California 2021:
Day 8 - Route 66: California


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California 2021: [Day 1 - Chicago] [Day 2 - Route 66: IL] [Day 3 - Route 66: MO] [Day 4 - Route 66: OK] [Day 5 - Route 66: TX] [Day 6 - Route 66: NM] [Day 7 - Route 66: AZ] [Day 8 - Route 66: CA] [Day 9 - Route 66: CA] [Day 10 - Los Angeles] [Day 11 - Los Angeles] [Day 12 - Palm Springs] [Day 13 - Joshua Tree NP] [Day 14 - Death Valley NP] [Day 15 - Las Vegas] [Day 16 - Zion NP] [Day 17 - Grand Canyon North Rim] [Day 18 - Toroweap, Grand Canyon] [Day 19 - Page, AZ] [Day 20 - Durango, CO] [Day 21 - Great Bend, KS] [Day 22 - St. Louis, MO] [Day 23 - Heading Home]

Sunday, November 7, 2021: The lights on the El Trovatore tower were not turned on at all while we were here so we're glad we got to see it lit up in 2018. We packed the van in the predawn darkness and got on the road.
We stopped again at the Kingman Visitor Center to get another shot of the Route 66 drive-thru sign, this time lit up and without any pesky people in it.
Whenever we are in Kingman and leaving before dawn, we always eat at this Carl's Jr. It's a thing.
Fed and re-fueled, we headed out of Kingman toward Oatman, ...
... passing this Little Debbie distribution center. Look at all of those trucks with delicious products on them. Yum.
Wow. We didn't even know that National Backcountry Byway was something that we had, and now we were on one. It turns out that there are 54 of them in the United States, and just over half of them are regular paved roads for normal cars, referred to as Type I. The rest require off-road or other high-clearance vehicles.
That's a gorgeous sign, and it looks just like the road we were on.
Route 66 here was a two lane road with a dirt shoulder, and it was headed straight for those hills ahead.
Mohave County, Arizona, has also designated this portion of Route 66 as a scenic highway.
The desert was looking very attractive in the morning light.
We were on the last stretch of straight road before we got to the mountains.
As we reached the hills, this sign warned us that we were about to enter the Arizona Sidewinder: 191 turns, 8 miles, no guard rails.
This building had everything that Route 66 had to offer: gas station logos, lodging, food, and a mileage post.
The speed limit dropped to a very reasonable 30 miles per hour.
We were on alert for the free-range burros ...
... as we started on the winding road.
There were actually a few guard rails. They probably wouldn't have stopped our van if we headed over the edge, but we don't know what to call them other than guard rails.
A little while later, we drove through the highest point on the road at Sitgreaves Pass, elevation 3,550 feet.
Here's the view of the other side, and you can see just how steep and windy it is.
We headed back down, encountering a few hairpin turns, ...
... but thoroughly enjoying the view. The road itself was not at all difficult or scary, and it probably helped that we only encountered one other car during the drive.
As we entered Oatman, Arizona, we encountered this restored service station before entering the town proper.
We were tempted to stop and ask Zoltar for our fortune, but decided against it.
Oatman used to be a gold mining town until the early 1940s when all of the mines were closed. What's here now is a fake Old West town, with lots of kitsch and Old West-themed establishments.
It was very early on a Sunday morning, and the place was absolutely deserted.
We past several coveys of Gambel's Quail that were along the side of the road. They were very fast, and were very skittish if our van came anywhere near them.
On this side of the hills, we started to see campers boondocking on BLM land.
The road away from the hills was back to a straight two-lane highway with a gravel shoulder, and we continued to be the only people on it.
We drove through Golden Shores and Topock which were equally empty and quiet.
With only a few miles left in Arizona, we stopped at Catfish Paradise, a day use area on Topock Bay, which is part of the Colorado River. This was an unexpectedly beautiful place to stop. Debbie managed to capture a heron in flight, visible in the lower right corner of this photo.
It had everything that you would expect from the Colorado River: a sandy bank, green brush at the riverbank, mountain views, and gorgeous water.
Oh, and that's California over there.
We rested here a while, just happy to be near our beloved Colorado River for a while.
When we left, we realized that the entire area was part of the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge.
We crossed over I-40 to the southern side to get a better view of the Old Trails Bridge, which was the highway bridge over the Colorado River until 1947.
Look at those mountains in the distance. So jaggedy and beautiful.
We left the two-lane highway and merged onto I-40, paralleling the railroad bridge across the river, ...
... and entering California, completing our goal of visiting all of the contiguous 48 states in Tom's first year of retirement.
We exited I-40 at the Park Moabi Road to drive the old Route 66 road.
We took in our last views of the Colorado River and its tributaries, ...
... and made a note that the Pirate Cove Resort might be a place that we want to come back to someday. We got back on I-40 and headed up the road a little further, ...
... until we got back off at 5 Mile Road to visit the Historic Route 66 California Gateway Site.
Debbie signed the guestbook, ...
... which was in a box with a railroad spike for a handle.
The area was a nice picnic area, with plenty of room, shade, and a few picnic tables.
As we drove through Needles, we were thrilled that we had refueled in Kingman when we saw the gas prices. Yikes. The prices would go steadily down as we got out of the desert and closer to the big cities.
There were lots of vintage signs in Needles, including the 66 Motel, ...
... the mural where Elvis would like you to get an Econo Smog and Tune, ...
... our first Historic Route 66 sign specific to California, ...
... Route 66 shields on the road, ...
... and a mural for Meadow Gold milk on the Deco Foodservice building.
A movie marquee welcomed us to Needles, California, and a sign taped to the building reminded us that the Class of '61 STILL RULES!
The town sign itself for Needles was very vintage-looking.
A mural on the fa├žade of this building was a map of Route 66 from Kingman, Arizona, to Amboy, California.
We got back on I-40 outside of Needles, ...
... and drove to Mountain Springs Summit Road to rejoin the National Trails Highway. The road was closed, and we backtracked to I-40 to continue westward.
We exited I-40 as the original road closure sign suggested, at Kelbaker Road, and continued toward Amboy.
This part of Route 66 was through the Mojave Trails National Monument.
We were behind two cars for this part of the drive which made it a veritable traffic jam considering for most of the drive we had been the only car on the road.
Blue skies, sand, and mountains. What more could you ask for when you are driving Route 66 in California?
We could see Amboy Crater off to the left as we approached the town of Amboy.
Roy's Cafe in Amboy was built in 1938 and thrived until I-40 bypassed the town in 1972.
The service station contains memorabilia about the original owners, and is in the process of being restored.
Pellet.
We passed the turn for Joshua Tree National Park. We'd be right back here six days later after spending a day there.
Amboy Crater stands out against the desert landscape.
The sign for Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark has the Route 66 emblem on it.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) welcomes you to the Heart of the Mojave public lands. Just five minutes later, we were passing what used to be the small town of Bagdad, but there isn't anything at all to indicate it ever existed. The film, "Bagdad Cafe," was filmed in a different location, as we'll soon see.
Our map said that the original 1926 unpaved road should be visible to the south, and we are pretty sure that this was part of it. It was very hard to tell what might be original Route 66 and what was just a desert dirt road.
We continued down the old Route 66 through Ludlow, California, into ...
... Newberry Springs, home of ...
... the Bagdad Cafe, formerly known as the Sidewinder Cafe. This was the filming location for the 1987 cult-classic movie, "Bagdad Cafe," which we had watched in preparation for making this trip. We had hoped to eat lunch here, but alas, it was closed.
The adjoining motel has been removed, but the sign remains.
We continued westward, following the Route 66 shields painted on the road, ...
... passing this building with a very cool roof, ...
... and the Barstow Station McDonald's, which has passenger train cars painted in McDonald's colors attached to the building and which are used for the dining area.
This McDonald's water tower is part of the McDonald's train station-themed restaurant. How cool is that?
The city signs for Barstow featured vintage cars and the Route 66 logo.
Barstow had lots of Route 66 vintage business and signs, including the Cactus Motel, ...
... the Village Hotel and Cafe (featuring Chop Suey!) ...
... more city signs with the Route 66 shield logo and classic cars, ...
... this very cool mural of the Southern Route of the Mormon Trail, ...
... the Route 66 Motel, ...
... and the Torches Motel.
We decided to stop for lunch at Fosters Freeze, which was a local fast-food chain that we'd never heard of before. They specialize in soft serve ice cream, hamburgers, and chicken, which just sounded delicious.
Tom ordered the Big Boss burger, which had two kinds of cheese, Fosters sauce, onion rings, pickles, ketchup, and mustard, while Debbie ordered the Old Fashioned burger, which had Fosters sauce, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. We ate them in the parking lot and decided that we would definitely eat there again if we got the chance.
On the way out of town, we passed Motel 66, and we wondered just how anyone kept all of these motels with 66 in the name straight.
We passed this cool display at Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch in Oro Grande. This collection was created by local scrap material artist Elmer Long, who created more then 200 bottle trees on his property until his death in 2019.
A little while later, we passed the Southern California Logistics Airport, which is an aircraft boneyard, maintenance facility, and dissassembly center. We could see lots of jets on the tarmac.
Oro Grande embraced its location on Route 66.
On the outskirts of Victorville, we saw Emma Jean's Holland Burger Cafe which has been here since 1947. It was bought in 1979 by Richard and Emma Jean Gentry, who renamed the restaurant after Emma Jean who had been a waitress here for many years. It is currently operated by their son and daughter-in-law.
Victorville is also proud of its Route 66 heritage.
Holy crap! Winchell's Donuts! We stopped immediately.
Look at all of these delicious choices! Surely this is the greatest day ever!
We somehow ended up with seven donuts when trying to buy a half dozen, and we immediately ate two to celebrate our good luck. We knew there would be Winchell's Donuts on this trip, but we didn't expect to encounter them so soon.
The sunlight on the neon around the perimeter of the horse on the New Corral Motel was beautiful, and we imagined that it would be even more so after dark when the neon was turned on.
This iron sign marked the end of Victorville.
We briefly drove through San Bernardino National Forest but just missed getting a picture of the sign.
We merged onto I-15 headed south and enjoyed the picturesque mountains ahead of us.
The highway here was five lanes, and all five were grinding to a halt as we approached San Bernardino.
We were very happy to get off I-15 and onto the historic Route 66, ...
... which was completely deserted and moving much faster than the highway. Score!
We were excited to learn that we were on the Old Spanish Trail, which is a National Historic Route that follows route of the mule pack trains from Sante Fe, New Mexico, to Los Angeles.
In San Bernardino, we detoured off Route 66 in order to stop at the location where Dick and Mac McDonald opened the first McDonald's Self-Service, Drive-in Restaurant in 1948. The location is now an unofficial museum.
The entire outside of the building is one gigantic mural, with statues and ...
... other interesting memorabilia ...
... on the outside. The level of detail on the mural is nothing short of spectacular, ...
... showing many places that we had been on Route 66, ...
... where we currently were on Route 66, ...
... and where we would be staying later tonight.
Inside was a collection of everything related to the restaurant, and we mean everything.
There were toys grouped by year, ...
... Halloween buckets!, ...
... even pies from around the world, including corn pie, pineapple pie, and sweet taro pie.
McMetrics! It'll catch on, right?
There were displays of menu items from around the world, including Sweden ...
... and Canada. Note to selves: try McDonald's poutine someday.
Outside, there were attractions for the kids, like this hamburger tunnel and a rocket.
We got back on Route 66 and continued to our destination for the evening, ...
... the Wigwam Motel! We'd long been intrigued by these, but we'd never stayed at one. That changes now! This location is Wigwam Village #7, one of three remaining Wigwam Villages, of seven originally built between 1933 and 1949. We had seen the Arizona and Kentucky locations earlier this year.
We were in #15. Let's go inside.
There was a queen-sized bed, a couch, coffee table, TV, and mini-fridge.
Here's the bathroom, ...
... sink, and shower.
The ice machine was at the rear of the office and was coin-operated. You put your ice bucket in, put your quarter in the slot, pushed it in, and ice poured into your bucket. We are old and still carry quarters, but the front desk would've given us a quarter for free to use.
After sunset, Debbie went outside to look at the stars and realized that the door was not really rectangular shaped.
The silhoutte of the teepees against the night sky was striking.
While processing the photos from today, we realized that we had crossed paths with the Juan Pollo restaurant chain many times throughout the day. Roy's Cafe in Amboy was now owned and is being renovated by the owner of the Juan Pollo chain, Albert Okura. The McDonald's museum was started by Okura when he purchased the property in 1998, recognizing it as the original McDonald's location. It was only fitting that we ended the day with food from Pollo Loco, so Tom drove to the nearest location to pick up two soft taco platters. This location turned out to be the second Pollo Loco store ever opened and whose success kicked off the franchise. While Tom was in line getting the food, Albert Okura himself walked in and met with the manager of the store. What a fantastic end to a very good day!

Day 9 >


California 2021: [Day 1 - Chicago] [Day 2 - Route 66: IL] [Day 3 - Route 66: MO] [Day 4 - Route 66: OK] [Day 5 - Route 66: TX] [Day 6 - Route 66: NM] [Day 7 - Route 66: AZ] [Day 8 - Route 66: CA] [Day 9 - Route 66: CA] [Day 10 - Los Angeles] [Day 11 - Los Angeles] [Day 12 - Palm Springs] [Day 13 - Joshua Tree NP] [Day 14 - Death Valley NP] [Day 15 - Las Vegas] [Day 16 - Zion NP] [Day 17 - Grand Canyon North Rim] [Day 18 - Toroweap, Grand Canyon] [Day 19 - Page, AZ] [Day 20 - Durango, CO] [Day 21 - Great Bend, KS] [Day 22 - St. Louis, MO] [Day 23 - Heading Home]

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