Route 66: Santa Monica, CA to Barstow, CA

Route 66: Santa Monica, CA to Barstow, CA

September 4, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Miles driven: 196.4

Today was the first day of driving Route 66 from Santa Monica to Chicago (yes, I’m doing it “backwards”). I’ll warn you now: all the pictures from today are pretty crappy. Today was mostly driving through the really congested areas of California and the majority of it doesn’t even have the old-timey look or feel that I think is worth stopping for. I think I spent more time hitting the brakes than the gas pedal; it was constant stop and go. My mileage is the equivalent of three and a half hours of driving, but it took me nine hours to travel it.

In case you’re not aware, Route 66 cannot be traveled as a continuous road anymore. It’s been a mostly defunct road since the 60’s and officially decommissioned in 1984 after the town of Williams, Arizona lost a final legal battle. All that remains are a few segments of the original highway pieced together by access roads, local highways, and parts of the Interstate. Traveling the road can be quite tricky and confusing and that’s why awhile back I bought a set of maps created by Jerry McClanahan and Jim Ross. There’s a map for each of the eight states Route 66 goes through and each map has (simplified) driving directions for both Westbound and Eastbound travelers. I also bought the EZ66 Guide by Jerry McClanahan, which has more detailed directions, as well as attractions and historic details. For the most part, I’m just using the maps because I like that they simplify the directions. If you ever drive Route 66, I’d definitely recommend buying yourself at least the set of maps, as they are amazing.

I started this morning by driving the 34 miles from where I was to get down to Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica where Route 66 ends. Since I was on Santa Monica peer just a few days ago and got a picture of the sign indicating Route 66’s end, I didn’t walk back out there this morning. I “cheated” and began driving where Ocean Ave and Santa Monica Blvd meet.

Not too long after getting on Santa Monica Blvd, I saw a Route 66 Museum so I thought I’d stop and check it out. However, it was just after 9am and it appeared to be closed. I didn’t see a sign stating the hours, so I took a couple pics from outside and got back on the road.

I followed the map, sticking to Santa Monica Blvd and driving through West Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and shortly thereafter turning onto Sunset Blvd until I reached the Pasadena Freeway (110) which I took North to Pasadena. It was 10:40 by the time I got to Pasadena and finally I saw a Historic Route 66 sign. Of course, I had to take a picture because it was the first one I’d seen so far.

There’s a section of Route 66 after Pasadena that follows Foothill Blvd. Eventually Foothill changes names and the map says to take a left on Citrus, then a right back onto Foothill, drive a short ways, then turn right and head back to the exact same road you started on. I did not do that. Looking at an actual map, I noticed Foothill simply became Route 66 and so I just stayed on that road. The road itself had Route 66 painted on it and there were signs in the median saying it was Route 66, so I don’t feel like I missed anything. This was also the first area I started noticing business with the Route 66 logo, which was pretty cool.

Around 11:30 I noticed the van’s temperature gauge fluctuating, which it has never done before and it only went up when I stopped. Now, normally I’m not in city traffic playing red light, green light for four hours so my first thought was that the van was just not used to the stop and go driving and wasn’t getting enough air flow, but I decided to stop at the nearest Autozone and let the engine cool so I could check the antifreeze level just in case. I let it cool for an hour and a half before opening the radiator. The coolant definitely looked low, so I bought some more and filled it up, hoping that was all that was wrong. However, the gauge was still fluctuating after that and I’m a little worried that I might need to have the thermostat replaced. Since the temperature gauge hasn’t gone above 220 yet, I’m not completely worried; I just kept an eye on it all day.

I stopped and got a picture of the highway after leaving San Bernardino and traffic cleared up.

I arrived in Victorville at 3:48pm and made my way to the Route 66 Museum that’s on the road out of town. I didn’t get to the museum until just after 4pm and apparently they close at 4, so this was the second museum of the day that I didn’t actually get to go inside. I got pictures from the outside, though.

After Victorville, the road becomes the National Old Trails Rd and goes through Oro Grande, Helendale, and Barstow. I got to Barstow around 5pm and walked around the Main St area to get pictures, as it was the first town that seemed to have historic buildings. In the EZ66 Guide, it talks about how the El Rancho was built from salvaged railroad ties.

At the El Rancho Motel, there was also this Route 66 display. Check out the different state signs along the top. Does it bother anyone else that Kansas and Missouri are in the wrong order? It should be Illinois, Missouri, then Kansas; not Kansas then Missouri.

I’m camping out in Barstow tonight and should easily make it into Arizona tomorrow, but I’m debating on stopping at a car shop along the way to see if they agree that my thermostat might be bad. I really don’t want the van to get worse and overheat in the middle of nowhere, especially if I can prevent it from happening now.

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