Route 66, The 'Mother Road', inspiration for Nat King Cole [Get your kicks on Route 66], and a television series. The route from Chicago to the Land of Milk and Honey.
Route 66, created in the teens, went southwest from Chicago through Oklahoma, where, during the depression and dustbowl of the 30's, it picked up a generation of destitute Okie sharecroppers displaced by tractors and drought and took them on down through New Mexico and west through northern Arizona to California, where the fabled gold in the streets turned to dust in their mouths.
Route 66, started out as a dirt two-tracker, and was paved helter- skelter and willy nilly, according to local needs and economy. The last un-paved section, near the New Mexico-Arizona border, finally was paved at the beginning of WWII as a war measure to facilitate the movements of troops, when it was seriously considered that the Japanese were going to invade the West Coast, and our first line of defense was the Rocky Mountains. I kid you not, I had a friend who was an officer in Coast Artillery at the start of WWII. Not one of our shore batteries was operable, and the army didn't have the vehicles to move an army quickly, and by the time they marched to the invasion site, it would have been way too late. So fall back to the Rockies and good-by to the land of milk and honey, to say nothing of the land of fruits and nuts!
Route 66, created during WWI, was finally completely paved in WWII, and became a casualty of the Cold War when General...er...President Ike replaced it with a hodge-podge of I's [55, 44 and 40 to Barstow, then, 15, 210, 110 and 10 on to Santa Monica], when the interstate system was created to insure that troops and war material could be efficiently moved about the country during times of emergency. Tell that to anyone trying to get out of town on a Friday night!
Route 66, which Steinbeck, calling on poetic license, conveniently re-routed when he said that the Joads, in The Grapes of Wrath, took it from Oklahoma to Bakersfield. Actually, Route 66 went west to Barstow, hooked a left and went south through Victorville and the Cajon Pass to San Bernardino, then hooked a right on Foothill Blvd. west through the foothill communities of the Los Angeles Basin to Pasadena. Then it went southwest to Chinatown in L.A., and west on Sunset Blvd, and on out on Wiltshire Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd., finally ending in the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica Bay at the end of the Santa Monica Pier, at the bait shop right next to the roller coaster [since relocated].
When the Joads arrived in Barstow, they had to jog to the right a few miles and take Highway 58 west through Boron and Tehachapi to get to Bakersfield, then up and down Highway 99, making a fortune picking fruit at 35 cents a lug. Their kids, for the same labor, got 20 cents a lug!
Route 66, officially dismembered in the early 50's, but still existing in bits and pieces, is annually celebrated with parades and car shows, and whatever, in cities and villages along the old route, especially here in San Bernardino County, with annual celebrations in San Bernardino, Victorville, Barstow, Goffs, and Needles.
Another bike columnist a few years back attempted to ride all of the remaining pieces, but found it very dicey going in the Midwest because although the highway had been decommissioned, the pavement was still intact, but a lot of the bridges had been removed without any warning or barricades being erected.
Long stretches of 66 still exist and are used daily west of Seligman in Arizona and California. The section from Seligman through Peach Springs, Kingman, and the old mining town of Oatman is in excellent shape and goes through some beautiful country. Those of you who think Arizona is all sagebrush desert [as I once did] are in for a very pleasant surprise, much of eastern and northern Arizona is high elevation mountains and heavily forested. If any of you are interested, I have some nice little 40-acre [1/4 mile by 1/4 mile] heavily forested parcels for sale near Grand Canyon Caverns, between Seligman and Peach Springs on the old 66. And, although Frank probably doesn't remember, the MGNOC gets a commission...er...gratuity on all sales to the membership. The line forms to the right! 760 868 3569. [Ed Note: Where is this commission?! -FW]
Another long section starts just west of Needles, and those of you who enjoy the cult film, REPO MAN, take notice, because, the scene where the motorcycle cop opens up the atomic trunk, and all you see of him after that is a pair of smoking boots? Well, that scene was filmed on this lonely stretch of road about a mile west of where it starts at Highway 95, just north of I-40. Then through Goffs [cafë], [gas available just north of I-40] under I- 40, through Essex [the cafë there makes dynamite chili], Cadiz [where a huge underground lake was discovered by analyzing LAN sat photos and is now a major early season table grape producer], Amboy [cafë, no gas, but a landing strip that the aerial Chippies use when they drop in for lunch], Baghdad [a railroad siding with no buildings which gave its name to the movie and television series; but the actual cafë used in the filming is on the outskirts of Newberry Springs] to Ludlow [cafë & gas], across the freeway, west a few miles, then back over the freeway, by the Baghdad Cafë [new name since the movie came out] to Newberry Springs [gas], under the Freeway to Daggett [huge solar power facility], through the whoopdie-doos and on to the freeway a few miles, off the freeway through downtown Barstow [all amenities] where the main drag becomes National Trails Highway through Lenwood and Oro Grande and back onto I-15 in Victorville [the original 66 went about a mile farther south, then southwest on 7th St, but that's just a bunch of congestion now], down through the Cajon Pass, then off at Cleghorn, just past the truck scales, onto the old 66 through the Cajon Gorge, back on the I-15 at Kenwood and into a left lane for the I-215 [I-15E on some maps] , then at exit Devore, and on to Cajon Blvd into San Bernardino, and right on Foothill Blvd, which takes you through all the foothill communities on the way to Pasadena.
Out on Foothill Blvd, you will see the Wigwam Motel, owned by an East Indian, featuring individual units in the shape of stucco tepees. The whole operation was a great visual joke, because wigwams were built by the eastern forest Indians and look like a Yurt or an inverted bowl, while a teepee is a cone made of lodge poles and buffalo hides by the Plains Indians. These were built in the 20's when hotdog stands in the shape of a stucco Coney Island [chili dog, to the uninitiated], cobbler shops in the shape of a stucco Mother Hubbard shoe, and cafes in the shape of a stucco rooster were all the rage in southern California - the most famous of them being the Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood - and a whole lot of them still exist! On one of my favorite back country routes, there is a 12 foot orange stucco orange juice stand at the side of the road near Lemoncove on Highway 198 on the way to the south entrance to Sequoia National Park.
Vaya con Dios, and may all your tours end back where they started! firstname.lastname@example.org