of our trip.

A run down a less exciting I-215 took us into San Bernardino which set the pace of suburban congestion that set the tone for the rest of the trip. This strip of 66 had its share of iconic places and a mix of active and abandoned conditions. One of the most impactful was the Lido Motel completely intact but dormant. Literally in the shadow of the I-15 overpass that towered alongside the small strip of rooms.

The Palms Motel is still open but the neon is gone, replaced with a modern plastic face. The El Cajon is shuttered. The Terrace and Oasis motels are working the long term rental market. The San Bernardino and Dream Inn Motels are still hosting guests. The Mitla Café family owned since 1937 is still serving.

In Rialto the Wig-Wam motel was a work of art. These are the concrete Tee Pees like we saw in Holbrook.  Lorna wanted to nest so we had booked the final 3 nights in Pasadena. This place was immaculate and groomed in a first class manner. We missed our cancellation window by this time; otherwise we would have spent a night here.  This is a “not to miss” icon if there is a next time. Next door the El Rey motel was looking classic.

In Fontana we found the Fontana and Sage Motels. The real icon was the 1936 Bono’s Historic Orange. This is one of several surviving roadside juice stands. The near spherical orange is about 10 feet in diameter. Some of these things are mere mentions in the books or on the GPS and it’s fun to see what they really are.

Glendora is home to the Golden Spur Restaurant. The day was getting late so we opted for a 66 themed restaurant next door. It was Ok with plenty of eye candy. I do wish we held out for The Hat located down the road. The Palms Motel and Flappy Jacks Pancake house were also along the road.

Azusa is home to the restored Foothill Drive-in theater sign and marquis. Since our guide book was written it has as planned been rescued, restored and relocated at crossroads in the town The big sign is being used for local messages. On this day a woman was being recognized for 37 years of service to an organization. The giant sign makes quite an impression.

 In Monrovia the Aztec Hotel is an in-town hotel with an ornate facade and a bright neon sign. We were driving by at dusk when it was lit and it really popped. Directions to a restored service station weren’t working for us so we had to move on.

With that we arrived in Pasadena our home for the final 3 nights of the trip. Tomorrow we will drive to the end of the trail on the Santa Monica pier and officially end the journey and spend the rest of the day sightseeing. Thursday we will be shipping off the last of the souvenirs, prepacking bags and cleaning the car out plus whatever local diversions we can find. Friday morning we will head to LAX  for the flight home.

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