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Thread: Route 66 Adventures (California)

  1. #1
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    Default Route 66 Adventures (California)

    Thought the ultimate ghost highway would be fitting for a ghost town web forum. Bare with me, I am going to post my two completed states I've documented the routings of Route 66 on. I have New Mexico partially complete, however its going to take me a LONG time to finish the rest given the economy forced me back east. I'll cover a TON of ghost towns along the way...Route 66 is full of them all across its old alignments.

    Most people have heard of US Route 66. The Highway was created in 1926 and was finally decommissioned in 1984 was the primary road from Chicago to Los Angeles for over half a century. Most people have heard of Route 66, but I doubt many have had it be such a significant part of their life as it has been for mine. From Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California I have found myself at one time on a section of the old Highway.

    Route 66 first really became known to me in the mid-90s when my father was working in Chicago. I was still in high school at the time and of course had heard of the Highway like everyone else, but I had no idea until then that it stretched all the way to Chicago from the West Coast. Being from Michigan originally the idea of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas seemed alien to me. I had seen California in 1993 but none of the deserts like the Mojave or the mountains on the Colorado Plateau.

    It was in 1997 that I finally got to see Phoenix right after my 15th birthday when I came to visit my brother and attend a NASCAR race in Phoenix International Raceway. I had returned to Phoenix in 2000 after my 18th birthday was shown probably the best time of my life up to that point with my brother, needless to say alcohol was involved. I was looking for a way out of the bleak future the mid-west and especially Michigan and decided Arizona was the place to be. Shortly after my graduation in 2001 I announced to my shocked parents that I wanted to move to Arizona, from there things flew into motion and Route 66 became a permanent part of my life.

    All the plans were finally put into place for my move by June 2001. During my graduation party I received $500 dollars from my Grand Mother who wished me luck in Arizona. The plan was that I would take my 1992 Pontiac Sun Bird and drive with my father down Interstates 55, 44 and 40 to Arizona. It was at that time that I learned that we would be driving over what was US66 until Flagstaff, Arizona. Basically I was about to see the historic highway and drive most of it at 18 years old! First though, there was the matter of getting from Lansing, Michigan to Chicago for the first overnight…. My 92 Sun Bird was a piece of ****, there can be no denying that.

    As the trip to Chicago started out I followed my father from Lansing on I69 to I94. Everything in Michigan went fine until we approached the Illinois state line in Gary, Indiana. When the sun went down I turned my head lights on and quickly discovered I was having an electrical issue and my poor 92 Sun Bird started to die and sound like a vacuum cleaner due to the struggling alternator. Trust me; Gary isn’t the place you want to be stranded much less visit. Fortunately my father noticed my dimming headlights and pulled over just past the interchange with Interstate 90. We decided to limp the Sun Bird into the city limits of Chicago for the night. After parking my Sun Bird at a rest area we unpacked and went to my father’s apartment on Michigan Avenue. The Sun Bird could not be restarted the next day and had to be towed from the Interstate, it was then that my father gifted me his 1997 Chevy Silverado…the only truck I have ever owned. With that it was over to I55 to begin the journey to Arizona.

    I really wish in retrospect that I had the presence in mind to take pictures of that trip to Arizona down US66. My father and I made it all the way from Chicago to Albuquerque the first day. Not before passing through Saint Louis and the Saint Louis Arch, Oklahoma City and Amarillo. I had seen for the first time landscapes that I had only heard bits of pieces about in songs and so many abandoned buildings that it could not be believed. I thought north Texas and eastern New Mexico must have been the most desolate places on the face of the Earth. I remember being glad to see Albuquerque but I honestly thought that the city was made of trailers during the descent from the mountains east of the city. The next day, my father and I packed everything back into the Silverado and ventured back out onto the I40 section of US66.

    During the trip from Albuquerque to Phoenix I saw the first Indian Reservation that I had ever seen in the Navajo Nation, the first National Park in the Petrified Forest, the first western land mark I really knew something about in Meteor Crater and the first tinge of monsoon induced panic in a summer monsoon in Flagstaff. Up to that point almost all of my journey had been on US66, as we turned on I17 towards Phoenix little did I know what truly awaited me from Flagstaff to Los Angeles in the following years.

    In addition to me there is also other family members that have traveled across US66. The most infamous story is from my mother and her road trip across the country in the summer of 1957. The trip was across the northern states to Washington, down to Los Angeles and finally back to Detroit via US 66 in Chicago. I remember hearing stories about what Los Angeles used to look like, the water bags on the front of the car on the stretch through the Mojave Desert, The Grand Canyon and countless small little towns that would not likely fit the modern definition of a community.

    These albums I put together is photo complication of all the US66 sites that I have encountered over the years. I have been fortunate in my life that I was given a second chance to truly enjoy the special things in life; the Mother Road has been one since my adult hood began. My life has been defined by my move to the South West and the history of not what only brought me here but millions others fascinates me. US66 is more than just an old highway; it has something that the Interstate system could never truly replicate. I try to see all that I can on the Mother Road; slowly I’m researching and documenting its history and hopefully one day soon will have the entire route documented.

    What largely became US Route 66 was commissioned in 1857 when the government sent Edward Beale to survey a wagon route along the 35th Parallel. This road would make a large portion of US66 in the south west United States. Before a national series of highways was implemented cross country drives were made along privately funded National Routes. What largely made up the original alignment of US66 was The Lone Star Trail from Chicago to St. Louis, parts of the Ozark Trail and the National Old Trails Highway from St. Louis to Los Angeles. It wasn’t until 1916 that the first legislation for a National Highway system was brought before Congress, it would be until 1925 until the legislation was finalized. In 1926 the numerical designation of 66 was given to the route leading from Chicago to Los Angeles, thus US Route 66 was born. Incidentally though, the initial plan called for the route to be number US 60 but it was shot down in favor of a more catcher name. US60 was assigned to a different route to Los Angeles and still is an active US Highway excluding California.

    Make no mistake the US Highway system cannot hold a candle to the Interstate system, US 66 is no exception. US66 wasn’t even completely paved until 1938! I cannot imagine driving through the Mojave desert in a pre-war car on dirt or trying to traverse Sitgreaves Pass near Oatman, it must have been hellish. US66 has gone through several notable realignments which include; 1953 the road from Kingman to Needles, CA being bypassed around Oatman through Yucca; 1937 the elimination of the spur of the New Mexico portion leading to Santa Fe; 1936 the extension from Los Angeles to Santa Monica and many other minor alignments. All in all US66 served as the primary road from Chicago to Los Angeles for half a century until being decommissioned upon the completion of Interstate 40 in 1984. Many towns declined, some died when US66 finally was shut down but now most have become historic locations. Basically most people do these documentaries westward, this one starts in California and heads east.

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  2. #2
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    The official end or rather start of US Route 66 is in Santa Monica at Santa Monica Boulevard and Lincoln Boulevard. There is some evidence that US 66 extended to Ocean Boulevard due to signage in Palisades Park. However, most people believe US 66 ends and begins on the Santa Monica Pier just off of Highway 1. The Santa Monica Pier overlooks the Pacific Ocean, Santa Monica Beach and Venice Beach. There are several plaques dedicated to US 66 on the Pier itself, it’s a place worth seeing.

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  3. #3
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    From the City of Santa Monica US 66 follows Santa Monica Boulevard through Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Hollywood before entering Los Angeles. A couple blocks south of Santa Monica Boulevard on Wilshire is the Petersen Automotive Museum dedicated to automotive history in greater Los Angeles and the La Brea Tar Pits. They don’t have any connection really with US 66 other than they are nearby and neat to see. This whole section of Santa Monica Boulevard is currently known as Highway 2. US 66 and Highway 2 continue on Santa Monica Boulevard as it merges into Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

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    At Alvarado Boulevard Highway 2 branches northward while US 66 follows Sunset Boulevard to Figueroa Street and onto Highway 110. Highway 110 north toward Pasadena is known as the Arroyo Seco Parkway and is the first freeway constructed in the United States all the way back in the 1930s. The Highway 110 route number has changed many times over the years but its current designation is meant to coincide with Interstate 110. Highway 110 does not conform to modern Interstate standards, making it ineligible for Interstate designation. Strange to think that it was not grand fathered in being an old 66 spur. Just off of Highway 110 is Dodger Stadium overlooking the freeway.

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    The Arroyo Seco Parkway/Highway 110 doesn’t lead to any other freeway, instead it drops off at Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. Not far from Colorado Boulevard is the Rosebowl Football Stadium. Originally US 66 followed Figueroa up to Colorado Boulevard west of the 110. This used to put the Rose Bowl right off of US 66 from 1926 to 1940 when the 110 was completed. My Michigan Wolverines won their last national championship here in 1998 and I attended the game they lost to USC in 2004. My brother’s Tahoe was stolen during that game in a shady Pasadena neighborhood, it was found though as Onstar while new at the time proved its mettle.

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  6. #6
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    Just as I mentioned in the previous paragraph the original alignment of US 66 followed Figueroa westward of Highway 110 to Colorado Boulevard where it would cross the Colorado Street Bridge. The Colorado Street Bridge was constructed over the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena in 1913. The bridge is an arch span bridge 150 feet high above the ground below. The Colorado Street Bridge was part of the original alignment of US Route 66 from 1926 to 1940 until the Arroyo Seco Parkway (CA110/I110) was completed. The bridge was added to the National Historic Places Register in 1981 and was almost destroyed in 1989 in the Loma Prieta Earthquake. Traffic resumed in 1993 after the bridge was retrofitted and mainly is just another neighborhood street of Pasadena today.

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    Following Colorado Boulevard east 66 merges onto Hunting Drive and onto Foothills Boulevard. I210 and State Route 210 follow this alignment just to the north of the old US 66 surface streets. I don’t think I210 and State Route 210 ever carried US 66 but they might as well have since it is only half a block either north or south of it for most of the route to San Bernardino. I210 and State Route 210 is another one of the weird routes like I110 and Highway 210. East of Highway 57, 210 because a California State Highway despite achieving Interstate standards through Rialto. East of Pasadena US 66 passes through the suburbs of Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale, Azusa, Citrus, Glendora, Charter Oak, San Dimas, Fairview, La Verne, Pomona, Clairemont, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana and Rialto before entering San Bernardino. This spur is also known as Highway 66 and is maintained by Caltrans.

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    This area of US 66 is known in California as the Inland Empire. The Inland Empire has several notable US 66 landmarks. While not exactly off of Foothills Boulevard and US 66 Pomona is home to long time NHRA Dragstrip Pomona Raceway which opened up on Fairplex Drive in 1951. In Rancho Cucamonga there WAS the Route 66 Memories shop on Foothills Boulevard/US 66 which sold furniture and antiques. In Fontana just south of US 66 on Cherry Avenue is California Motor Speedway which opened up in 1997 and now hosts NASCAR Sprint Cup races. This was a big deal when the Speedway opened up, but I think most people honestly miss Riverside Motor Speedway and its road course.

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    Upon entering San Bernardino US 66 and Foothills Boulevard becomes 5th Street. From 5th US 66 turns north on Vernon Avenue and northwest on Cajon Boulevard. The section of Interstate 215 that replaced this section once carried US 91 and US 395 in addition to US 66. In San Bernardino there is a Route 66 Museum on E Street that is built on the location of the first McDonald’s restaurant. The museum is very small but has many California specific US 66 items on display.

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    Leaving San Bernardino US 66 passes through Muscoy and Devore before heading into the Cajon Pass. At this point I125 merges with Interstate 15 and most of the original surface portion of US 66 is gone save for a couple slices on the exits of Cajon Pass namely between Kenwood and Cleghorn Road. Between these two exits there is a 6 mile section of US 66 that is still drivable along Cajon Boulevard. This 6 mile stretch is the remains of the four lane portion of US 66 that used climb through the Cajon Pass itself, only one side is drivable the other blocked off. At the intersection with Kenwood is a large dirt mound that blocks another section of the Ghost Highway. At Cleghorn Road the Ghost Highway is razed before it reaches I15 but provides a great view of the trains coming down Cajon Pass. My understanding is that there are several more broken portions of the Ghost Highway scattered throughout the Cajon Pass. Cajon Pass is an approximately 4,000 foot mountain pass through San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains. The Pass is somewhat infamous for being difficult with steep grades even for modern I15. The current I15 portion has truck lanes for slower vehicles that have a difficult time climbing the Pass.

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