After our two week vacation within a vacation in Hawaii we had to fly back to continue our original vacation on the mainland. We landed in California around midnight which didn't leave much time for anything but sleep. We got back to the hotel and expected to have a car fiasco the next morning based on the numerous phone calls and the experience we had getting the car parked. Luckily everything went relatively smoothly. There was some waiting involved in the crazy hotel we parked it at but the car was still in one piece and they didn't charge me anything extra. I'll call that a win! Then we started on the trip back home.
Get your kicks....
We put the Santa Monica pier in our GPS and off we went!
It didn't take long from the hotel. Traffic was miserable but that was to be expected going into LA. We finally made it to the pier but there was no parking or signs for Rt 66 to be found so we just kept driving up the coastal highway which was a very scenic drive that went through some really cool parts of the city. Since we had no clue where we were in relation to 66 we wandered around hoping we would find it following any signs or landmarks we recognized.
This was the one that got our attention. I knew Sunset Boulevard was famous but didn't really know why so we got onto it to find out. I still couldn't tell you what's so special about it but it took us to some of the cool parts of the city. We drove right through Bel Air, Beverly Hills, and then through Hollywood Boulevard. It was pretty cool to see all of these famous places that we had heard about from the Fresh Prince and Weezer songs. Didn't see any celebrities though...
Got to see Guns N' Roses in their stomping grounds
We kept looking for the Hollywood sign on the hill but it always seemed to be behind buildings or something. Very elusive.
The best we got...
The whole time driving through the city we had no idea where Rt 66 was but we were enjoying the drive. We would figure that out later.
I'm not sure how we did it because we weren't following maps or anything but when we got out of the city staying on Sunset (or whatever it turned in to by that point) we started seeing some signs.
Turns out we had been on it the whole time! I think we actually screamed in the car when we saw the sign because we were so excited. I can't even really describe why I love Rt 66 so much. I think it's such a cool piece of American history and to actually be driving on it was so exciting to me. I couldn't wait to see what this road had in store for us in the next 2,451 miles.
The most interesting thing (and most annoying thing) is that Rt 66 is not a continuous road anymore. It has been decommissioned for a while so you have to jump on and off of it a lot which makes for some confusing navigation. It's a really good thing Rose was with me and was so good at reading maps and my Aunt Dottie's notes (thanks again for those!). Trying to get through California once we got out of the city became quite interesting.
Driving through this small town we came across the iconic Wigwam Hotel. Dottie's notes said we had to stop and check it out. Plus I needed a sticker for my guitar case and Rose needed a shot glass so we decided to make a pit stop.
The guy working behind the counter was quite strange to say the least. He kept asking us goofy personal questions and talked in this slow, monotone voice. He saw Rose's camera and asked to take a picture of us so we could remember our trip. This is what he got....
And he couldn't be prouder of it
He definitely gave us a memory of the trip but not because of his photography skills.
Coming out of the small town we started getting into the desert which is more what I pictured for Rt 66. My GPS had us going down this little, dusty road going through the middle of nowhere. There was nothing but sand and train tracks. I think we saw more trains than other cars. There were Rt 66 signs all over the place so at least we knew we were in the right place.
We came up to this one railroad crossing with a train going through it. There were maybe three cars stopped waiting for the train to go through. Once we actually pulled up we noticed that the train wasn't even moving... We sat there for about five minutes without any movement. The little car ahead of us turned around and went back down the road we just came from. A truck that was ahead of us took a left and went down the little desert road that ran along side the railroad tracks. Rose and I had a decision to make. Sit and wait, turn back and find another route, or trek through the desert with the truck and find a road that crosses. Rt 66 was just on the other side of the tracks and actually ran parallel with them. We could see it, just couldn't get to it.
I looked on Google maps to see if another road crossed the tracks farther down on either side. I saw a spot that looked promising and Rose agreed so we hit the desert road and followed the truck in search of a crossing. I mean, he did it right?
Not so lucky... We drove on this trail (I won't even call it a road) for about a half mile dodging holes and trenches the whole time. Every time there seemed to be a crossing was coming up the lip to the tracks was too high and impassable. I have no idea where that truck went. We even saw two other trains farther down that were stopped as well. We decided to turn around and try another option. At least I got to try driving off road in the desert!
Coming back down the trail we saw that the trains had started moving. The path was clear for us, I just had to get there before one of the other ones came and blocked us again! Luckily we made it and could continue our voyage. It just figures that California would continue to be annoying at every turn but we were about to come up to something really cool!
Bottle Tree Ranch!
We almost missed it too! We missed one little section of 66 on the interstate but figured it wasn't a big deal. Once we hit another landmark on Dottie's map we realized we missed something huge so we had to turn around.
Bottle Tree ranch is an art installation that has been ongoing since 2000 where the artist, Elmer Long, builds, basically, trees and sculptures out of bottles. Depending on how the sun hits it the bottles cast all kinds of different reflections. It was really cool to see. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. I know there's a lot but it's worth the look. This was one of the coolest stops we had on Rt 66.
That night we stopped for pizza at this little pizza shop called The Cross-Eyed Cow right up the road from Bottle Tree Ranch. Quirky is the best way to describe this restaurant. The booths had silverware welded to the tops of the benches to act as the barrier between tables. There was a rock tied to the door with a pulley rig to automatically close the door when people come in. It was just an interesting place. And of course the pizza was awesome too!
The next day we woke up and got an early start. There was a ghost town just up the road that we wanted to hit before we started our first real day of driving on Rt 66. We got to Calico ghost town and paid our unreasonable $16 ($8 per person) to park. We had been to several ghost towns in Arizona on our way over but everything around us said that Calico was a must visit so we sucked it up and paid for our visit. After all, there had to be something special about it right?
Not really... it had the same stuff as all of the ghost towns we saw in Arizona. There were dilapidated wooden buildings selling trinkets and tourist souvenirs. You could pan for fake gold. Take a ride in a mining cart. Pretty much all of the normal stuff except you have to pay $16 for it. There were some cool things like the bottle house (as if we hadn't gotten enough bottles) but overall it was just a normal ghost town. Maybe they don't have that many in California so it was special to them, not to us world travelers!
I pretty much had the same complaints with this one as I did all of the other "authentic" ghost towns we saw. They weren't ghost towns! There were tons of people and shops and tourist traps. Not very ghosty if you ask me.
Apparently Starbucks was around in the Old West too... Really authentic!
Our final stop in California before crossing the line into Arizona was Roy's Diner. It's this little shack in the absolute middle of nowhere. It's probably a good 50 miles in either direction before you see any sort of civilization. Gas at the pumps there cost $6 per gallon because it's so hard for trucks to get out there to deliver it.
We were supposed to get a milkshake but the lady working the counter was not interested in serving customers apparently. We waited in the store (as the only people in there) and she didn't bother asking us if we wanted anything. She had no problem helping some guy with a cool car that came up though. So we just looked around, took a bathroom break, and headed on our way through the desert to Arizona!
He likes pizza.