Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Culp Valley Primitive Campground

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  Culp Valley is in a very pretty setting, surrounded by huge rounded rocks cliffs. The campground has vault toilets but no other amenities.

  Accessibility is very limited due to the steep terrain and sandy ground.

The campground is suited to small RVs and vans. The road in is rough and the parking areas are small and sloped. Campground
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Casino Pauma

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  A row of long spaces and a large gravel lot are provided for RVs at Casino Pauma. Stays are limited to 72 hours. Check in and check out is required although no one seemed concerned about the check out requirement. The casino sits overlooking orange orchards and is a quiet place to spend the night.

  The casino is fairly accessible with a short walk to the entrance from the RV parking.  Casino
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Monday, December 28, 2015

Route 66-Summary

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  The Route 66 trip was a lot of fun... but we probably won’t do it again. I’m sure that we’ll drive certain sections of it in the future however staying on one path is much too restrictive for us. There’s always something interesting just a few miles east or west or north or south and there goes the whole plan! :-D

So to summarize:

Distance - 2278 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica.  We were on the road for 80 days so we drove about 30 miles a day. These aren’t totally accurate figures. We drove extra miles because we backtracked and went off the route at times. There were days that we didn’t drive at all. But overall our mileage per day was short. We could have gone even slower and extended our trip by a couple of weeks or even a month and still have found plenty of stuff to occupy our time.

Following the Road – It really is possible to drive most of the way on the old road. It’s not always marked as Route 66 but it is still there. The EZ 66 Guide proved to be a valuable resource. At first glance it looks very confusing but once on the road it makes sense although driving alone without a navigator might still be difficult. We used the Guide most of the time but also consulted our US atlas at times. Our GPS was a help finding our way around in unfamiliar territory.

Time of Year and Weather – We chose to travel in the fall to avoid spring tornadoes, summer heat and winter snow. The temperatures were warmer than usual and we had wonderful, sunny days for most of the trip. We had one worrisome evening near Vega,Texas, listening to tornado warnings but the most we got were high winds and a few minutes of small ( but very noisy) hail. The coldest temperatures were around Gallup, NM where it when down to 11 degrees at night. Starting the trip in early September rather than late September would have been ideal. Some of the museums and other attractions were closed for the season by the time we reached them.

Parking for the Night – This wasn’t a problem anywhere on the route except in Chicago, Tulsa and Los Angeles. There are plenty of Walmarts in the mid-west states where RV parking is permitted and they’re not far off of the path of Route 66. Farther west we stayed in casinos and boondocked when possible. Established campgrounds are located close to Route 66 for travelers who prefer them.

The Cost – I didn’t keep track of our expenses however this is an inexpensive trip mostly due to the short distances traveled per day. Route 66 follows a populated and long used path so food, fuel, dump stations and places to park overnight are never far off of the route. Almost 100 museums are along the road. At least 30 are free and many have fees of less than $10.00. In addition to the museums about 40 free sites have interpretive signs, walking paths or some other item of interest. The small towns are great for just wandering around and seeing the sights.

Traveling by RV – Our RV is 25’ long, 8’ wide and 10’ 8” high so it’s on the small side. Some of the old sections of road in the mid west are very narrow so it’s important to slow down and use some care when passing oncoming traffic. Fortunately there’s very little traffic. We had no real problems driving along most of the road but low underpasses, weight limits and length limits will make driving on the interstate necessary at times if you have a large class A.

Highlights – Often the most memorable parts of a trip are the people who are met along the way. This trip was no exception. We really enjoyed talking with people at our stops. Almost everyone is friendly and ready to tell visitors about the things that make their community and their Route 66 connection special. An added bonus for us was the chance to spend time with a couple of old friends and to meet a couple of new friends.

   Chicago was our favorite big city. Both St Louis and Tulsa are wonderful mid-sized cities to visit. Pontiac, Illinois, with three free museums and a mural walking tour, gets a gold star for the best Route 66 spirit in a small town. And as always we loved all of the folk art.

   I’m going to work on the map a little bit more but since Route 66 is constantly changing with some places going out of business and other places opening I’m sure that it won’t be long before it’s out of date and has a lot of bad links.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Route 66-Los Angeles

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   There’s so much to see and do in Los Angeles but we missed most of it because, after driving through small towns and along almost deserted roads for several months, the traffic and sheer mass of the city was too much for us. We lasted for two days. :-D

  Part of the problem is a lack of places to stay. Walmarts in the city ban overnight parking and there are few RV parks. We were planning on staying at Dockweiler RV Park, a very expensive county campground which offers blacktop camping, but by the time we got there it was closed for the day so we moved onto Hollywood Park Casino. The next morning we noticed “No Overnight Parking” signs posted on the distance chainlink fence. Since no one bothered us we stayed an additional night.

   Santa Monica has a lot of restrictions for RV parking on the streets so check for signs. There’s absolutely no RV parking at night unless you have permit. Day time parking is restricted on many streets too. The easiest place to park a RV is in Lot 1 North. The lot is really big and not crowded in off season. The listed price for off season RV parking is a flat $24.00 for any amount of time between 6:00 AM to midnight but we were only charged for the spaces that we used – 2 spaces for $12.00 total. Santa Monica has a law that waives parking fees for anyone with a handicapped placard so we may have been permitted to park in this lot for free.

  A path from Lot 1 North leads to a ramp that provides wheelchair access to the pier. The wood walkway on the pier is rough so expect a bumpy ride. The ramp from the pier to street level is very steep and long and access requires a strong helper.

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   La Brea Tar Pits is a fascinating place. Asphalt has been seeping up from the ground in this spot for tens of thousands of years. The pits were fairly small and shallow but very sticky and deep enough so that many animals that wandered unaware into the asphalt would become stuck. An enormous amount of animal bones, some dating from as far back as 55,000 years, have been recovered from the pits. The most common animal was the dire wolf, then saber tooth cats and coyotes. Bison, horses, ground sloths, mammoths, reptiles, birds and even insects have been found.

The pit pictured below is actually a small lake formed from asphalt mining. It’s filled with a mixture of water and asphaltum.

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  The park has a paved walkway with interpretive signs. There isn’t a charge to enter the park but there is a $10.00 fee for parking in the lot and an entrance fee for the museum. RVs may be parked in the lot if only one space is used. We fit by backing up over the grass.

  The museum and the path are accessible.

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   Watts Towers was on our way out of LA which was good since this was one place we really wanted to see. Simon Rodia, an Italian immigrant, built this huge work of art over a period of 33 years. The sculptures are constructed of metal rods covered in concrete and  embedded with pieces of porcelain, tile, glass, bottles, sea shells, figurines, mirrors and other scrap materials. Rodia stopped working on the towers in 1955 when he went to live with his sister. They’ve withstood the passing of time very well and are in excellent condition.

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  A fence surrounds the sculptures and to get a good look at everything a guided tour is necessary. Tickets are sold at the art center (free admission to the art exhibits) located in the park.

  Everything is accessible except a few places in the tower area that are too narrow.

  Do not drive a RV down 107th Street. It’s a dead end with very little room to turn around. Park on Graham Ave and walk down 107th.

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Route 66-San Bernardino to Santa Monica

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  The McDonald’s Museum is a bit of a side trip off of Route 66 but worth it. This is not the original building, just the site of the first McDonald’s started by the McDonald brothers. A tale of revenge explains why the restaurant is no longer standing. In 1954 Ray Kroc, who at the time was selling milk shake machines, visited the restaurant and decided to become a franchisee. Kroc opened his first restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois and in 1961 he bought the brothers out but they refused to sell the original restaurant. Kroc was furious and opened another McDonalds just a block away. The brothers, who lost the rights to their name, were soon forced out of business and Kroc had the building torn down.
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  The property is now owned by Albert Okura, the founder of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain. It’s also the corporation headquarters. The museum is a little run down and the collections of artifacts are very haphazardly displayed. Make sure to take a walk around the outside of the building to see the wonderful mural and the big fiberglass cartoon figures.

  The museum is accessible.

  We parked along the street but the lot is large enough for small RVs.
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  It’s 76 miles from San Bernardino to Santa Monica through what has become one long residential and commercial street as small towns have merged into a suburban sprawl. Unless you’re determined to drive as much of Route 66 as possible get on the interstate and skip this section. We did drive it all and saw a few interesting old sites but most of it is unremarkable.

  The Wigwam Motel was built in 1949, the last of a chain of seven and one of only three that still remain.
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   The Sycamore Inn has a colorful history and the Magic Lamp has colorful architecture.
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  The sign from the Foothill Drive In has been declared a state landmark so even though the property has been sold to Azusa Pacific College the sign is here to stay.

  When the Golden Spur opened in 1918 it catered to patrons on horseback.
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   The nicely restored Dale’s Garage is located on Shamrock Street in Monrovia.
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   The Aztec Hotel was built in 1925 with Mayan inspired mosaics, murals, and reliefs inside and out. It was called the Aztec because the architect believed that the public was not sufficiently familiar with the Mayan culture.
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  The Arroyo Seco Parkway was the first freeway in the west and the first limited access stretch of Route 66. It’s not built to modern standards and has many tight curves and short ramps. It’s best to drive along it in around noon to avoid traffic jams. 
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  The final 15 miles is really slow going along Sunset Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd.
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               Santa Monica Pier – the official end of Route 66!
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Thanks for following along! Hope you enjoyed the journey as much as we did!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Route 66-Ludlow to San Bernardino

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  Route 66 west of Ludlow follows alongside the interstate for 27 miles. The road is in really bad condition so I recommend skipping it. It’s so bad that we drove on the gravel shoulder part of the way because it was a smoother ride! The painted 66 shields are in very good shape because there’s so little traffic. :-D

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   The original Bagdad Cafe was 50 miles west of this location and is long gone but this cafe near Newberry Springs was used as the setting for the movie “Bagdad Cafe” so it’s a popular stop. The motel seen in the movie is no longer standing but the sign is still there along with an old Airstream trailer.

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  A short side trip down Santa Fe street in Daggett goes past a small cluster of buildings from the 1880s - a corner market, an abandoned stone hotel, a store front and a metal sheathed garage. For a short time Daggett was a terminal for silver and borax mining operations.

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  This little building, now a private residence, was a cafe built in the 1930s.

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  Barstow got it’s start as a railroad town. Now it’s where I-40 and I-15 meet and merge to continue onto LA. Many of the original Route 66 era motels still line the road through downtown.

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  One of the most interesting is the El Rancho which was built in 1947 using railroad ties for the walls.

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  Three small, free museums are located in Barstow. The Mojave Valley River Museum is filled with donated articles including Native American artifacts, minerals, fossils, gold mining tools and antique furniture.

The museum is accessible but some of the cases are too high for easy viewing of the items inside.

The parking lot is small so large RVs will fit better on the street or at the park located on the opposite side of the street.

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   Although Amtrak still stops at Barstow, the depot, which was bustling with activity in the early 1900s when passengers rushed off of the train to eat at the Harvey House restaurant, is now quiet and almost empty. The building houses the Chamber of Commerce, a few city offices, Route 66 Museum and the Western Railroad Museum.

  Both museums are full of artifacts but small so it doesn’t take long to see them. They’re opened Friday, Saturday and Sunday only. The railroad museum has very little information about any of the items which makes it hard to figure out how they were all used. Engines, cabooses, and service vehicles are on display outside.

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  Both museums are accessible. The Route 66 Museum is located in the lower level of the building and has a ramp inside at the entrance. It’s fine when entering but hard when exiting because there isn’t a landing.

The parking lot is large enough for any RV. Large RVs can park across the spaces by the train cars. The museums are on opposite ends of the depot. 

 

The Sage Brush Inn, west of Helendale and now a private residence, was a roadhouse in the 1930s and 40s and later a gas station.

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   Watch for the sun sparkling off of the bottles at Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch and slow down to stop and walk through this usual forest. Elmer Long’s interest in bottle collecting started when he was a boy, taking road trips with his father and exploring old dumps along the way. Eventually he had a large collection of bottles and other junk. The bottle ranch was born when he inherited his father’s bottle collection and wanted a way to display everything.

  Don’t forget to look up to see all of the stuff at the top of each of the trees!

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  The ground is sandy but it’s possible to maneuver a wheelchair through most of the bottle forest.

There’s enough room on the side of the road for RV parking but go slowly because it has a hump.  

  The short stretch of commercial buildings along the west side of Route 66 in Oro Grande houses a colorful mix of antique stores and restaurants.

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  Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe was built in 1947 by Bob and Kate Holland. When Richard and Emma Jean bought it in 1979 they added Emma Jean’s name to the existing name. The cafe is still run by Emma Jean’s children.

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  The fun little California Route 66 Museum in Victorville is a must stop. The museum is packed with Route 66 memorabilia. Visitors may also climb into a VW hippy van or an “Okie” truck for a cute photo opportunity.

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  The museum is accessible. The truck and van do not have ramps.

   A large parking lot is located on the south side of the museum building but there isn’t an entrance on the main street. The only options are to hop the curb or try to maneuver through the alley and under low hanging wires. It was difficult for us so it would not work with a larger RV. On street parking of RVs is not permitted in Victorville but there is a large public parking lot across the street where RVs can park.

   I’m not sure if the haze in the air as we headed down the interstate into LA was caused by population or dust.

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  Taking exit 129 leads to this section of Route 66 through Cajon Pass. The two lanes on the left are not used any more. After six miles the road is blocked off so it’s back on the interstate for the final miles down the hill.

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Route 66-Needles to Ludlow

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   Route 66 travelers must get onto the interstate to cross the Colorado River into California. A short dead end at exit 153 leads to this big concrete billboard and a view of the Old Trails Arch Bridge, formerly the path of National Old Trail Road and Route 66, now supporting a pipe line. The billboard’s original message welcomed travelers to Arizona

  Needles got it start as a rail town and became a popular stop along Route 66. It still has some nice neon signs and Art Deco buildings
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  The Claypool and Co. was a department store selling groceries, hardware, clothing and a variety of other goods. The building is now used by Palo Verde College.
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  A fun mural featuring Snoopy’s brother Spike who lives in the desert near Needles.
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   Route 66 between Kingman and Ludlow travels through 110 lonely miles of the Mojave Desert. It crosses the interstate at Fenner where there’s a gas station but not much else.  Roy’s Cafe at Amboy has been restored but all of the other gas and food stops have been long abandoned. Do not take this route if you’re driving a large RV. There are many old timber bridges over the washes and they’re not strong enough for heavy vehicles. Weight restrictions – here.

  Goffs is an old mining and rail town with a population of less than two dozen people. The 1914 mission style school house is a museum featuring local history. It was closed for the season when we passed by.
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  Essex is almost a ghost town. Even the post office is closed.
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   A really old billboard advertises rooms at the Flamingo in Laughlin, NV.
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  This original Route 66 rest area is very good spot to spend the night. It’s just a long roadside pull off with a few interpretive signs.
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  The ruins of a cafe, gas stations and cabins sit on the Cadiz Summit.
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  This huge sign marks the Roadrunner’s Retreat Cafe and Station. The Roadrunner was built in the 1960s and closed shortly after the road was bypassed in 1972.
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  Roy’s Cafe has been featured in movies, music videos and a TV commercial.  It’s been restored by Albert Okura, the owner of the Jaun Pollo chicken chain. The little cabins house an art display which left us puzzled. 
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   Amboy Crater is 250-foot-high and approximately 6,000 years old. The site includes a picnic area, vault toilets and a trail to the rim.
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  Ludlow, a former mining town, now has just a few inhabited houses, two gas stations, a small motel, a restaurant and a population of 10.
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