Monday, July 14, 2014

Route 66 Day 1 - Pasadena to Needles

Having spent the past 4 days in LA, Today I started a drive to Albuquerque to meet up with  The Amazing Ms. D. Instead of rushing down the Interstate, I decided to follow the "mother road."

At the start I want to acknowledge the EZ66 Guide For Travelers by Jerry McClanahan for providing and fantastic resource in planning this trip.

Yes, this is a Fork in the Road - Pasadena CA
Since I have been to Santa Monica on several occasions, and my hotel was in Korea Town, I decided to start this trip in on the Arroyo Seco Parkway (CA 110) to Pasadena. This highway was built in the 1920's, and similar to parkways built at the same time, has lots of curves and really short acceleration and and exit lanes.

The San Gabriel Foothills 

Route 66 travels along Colorado Blvd and then Foothills Blvd from Pasadena all the way out to San Bernardino a distance of 50 miles of mostly suburban driving. While some people might want to skip this stretch there is a lot of Route 66 nostalgia and Americana to see, Just off of the route, at the intersection of Bellefontaine and Pasadena Avenues the is a literal giant fork in the road. The route parallels the San Gabriel Mountains which can be sen throughout the drive
San Gabriel Mountains from Foothill Blvd
San Gabriel Mountains from Rialto CA
One of the sights is the Aztec Motel, in Monrovia, now closed, which dates to the 1920's.

There also a few classic gas stations - such as Dale's Garage, also in Monrovia

You might make out that Ethyl was 32 cents/gallon
 In the town of Upland there is a monument to the women who made the transcontinental journey by covered wagon

The drive also takes you through several towns with cultural connections - San Dimas (say hello to Bill and Ted) and Rancho Cucamonga, one of Bugs Bunny's favorite stops.

They really do exist

In the town of San Bernardino CA I found something I had heard about, but didn't believe actually existed - The Wigwam Motel. Thought to be a figment of the imaginations of travelers past, they really existed, and some are still with us:

Over the Mountain and into the Desert

From San Bernardino Route 66 turns north and climbs through the Cajon Pass. The next 200 miles took me across the Mojave Desert.


Victorville started as a supply station for people crossing the desert in the 1860's. then the California Southern train came through, and it became a station stop. It also hosted an air force base. Today it's main business is cement. It is worth stopping at the Route 66 Museum in town. It has a nice collection of memorabilia.

Bottle Tree Ranch

About 3 miles west of the town of Helenville is the Bottle Tree Ranch. The work of Elmer Long, the word "collection" does not do this justice. Elmer uses bottles, iron and other found objects to create this forest of bottle trees. This has become his life work

Elmer Long (left) with yours truly

 Barstow Harvey House

Barstow is a small city of 23,000 people in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The place I found really interesting was Casa Del Desierto, which serves as the Amtrak Station for Barstow.

It was built as a Harvey House - what might have been the first hotel chain. Fred Harvey built a number of restaurants and hotels in conjunction with the Santa Fe Railroad. The trains would stop at these houses for meals or overnight. See Judy Garland sing "The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe from the movie The Harvey Girls here.

The Bagdad Cafe

In 1987 German director Percy Adlon released a movie that played to little notice, but is one of my favorites - Bagdad Cafe. The movie is about a German woman who is abandoned by her husband in the middle of the Mojave Desert and the affect she has on the people who help her. The movie was filmed in the town of Newberry Springs CA and the buildings are still there.

Lavic Lake Volcanic Field

The Mojave Desert between Barstow and Needles sit above the Lavic Lake Volcanic Field. I observed 3 volcano cones along the route today, including the Amboy Crater.


  1. Wow! That was certainly a trip into Americana. Love the Aztec Hotel. Makes me want to have enough money to restore it and see it come to life again. The architecture is fabulous, as is the Amtrak Station. Little gems in a landscape of kitch. Definitely could do without Elmer's bottle trees but to each his own. By the way, Elmer looks just the way I expected him to look. The Wigwam Hotel also seems cool. Did you spend the night there? What a glimpse of the past! I'm with you and waiting for your next installment. AMD

  2. Kitch makes the world go round, and the photos don't do the bottle tree justice. As for the Wigwam motel, I didn't stay there, but I would if we were ever doing anything in that part of the world.