TO HELL AND BACK ON ROUTE 66 – PART THREE
Sunday morning, the second day of our Route 66 in California, dawned clear and bright. Well, at least the haze was thin enough to allow a view of the mountains, an event that seems to constitute a clear day in the greater Los Angeles area.
To get the blood flowing as well as to stimulate an already sizable appetite we decided on a short walk of one clock to breakfast at Olive’s Bistro. It was as close to a perfect breakfast as I could imagine – excellent food (Greek omelette), and good coffee all shared with my dearest friend. As a bonus the staff was professional, friendly, and honestly happy.
A sincere effort was made to slow the pace and simply savor the moment but the thought of the adventure that awaited us made that rather difficult. Further fueling our desire to get on the road was the knowledge that every minute that we delayed our departure would result in an exponential increase in the traffic hell that is travel in this most amazing metropolis.
Traffic was surprisingly light as we set out on Olive Avenue toward U.S. 101. The basic battle plan was to follow the 101 to Highland Avenue, and then catch Santa Monica Boulevard for a drive to the pier.
The “light” morning traffic was like rush hour on Stockton Hill Road in Kingman on steroids. The mere thought of dealing with this, and worse, on a daily basis leaves me amazed that more people don’t snap out. Perhaps this explains the rising percentage of medicated people in America.
The silver lining to this was we seldom worried about parking to photograph locations on our list. We spent almost as much time moving as we did driving and so were able to obtain some nice images from the comfort of the Jeep.
Perhaps it is a result of our years spent in the desert but my dearest friend and I find something almost magically peaceful about a visit to the coast even if it is often as crowded as a stockyard when feed prices soar. Magnifying the refreshing properties of the ocean washing gently on the sands is one of our favorite stops, the historic Santa Monica Pier.
Technically the pier is not on Route 66. In fact it is several blocks from the western terminus of that storied highway. Still, this is Route 66 and as a result, tradition and whimsy almost always trumps starched reality.
In spite of traffic delays we arrived early enough to park on the pier itself. This, however, did not mean we had it to ourselves, nor would we want it that way.
Musicians and artists, acrobats, and trained parrots, are an intricate part of the Santa Monica Pier experience. Likewise with the fishermen and pulsing crowds speaking a wide array of languages.
I was surprised and excited to discover a tribute to Bob Waldmire at the end of the pier. As it was simple and understated it seemed rather fitting.
Dan and Jessica Rice’s shop wasn’t open at the early hour of our visit and as a result, I was unable to sign books in their inventory. It may seem a bit silly but I always regret it when things like this happen as stopping to sign books gives me an opportunity to visit, to get a feel for the pulse of the road, and, I like to believe, contribute a little something.
With the drive to Kingman (about 330 miles) hanging over our head, as well as the need to photograph a few dozen locations along the way, the visit to the pier was much shorter than we would have liked. As we retraced our steps along Santa Monica Boulevard the crush of traffic again allowed for a wide array of photographic opportunities.
Our next stop was the fascinating Hollywood Forever Cemetery, an often overlooked Route 66 attraction. I had run out of time to obtain proper authorization for photos to be used in our book before leaving Arizona, and the office was unable to assist on a Sunday, so we simply explored the grounds. Counted among our discoveries were a vintage Rolls Royce hearse, and the grave of Toto.
The time consuming crush of traffic forced a bit of an adjustment to our plans. So instead of exploring the Figueroa Street corridor, we utilized the Glendale Freeway from Sunset Boulevard, and continued the Route 66 adventure in Pasadena.
This at least allowed us an opportunity to photograph and explore the 1913 Colorado Boulevard Bridge. Parking at the small park at the east end of the bridge allowed us access as well as other opportunities to photograph this landmark from various angles.
We succumbed to hunger, convenience, and time constraints with a stoop at Coco’s in East Pasadena for dinner rather than look for something unique. For us this is always a sign of the creeping awareness that time allotted for an adventure is running short.
It was those time constraints that forced us to reluctantly forgo exploration in Monrovia that was supposed to include a stop at the Aztec Hotel. Instead we followed the 210 to the Foothill Boulevard exit in Laverne before resuming our Route 66 odyssey.
As I had promised to sign books for Kumar at the charming Wigwam Motel in Rialto. As Kumar was away on business we were privileged to share an interesting conversation with his mother while signing copies of Ghost Towns of Route 66, and The Route 66 Encyclopedia.
With the sun rapidly closing the distance to the western horizon we chose to forgo further exploration and instead followed Mt. Vernon Avenue to the interstate highway, and then over the Cajon Pass with but one stop to photograph the historic trail monument located at the end of a truncated segment of Route 66 accessed by exit 131, the junction with highway 138.
At Barstow we again succumbed to time constraints, as well as hunger, by indulging at Coco’s for supper after topping off the tank. Even though time was now of the essence, I was just not able to bear the thought of a long drive home on the interstate highway.
So, we ordered two slices of pie for the road, and at Newberry Springs again took to Route 66. Several miles to the east, out near Pisgah Crater we found a suitable spot to watch the sunset as we savored our pie and each others company in the desert we so enjoy.
I had hoped to sit under the desert sky but the winds were beginning to blow rather fiercely and so we decided it best to enjoy the show from the comfort of our stalwart old Jeep. Knowing that our adventure was nearing its end tempered our desert with a hint of sadness.
It should be noted that this segment of highway, almost all the way to Ludlow has really deteriorated and is very rough. An example of just how bad the road is can be found in the fact that at times I drove on the shoulder because it was smoother, and I was driving a Jeep.
At Ludlow, I rejoined I-40 and the rat race. However, even though it was nearing midnight, I found it impossible to not make one more stop.
At the Kelbraker Road exit I pulled off into the desert, turned off the engine, and stepped out into the wind. The dust stinging my face did nothing to dampen the sense of awe that only comes from standing under a desert sky with a canopy of stars.