Here is how this blog works…
Our Route 66 journey starts in Chicago, because that’s where Route 66 starts. Fittingly, it’s also where this blog starts. I recommend going back to the first page of the blog and starting there. The story makes a lot more sense that way. There, you can read about what inspired us to take the trip. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page where it says “The Inspiration.” That’s the very first post on the blog.)
We took about a million photographs during this journey, and they can all be viewed here on the Eating Route 66 Flickr page or over in the side bar to the right (scroll down a little) where it says “Flickr Photos.”
Like the start of Route 66 in Chicago, the endpoint isn’t as obvious as one might hope. The true end is reported to be at the corner of Olympic and Lincoln in Santa Monica. However, this corner exists at a freeway overpass, with a U-Haul center on one corner and a dentist’s office on another. Suffice it to say, not the satisfying conclusion you’re looking for after 10 days in the car.
The ceremonial end to Route 66 occurs at Palisades Park at the intersection of Santa Monica Blvd. and Ocean Ave., not far from the Santa Monica Pier. It’s marked by plaque commemorating Will Rogers, noting Route 66 as “the first road he traveled in a career that led him straight to the hearts of his countrymen.”
Most road trips end with a whimper rather than a bang. Such was not the case for us. We passed along our estimated arrival time to a few good friends who live in Santa Monica, and we were greeted with a hero’s welcome when we finally rolled up to Palisades Park around 9:30 p.m. Finish line tape was strung up, and a chilled bottle of good champagne was waiting. What an awesome homecoming.
A million thanks to everyone who followed along with us on this blog, on Twitter, and on Flickr. Though it has been implied again and again on this travelogue, it’s difficult to demonstrate through words, photos, and videos how wonderful and beautiful this trip was — and how much of a forgotten and neglected America that we all miss as we whiz across the smooth and convenient interstates.
I hope that we have inspired you to take a trip of your own across Route 66 — even if the journey is just for just a few miles in your home state. And lest you think that all of Route 66 is decaying, there is a massive and well-funded initiative currently underway to restore as many of The Mother Road’s exciting attractions as possible to their former glory. It’s exciting to realize that so many other people are even more passionate about Route 66 than we are.
And if you ever need a reminder about why our country is called “America the Beautiful,” gas up the car and hit the road. You’ll immediately be reminded that sometimes the trip is about the journey and not the destination.
Los Angeles, Calif.: The Final Stretch
It should be noted that a full month could be devoted to eating your way through the final 70 miles of Route 66 into Los Angeles. Full books and blogs (my own, LA Foodie, included) are devoted to the fantastic eateries in this wonderful city. But until our road trip’s drive-through, I hadn’t realized how many of the best ones lie along Route 66, including The Donut Man, Irv’s Burgers, and Astro Burger, to name but a few. I happily observed these familiar joints — and bookmarked a half dozen more to come back to when my stomach capacity permits.
Pasadena, Calif.: Rose Bowl Parade Camping
I have pulled some boner moves in my life, but this one is in the running for my all-time “D’oh!” moments. Imagine the scenario. We had been on the road for over a week, and home was in our sights. Now, don’t misunderstand, I loved every minute of the journey, but the allure of my own warm bed was strong.
Route 66 runs straight through the heart of Pasadena, CA. And like a couple of idiots, we failed to realize that our evening drive through Pasadena on New Year’s Eve meant one thing: pre-Rose Bowl Parade madness. But even if we had remembered, we never could have anticipated the extent of the insanity. Thousands upon thousands of people were camped out along the main drag (i.e., Route 66) passing through town. Lawn chairs, sleeping bags, air mattresses and fire pits lined the sidewalks. Kids pelted passing cars with marshmallows and silly string, and grown men and women blew vuvuzelas (thanks for that, World Cup) and rattled other noise makers.
But, what were we going to do? We were committed to staying faithful to Route 66, even if it meant cutting a very slow path through drunken, frigid revelers.
It took us around 45 minutes to traverse less than a couple of miles. It was an interesting sight to behold — but not exactly one you’re looking for 14 hours into your drive and 20 miles from your final destination.
Rialto, Calif.: Wigwam Motel
Being only 70 miles from home on New Year’s Eve, we decided not to stop at a hotel for the night. But we couldn’t resist popping by Rialto’s Wigwam Motel, cousin to the wigwams in Holbrook, Ariz.
Of course, having been inside neither set of wigwams, it’s hard to compare accommodations. But the exteriors and grounds of the wigwams in Rialto were certainly better maintained than their Arizona counterparts. We might have to come back for a night’s stay sometime soon.
Lori had been harboring a pizza craving since somewhere in the middle of New Mexico. It came to a head in middle of California, and a Google Maps search turned up the Route 66 Pizza Palace. We committed to a stop, site unseen.
The place isn’t much to speak of from the outside, but on the inside, it has that exact kind of shabby charm that you remember from team celebrations after the big tee-ball game.
The mozzarella sticks and pizza — with its crispy, shattery crust — were actually pretty tasty — much better than I expected them to be.
We’d been on the road for more than a week and had nary a slice of pie. We decided to remedy that with a to-go order in Ludlow.
Peanut butter. Not the best I’ve ever had, but it was the right pie for its time and place.
This is the first town that one reaches after crossing the border into California on Route 66. It is, no doubt, named after Flea’s character in Back to the Future II and III.
Honestly, it’s a bit frustrating because after crossing the state line, things looks exactly like Arizona for another 100 miles.