Thursday, March 4, 2021

Exploring the Roadside Attractions of Route 66 - Part 1


When I travel, I love driving on the two land highways of the United States. I find it much more relaxing then speeding from place to place on the expressways. This also affords the chance to explore some of the quirky and historic roadside attractions that have been built over the past 100 years. There is no better place to explore these sights than on the old Route-66, which I did back in 2014.

Fork in the Road - Pasadena CA

The Fork in the Road

My trip took several days, driving from Pasadena, CA to Albuquerque, NM. It was in Pasadena that I found my first roadside attraction, A Fork in the Road. In 2009, Bob Stone woke up a couple of days after his 75th birthday. He walked outside, and on crossing a usually unimpressive train island near his house he found an unusual sight, an 18-foot tall fork had been planted into the ground. The fork was a “gift,” created by his friend, artist Ken Marshall, based on a conversation they had had years earlier, when Stone had described the traffic island a typical “fork in the road.” Marshall and a helper worked overnight, disguised as Caltrans employees, to install the statue.

The Fork remained in place until the spring of 2010, when the city of Pasadena took it down, as there had been no permits dispensed for its construction. By that time it had become a popular sight for locals and tourists, and there was a call for its reinstallation, and in Oct. 2011, the Fork was returned to the island, its position adjusted to give more room for visitors to safely take pictures.

While not actually on Route-66, The Fork in the Road struck me as an apt metaphor for  beginning my journey.
The Fork in the Road is at the junction of Pasadena and St. Johns Aves.

Madonna of the Trail - Upland CA


Driving through the San Bernardino Valley, following Route-66, Foothills Blvd is a four-lane suburban thoroughfare. It is lined with strip malls, fast food restaurants and small office building. You have to look closely to find the gems that are still present from long ago. In the town of Upland, CA, there is a small park that is easy to miss if you are not looking for it. But there, in this small green divider in the middle of Euclid Ave., is a monument to the women who help blaze the trail of European settlement of the United States.

The Madonna of the Trail is one of twelve identical statues commissioned by the Daughters of the American Revolution. The statue depicts a pioneer mother and child. They were installed between 1929, one in each state along the National Old Trails Highway, which follows US-40 and US-66 from Baltimore MD to Los Angeles CA. The statues were designed by August Leimbach (1882-1965), a German-American sculptor who is best known for producing much of the decorative statuary for the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.

The Madonna of the Trail is located at the juction of Euclid Ave and Foothill Blvd.

Wigwam Motel - San Bernardino CA


San Bernardino is the last town I passed through before heading to the high desert. On an industrial stretch of the Foothills Ave, just west of Interstate 5 is the Wigwam Motel. In 1933 Frank Redford, from Kentucky, but the first Wigwam Motel, inspired by a restaurant he visited in Long Beach California during a childhood visit. His idea was to create a “village” of individual units set up around a Museum/Gift Shop. He built it near the newly opened Mammoth Caves National Park. Over time, seven similar motels were built along, all along Route 66. It was a great way to separate oneself from the other motels and traveler’s camps along the road.

While the rooms are actually in the shape of teepees, not wigwams, a distinction that Redford probably cared little about, the units are built on a concrete base, and have wood and stucco walls. The San Bernardino motel, built in 1949, has 39 units built around a swimming pool. The office has a gift shop. It is one of three of the original Wigwam motels left today.

Shunpiking, staying off the the interstates, is a great way to explore the country. It slows down travel and gives insight into the history and quirks of the road.

Next week - Through the Mojave Desert


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