Introducing Los Angeles to Barstow
Route 66 kicks off in Santa Monica, at the intersection of Ocean Ave and Santa Monica Blvd. Follow the latter through Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, turn right on Sunset Blvd and pick up the 110 Fwy north to Pasadena. Take exit 31B and drive south on Fair Oaks Ave for an egg cream at the Fair Oaks Pharmacy, a nostalgic soda fountain from 1915. Turn around and follow Fair Oaks Ave north, then turn right on Colorado Blvd, where the vintage Saga Motor Hotel still hands out quaint metal room keys to its guests.
Continue east on Colorado Blvd to Colorado Pl and Santa Anita Park, where the Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races was filmed and legendary thoroughbred Seabiscuit ran. During the live-racing season, free tram tours take you behind the scenes into the jockeys’ room and training areas; weekends only, reservations required.
Colorado Pl turns into Huntington Dr E, which you’ll follow to 2nd Ave, where you turn north, then east on Foothill Blvd. This older alignment of Route 66 follows Foothill Blvd through Monrovia, where the 1925 Mayan Revival–style architecture of the allegedly haunted Aztec Hotel is worth a look. In May 2011, however, the building went into foreclosure and its fate remained uncertain at the time of writing.
Continue east on W Foothill Blvd, then jog south on S Myrtle Ave and hook a left on E Huntington Dr through Duarte, which puts on a Route 66 parade every September, with boisterous marching bands, old-fashioned carnival games and a classic-car show. In Azusa, Huntington turns into E Foothill Blvd, which becomes Alosta Blvd in Glendora where The Hat has made piled-high pastrami sandwiches since 1951.
Continue east on Foothill Blvd, where two campily retro steakhouses await in Rancho Cucamonga. First up is the 1955 Magic Lamp Inn, easily recognized by its fabulous neon sign. There’s dancing Wednesday through Saturday nights. Up the road, the rustic Sycamore Inn has been dishing up juicy steaks since 1848.
Cruising on through Fontana, birthplace of the notorious Hells Angels biker club, you’ll see the now-boarded-up Giant Orange, a 1920s juice stand of the kind that was once a fixture alongside SoCal’s citrus groves.
Foothill Blvd continues on to Rialto where you’ll find the Wigwam Motel, whose kooky concrete faux tipis date from 1949. Continue east, then head north on N East St to the First McDonald’s Museum, which has interesting historic Route 66 exhibits. Continue north, then turn left on W Highland Ave and pick up the I-215 Fwy to I-15 and exit at Cleghorn for Cajon Blvd to trundle north on an ancient section of the Mother Road. Get back onto I-15 and drive up to the Cajon Pass. At the top, take the Oak Hill Rd exit (No 138) to the Summit Inn Cafe, a 1950s roadside diner with antique gas pumps, a retro jukebox and a lunch counter that serves ostrich burgers and date shakes.
Get back on I-15 and drive downhill to Victorville, exiting at 7th St and driving past the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds, home of the Route 66 Raceway. Follow 7th St to D St and turn left for the excellent California Route 66 Museum, inside the old Red Rooster Cafe opposite the train station. There you’ll discover a wonderfully eclectic collection of 1930s teardrop trailers, sparkling red naughahyde booths with tabletop mini-jukeboxes and bits and pieces from the Roy Rogers Museum that used to be in Victorville before moving to Branson, Missouri, where it closed in 2010.
Follow South D St north under I-15 where it turns into the National Trails Hwy. Beloved by Harley bikers, this rural stretch to Barstow is like a scavenger hunt for Mother Road ruins, such as antique filling stations and tumbledown motor courts.
In Oro Grande, the Iron Hog Saloon is an old-time honky-tonk dripping with memorabilia and character(s). It’s hugely popular with bikers and serves large portions of rib-stickers, including rattlesnake and ostrich. Further north, Elmer’s Place is a colorful roadside folk-art collection of glass bottles artfully arranged on telephone poles along with weathered railroad signs.