Sunday, May 11, 2008

Day Thirteen

Well, this is it. The last day on Route 66. I started the day by returning to snap a couple of pictures of the El Rancho in Barstow, where I failed to spend the night and purchased the beer can airplane the previous evening. Apparently this entire hotel was constructed from railroad ties.

Cool sign along the road.

Obviously this one caught my attention, so I decided to stop for (a very yummy) breakfast. There's no real Holland connection, it was the first owner's last name.

Hummingbird feeders! I don't think I'd ever seen a hummingbird in real life, at least not outside a zoo.

I like the graffiti head.

Victorville CA.

After crossing the mountains the weather went south; gloomy and cold. Again, unused westbound lanes roadbed running alongside the current two lane road.

Of course I had to see what was past this.

Nothing much apparently but the end of the road, with the freeway that replaced it running in the background.

Some pictures heading into San Bernadino, which as a town does not appear to have a single redeeming quality I could discover. Many of the old motels seem to still be in use, some residential, some as motels, although none of them appeared to have any activity.

Trademark dispute anyone?

Bad (snapped while driving) pic of a cool sign. Almost in Pasadena now.

A very rare Citroen SM, an old French coupe with a Maserati engine. A friend's dad used to own one, but it was neat seeing one in the U.S.


Palm trees... The weather cleared up just as I was heading into Santa Monica, which was a great relief as I would not have wanted to end the trip under a steel gray sky.

Hmm, the light isn't quite right.

The Will Rogers (for whom Route 66 is named) plaque at the end of the road.

There are some beautiful vintage hotels along the waterfront in Santa Monica.

Obligatory into-the-sunset-palm-tree-pic.

After sitting in the car for a while and then chugging a Patron margarita on the pier, the lights come on.

And so the main leg of the trip ended, and what an amazing adventure it was. The whole journey turned out to be much more interesting than I had expected setting out from Chicago two weeks earlier. From restored little vintage gas stations to the ruins in Jericho TX, from the Grand Canyon to goofy little motels, I feel like I succeeded in capturing some of the spirit of the old road.

Only time will tell what will become of many of the things I saw along the way (except for the Grand Canyon, presumably that's here to stay). There were many more old buildings still standing than I had expected. Living in a big city where an empty structure is either put to a new use or bulldozed, I was astounded. Many of the buildings seemed ready to fall down - with little economic incentive for anyone to restore them.

As with many other wonderful things in the world, their fate is a paradox. Only tourism can save them, but the same tourists who could bring investment to some of these forgotten and blighted areas will also either ruin their decrepit charm or turn them into a Disneyesque parody of themselves. Luckily, this seems natural and right. The old road was lined with gaudy tourist traps, and any resurgence in people taking the Great American Road Trip would only bring about more of the same.

The decay I take joy in observing is not a natural state, and if it continues little will be left of this intriguing stretch of modern American history in ten or twenty years. If it is reversed, we will have a new version to enjoy of the garish, twenty four hundred and eighty eight mile long theme park that Route 66 was once. Whichever comes to pass, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to drive the old road and catch a glimpse of America as it once was.

I will post some pictures tomorrow night from the Bay Area and the trip back for friends and family, but for those of you that are interested in Route 66 this will be the last post of interest. Thanks for coming along with me, and get out there and drive it yourself before it's gone!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Day Twelve

Almost there! This was the second to last day of Route 66, and it was nice to be back on the road after my side trips to Phoenix and the Grand Canyon.

After all that camping and walking I started off the day with a fantastic breakfast at Goldie's Route 66 Diner in Williams AZ.

Cooper Tires! My family's from Findlay OH...

These were all over the place. I know they're not historic, but they are funny.

G@%&^~n hippies!

Seligman AZ. The famous Snow Cap is there, but I was disappointed to find the entire town dolled up like some Disney version of a run down Route 66 town. Moreover, it was full of tour buses. What kind of person would want to see Route 66 in a TOUR BUS? I snapped a few pics and escaped.

The Snow Cap, unfortunately closed.

Mmmmm. Dead chicken.

Mmmmm. Burgers.


Operational service station at Grand Canyon Caverns.

Not so operational service station.

Truxton AZ.

I wonder how the Exxon Corporation feels about this sign?

Another abandoned motel.

With an intriguing Hungarian plaque.

Apu lives here!

The old General Store in Hackberry.

Very strange place. Some type of motel or trailer park, the owners of which obviously had an alien fascination of some sort.

Kingman AZ, as in Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino.

The Hill Top Motel. I bought a picture book from the owner's wife and she signed it for me.

I don't know why, but I am in love with this parasol.

I guess this is the hotel's former dining or ball room.

It's actually (still?) called Route 66 (again?) in a number of places.

Funky diner in Kingman.

The original route follows the train tracks for the most part, there is a strong connection between Route 66 and transcontinental railroads.

Between Kingman and Oatman.

They are building NEW cabins. It was very odd to see construction after all the decay I've seen.

The mysterious and uninviting Ed's Camp (no trespassing signs everywhere, I had the distinct feeling I would get shot if I went any closer).

The drive from Kingman to Oatman over the old Gold Road is beautiful.

A deserted mining shack. According to the owner of the Hill Top Motel the hole in the roof is from some idiot tourist climbing on the roof. Apparently he had to dig his way out. Near Darwin Award!

The very odd town of Oatman AZ. It's an old mining town that now features mock gunfights in the streets and wild descendants of the original mining donkeys.

I can think of a couple of bars in Chicago that should be called this...

The Oatman Hotel, 106 years old.

The room in the hotel where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent (part?) of their honeymoon.

Before the miners used to go underground they would tack a dollar bill to the wall with their name on it so they would be entitled to a beer when they came back out of the mine after three days. The tourists have continued the tradition and there are well over 50,000 bills on the wall now.

Of course I had to add one too.

Nice t-shirt.

More abandoned mining structures.

The famous wild burros of Oatman.

Snowcone?! Sounded pretty good, it was HOT.

I really like these old gas pumps.


You remember these guys, Wesley!

A service station that apparently has been converted into a church of some stripe.


Welcome to California.

And welcome to California again.

My friend the BNSF, coming out of the Mojave Desert.

Needles CA, gateway to the Mojave. The desert was the last major obstacle to overcome for old time travelers. The crossing was often made at night to spare beat up old cars.

Detail of the El Garces train station and hotel, currently under restoration.

What IS it with couches and the desert?! They're everywhere!

Interior of an abandoned building. Boots and pans still on the stove.

This was a stange little place in the desert. Apparently it's some type of protest site.

The creators of which do not appear to share my love for anything hand built, Italian, and FAST.

I am at a complete loss here.

Amboy Crater.

Watch out buddy! This is the second time I almost ran over a tortoise in the desert, so I had to get out and chat with him for a little bit about his road crossing technique.

This is not the original Bagdad Cafe if I am correct. The movie was filmed around here somewhere.

Angry window!

Driving through Dagget I spotted a sign for "Calico Ghost Town" and decided to investigate. It turns out it's an actualy deserted mining town that has been turned into a mini amusement park. I arrived after closing and wandered the deserted streets for a while. Strange sensation to be in a ghost town amusement park that is actually a ghost town. Used a dark and deserted restroom and then beat a hasty retreat.

I arrived in Barstow CA in the evening, and the only historic motel that looked worth staying at was the El Rancho. I couldn't find anyone in the office and nobody answered the night bell or phone, so I decided to drive around the motel and then leave. All of a sudden a man carrying a red airplane appeared and said "I make airplanes out of beer cans." "That's what I do," he said. He introduced himself as John Bates and showed me his collection. He uses only a pair of scissors, glue, and a pair of needlenose pliers to make them. They have a little battery and the propellors actualy spin. Of course I had to buy one. It is a little worse for wear after being in the passenger seat of the convertible, so I will have to email John and get some maintenance and repair guidance.