Getting Our Kicks with Barstow, Bagdad Café and Burros (Route 66 Day 2, Pt. 2)

June 7, 2018                     San Bernardino to Kingman, Part 2

After exploring Elmer’s Bottle Ranch, we headed for Barstow, about 30 miles farther along Historic Route 66.  In Barstow, CA is the Route 66 Mother Road Museum (681 N. First Avenue, Barstow), described by the AAA map guide as follows: This museum is located within the famous Casa del Desierto, a former Harvey House built by the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe Railroad in 1911.  In its day, this impressive complex contained a railroad depot, hotel and restaurant. Adjacent to this museum is the Western America Railroad Museum. They both sounded interesting so we set our GPS to that location.20180607_123726dWhen we arrived, however, we discovered that both museums were closed! It was Thursday and a sign informed us that the hours were Fridays and Saturdays 10 am – 4 pm, Sundays 11 am – 4 pm.  20180607_124555

We looked around outside at old train cars.

I found some interesting flowers to take pictures of.

The Casa del Desierto, however, was open and we looked around at some Harvey House memorabilia.20180607_124948d.jpg

We then drove on through the California desert to Bagdad Café, (in Newberry Springs via I-40 off Exit 18; physical address is 46548 National Trails Highway)  made famous by the 1987 movie of that name. The surroundings looked desolate, as befitting the place, but then we noticed a large tourist bus pulling up in front. Oh no!!!

We went into the café to have a look around anyway. By that time, it was crammed with tourists, all speaking French. I had to shoot pictures above their heads. 20180607_134010d

The walls and door are covered inside and out with photos and messages. There are some vintage jukeboxes that actually work.  And it is still a working café.


I stood for a moment at the counter, fingering the brochures which I noticed were also in French! The proprietor, looking harried but cheerful, told me that a busload of French tourists (or maybe French Canadian, I’m not sure) come regularly, and she puts out pamphlets printed in French when she knows they are coming.

Still, I was interested in lunch and a sign outside had advertised buffalo burgers. She confirmed that they did have them on the menu and invited us to have a seat in a booth in the back and she’d be right with us. 20180607_134233dI was willing, but Dale thought it was too crowded, so after snapping a few more photos outside, we left.20180607_134659Our next stop was Ludlow, primarily for lunch. We stopped at Ludlow Café and I noticed a plaque with some weird-looking cylinder things next to it, so I went over to find out what it said. 20180607_150830
Above the plaque was a seal of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. The plaque was labeled Project Carryall. As I read it, I became aware of breathing the hot desert air, wondering if there were still traces of radiation around here.20180607_150804 (2)In the café, I went to the one-person restroom, where an attempt at a humorous connection was made on the door:20180607_150304d

On our way again, we passed up Roy’s Motel and Café in Amboy (Exit 50 off I-40), whose claim to fame was offering food, water, gas and car repairs to early travelers on the Mother Road. By  1937, Roy’s Café had saved many people who underestimated crossing the desert. When I-40 was completed in 1973, the motel, café and gas station fell into disrepair. Things are looking up, however: in 2008, a new investor bought Roy’s as well as the entire town of Amboy and is working to bring back this site. There is an extinct volcano nearby, Amboy Crater, which has been a well-known attraction from the earliest days of Route 66. Perhaps it will be worth visiting in a few years.

As I mentioned earlier, much of Historic Route 66 followed the railroad tracks, and we saw plenty of freight trains,  some of which seemed to stretch for a mile or more.

We crossed a bridge on I-40 over the Colorado River into Arizona, and I took a photo of the Old Trails Bridge, which is 700 ft. south of the I-40 bridge. Nowadays it carries a pipeline across the river.20180607_171135.jpgThe driving became more difficult as we crossed desert mountains toward Kingman.20180607_151603
I was looking forward to seeing Oatman, Arizona, where our map guide said that wild burros wander the streets. We saw a sign indicating that we were entering Oatman, but other that a few abandoned buildings, there was nothing but rocky desert.SONY DSC
“Where are the burros?” I kept asking. I had my camera (not cellphone) ready to capture these beasts close up.

After what seemed a long time, I assumed we had already passed the town, but then we saw a burro walking on the road! Right after that, we entered the center of Oatman, where there were indeed a lot of wild burros. Locals and tourists alike feed them so they keep coming. We gave them the right of way.SONY DSC

SONY DSCWe drove through Sitgreaves Pass on Route 66 (I-40 bypasses this entire area), which was treacherous and steep, with lots of hairpin curves. Imagine what it was like for travelers back in the 1920s and 1930s! Our guide notes: This pass was considered so dangerous that early travelers sometimes hired locals as drivers to take them up to Oatman. …Since most cars of the ’20s did not have fuel pumps, the frightening solution was to use gravity, [which] meant driving up the steep portions of the pass backwards! I shudder to think what the road itself was like back then!  Anyway, I took a few photos, until Dale asked me to stop because it was distracting to him and he needed to concentrate.
We arrived in Kingman at about 7 pm, before it got dark (it gets dark earlier in Arizona at this time of year because the state does not observe Daylight Savings). We checked into our hotel (Best Western) and went out to find a place for dinner.




Weekly Photo Challenge: Stark

Debbie Smyth at Travel With Intent has a weekly photo challenge and the theme this week is stark.  I looked up the meaning of this word and found two basic definitions:
1. bleak, desolate, barren, unadorned
2. standing out in sharp outline

Therefore, I chose this picture taken on a late May afternoon in Northern Wisconsin. The trees stand out in stark silhouette against a darkening sky. A storm was coming!IMAG2031.jpg

The Colorado River’s Rehearsal

June 2, 2018              Denver to Grand Junction, CO

After visiting Red Rocks Park, we were on our way. The highway through the mountains and canyons can be treacherous at times. But the first thing that happened was a massive traffic jam due to merging lanes and an accident ahead. That set us back about an hour!20180602_123617The scenery on this stretch of I-70 is beautiful; we climbed a few thousand feet into a mountain pass, 20180602_134558


ski hill ahead

then the highway descended and wound through bluffs and canyons 20180602_135638
20180603_084650carved by the Colorado River, barely visible in this photo:20180602_164853The Colorado River originates in the snowy peaks of the Rockies, then meanders southwest and on down to its most spectacular achievement, the Grand Canyon.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

This photo was taken in December 2015, the last time I visited the Grand Canyon.


The road to Grand Junction is like a sneak preview, 20180602-150321-1a rehearsal for that crowning achievement: Glenwood Canyon and other beautiful rock formations created by the Colorado River’s path and further shaped by wind and water erosion.
20180602_170117The Colorado River also contributes to the creation of some spectacular scenery in a couple of Utah’s national parks, including Arches National Park (which I will write about in a future post) and Canyonlands National Park (which we didn’t have a chance to visit), before it widens into Lake Powell just north of the Arizona border, before its spectacular display at the Grand Canyon. The Colorado River is also the river that was dammed by Hoover Dam which created Lake Mead.


CFFC: Diagonal Rocks

At the end of this post:  U2 Live at Red Rocks Amphitheater!

June 2, 2018 (my birthday)

After spending three nights in Denver during the first part of our road trip, we left the city on the morning of my birthday. On our way out of town, we stopped at Red Rocks Park, which had been recommended by our Airbnb hosts as well as a friend of mine. SONY DSCThe park is accessed via a winding, but scenic, two lane road…20180602_105618…including two tunnels carved out of the rock!20180602_105632Red Rocks Park is a mountain park, whose borders encompass a series of red sandstone rocks, that jut out of the ground often at an angle. They were formed when a pushing of two tectonic plates caused the land above to fold.  SONY DSC

In 1949, the city of Denver commissioned an amphitheater to be built at the site. It is flanked by two gigantic red rocks which, if looked at from the front, each resemble the bow of a large ship.SONY DSC

SONY DSCI am including this post for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, whose theme this week is diagonal lines!
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This place is really amazing. When you enter the wide patio inside the entrance to the amphitheater, unless you are actually attending a concert, you go inside the building and take the elevator to the museum and Red Rocks Hall of Fame. Just about anyone famous in the last 70 years has performed here, from the Beatles, Kenny Rogers and Joan Baez, to Guns n’ Roses (who I believe was performing that evening), to famous opera singers and symphony orchestras.


In 1964, during their first U.S. concert tour, the Beatles played at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Although over 7,000 tickets were sold, it was one of only a few concerts that was not sold out.

There are plaques with the scheduled acts for each year, going back to its opening in 1949. You can also watch a video, mostly a montage of various concerts, or stroll through the mounted photos of musical acts through the decades. 20180602_112433



Before the amphitheater was built, concert audiences just sat on rocks scattered around the site, sometimes having picnics.

After reading and looking at all that, we were ready to see the amphitheater itself. We had not been there more than 20 minutes when everyone was asked to leave. It was noon and they were setting up for a concert that evening. By that time, I’d taken plenty of photos and did not have any desire to descend all the stairs to the front rows!SONY DSC


If you have a fear of heights, best buy a ticket for one of the first few rows!


I took this shot of a guy doing pushups at the upper end of the amphitheater, probably at an elevation of about 7,000 ft.!

The amphitheater is not covered (that would ruin it completely), so if you have concert tickets and rain is predicted, be sure to bring your rain gear!  But don’t worry – Denver is actually quite dry, boasting 300 sunny days average per year! A lot of its moisture is from snow melt in the mountains. Anyway, the concerts are mostly in the summer, extending into the fall, until it gets too cold to hold events at an outdoor venue.


Before we left, we were invited to sign this large banner.

Besides the amphitheater, Red Rocks Park has a number of hiking trails that can be explored, but in spite of my desire to do a bit of hiking, Dale was anxious to be on the road. We planned to get to Grand Junction, at the far western side of the state of Colorado, by late afternoon, and there was considerable mountain driving to be taken into account.


Scenic view of Denver from the parking lot


Hiking trail


Another boulder at Red Rocks, on our way out

U2 Live at Red Rocks in 1983 (a rare rainy night!)


Getting Our Kicks in a Wigwam and a Bottle Forest (Route 66 Day 2, Pt. 1)

June 7, 2018 (San Bernardino, CA – Kingman, AZ)

On Day 1, we explored Santa Monica Pier but bypassed several L.A. area sites. That night, we drove to San Bernardino, where we spent the night at the Wigwam Motel! There were original seven in this chain, but only three survive, two of which are on Historic Route 66. Since I first saw one of the others in the chain, in Holbrook, Arizona, in 2006, I have wanted to see what it was like to stay in one of these “Wigwam Villages!”




In case you can’t find your way to the office, this wooden statue will point the way!



Display in front of the motel office

Inside the office (coffee is available at any time):

This motel is well-maintained and the rooms are all in wood & concrete “wigwams” (or teepees), 30 ft. tall, built in the late 1930s.  Being the last built in the chain, the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino is designated Wigwam Village #7. I recommend this motel for a unique lodging experience and plenty of kitsch!  (Other than the wooden statue, I did not find anything offensive to Native Americans.)


Our wigwam, #14, with the door open while we loaded up our car in the morning.

The inside of the room had some funky touches, such as these lavish curtains and cactus bedside lamp; also notice that the room is not square, and there is a triangular mirror.

The bathroom had old fashioned fixtures, but everything worked just fine!
Although there was help-yourself coffee in the office, they didn’t serve breakfast, but the motel manager recommended Chris’s, which was right down the street and also had plenty of Route 66 memorabilia.


Weird tree at the intersection across from the motel

Chris’s Burgers has an extensive breakfast menu, and the food is decent.

The front of the restaurant makes it very clear that it is on Historic Route 66 or at least capitalizing on the route’s popularity!
The décor inside Chris’s is a 50s style diner.

We continued on I-15 (which parallels Route 66) until we got to Victorville. To get to our next destination, we took Exit 153. Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is about 12 1/2 miles north of Victorville on Route 66 (SR 66). Its official address (for those using GPS) is:
24266 National Trails Hwy, Oro Grande, CA 92368.  To watch a video of the creator, Elmer Long, tell  the history of the bottle ranch, click on the blog California Through My Lens. The blogger describes this place as literally a forest of bottle trees (large metal pipes with bottles hanging from them), located along the Mother Road, Route 66, right in the heart of the California desert. 20180607_113654.jpgI found this place fascinating and took many pictures. Dale, however, got bored with it after awhile.  Personally, I love public folk art and this is the perfect example of a folk art creation. I will let the photographs describe our visit and hopefully inspire others to visit as well!20180607_113653d
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Getting Our Kicks at Santa Monica Pier (Rte. 66 Day 1)

June 6, 2018

We drove from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to begin our tour of Route 66, arriving at Santa Monica in late afternoon. After a series of days with temperatures above 90ºF (32°C), I was surprised to find L.A. cool enough that day to wear a light jacket, especially near the ocean, where the wind was strongest.

We found street parking – although we had been told by a local resident that the first two hours in a parking garage were free – and walked toward the beach.

Actually, the beach is below the city – you can drive, but if you are on foot, cross the bridge over the busy Pacific Coast Highway and then either take the stairs or walk down a ramp to get to both the beach and the pier. 20180606_164731d

20180606_164604dCaution, drivers: The streets leading down to the pier and the parking lots get very crowded. My advice is park in downtown Santa Monica and walk or bike to the pier!


Traffic jam on the way to the Pier

We walked along a path through Palisades Park, on the bluff facing the Pacific Ocean, and found our first stop: the Will Rogers Highway Memorial Plaque.

Will Rogers was a popular entertainer and humorist, and his support for the Dust Bowl migrants and the hardships of their journey connected him to Route 66.  After his death in 1935, Route 66 was unofficially named the Will Rogers Highway. This plaque honoring him was placed at the symbolic end of the route, on a bluff with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.
Other scenes in Palisades Park:
In 2009, the end (or beginning) of Route 66 became officially associated with Santa Monica Pier when this sign was put up. For decades it was believed that the route really did end here, but until 10 years ago its “official” end was half a mile inland, at the corner of Olympic and Lincoln Blvds. 

Anyway, it makes a great photo opp!

We spent the next hour or so on Santa Monica Pier. Although we did stop to have coffee (or rather Dale did – I stood in line for ice cream!), it was too crowded and a little too early to have dinner.


Hey, wait a minute! Bubba Gump is at Navy Pier in Chicago!


This is, um…I’m not sure what. But it’s sort of interesting.


This is where all the rides are.



I didn’t know who this was when I took this photo, but artist/hippie Robert Waldmire became part of Route 66 lore when he drove out on the route from Illinois in a makeshift trailer. He parked in the Arizona desert where he apparently lived for a couple of years. More about him at the END of this series!



These guys were hoping for handouts!


Dale looks chilly in this picture – good thing he had some hot coffee by then!



20180606_174806There’s an acrobatic practice area on the Pier also.

We left Santa Monica and drove to Venice. When I lived in L.A. for four years back in the 1970s, I loved to go to Venice – in fact, I don’t think I ever once in all that time went to Santa Monica Pier!  Dale had never been to Venice so he wanted to see it. We couldn’t get to the beach, but I took some “drive-by shootings” of murals and such. We had dinner at a lovely little organic vegetarian friendly restaurant.



20180606_192215Three more Route 66 sites were listed on our AAA map in Los Angeles:

  • Hollywood had a great deal to do with the popularity and mystique of Route 66.  When the route was extended from downtown L.A. to Santa Monica in 1936, it passed through Hollywood, where movies, music and TV all turned the highway into an icon. The most recent Hollywood movie that featured Route 66 was the animated Cars, and there are references to this film all along the route.
  • Clifton’s Cafeteria at the corner of Broadway and 7th St. in Los Angeles was the original end of Route 66. It’s marked today only by a small sign high on a light post. The famous Clifton’s Cafeteria, which opened at this intersection in 1932 is the last vestige of that 10 year end of the original route.
    From L.A. Weekly, Oct. 2, 2015,
  • Arroyo Seco Parkway, along Harbor Freeway 110 (Historic 66) about five miles north of L.A. was a modern section of Route 66 roadway when it was completed in 1940. From 1954 to 2010 it was known as the Pasadena Freeway.

There were an additional two sites in Pasadena:

  • Colorado Street Bridge was built in 1913. This beautifully ornate bridge with beaux arts-style arches was only part of Route 66 for a short time (1937-40). Its 1,486 feet long curved span over the Arroyo Seco gorge, complete with distinctive street lamps, has been a landmark since it was built. Here are two photos downloaded from Google images:
  • Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain (1526 Mission St., South Pasadena, CA) opened in 1915 and was part of Historic Route 66 for eight years (1926-34). Now fully restored to the original décor, customers can still enjoy thick malts, shakes, sundaes and ice cream. Two photos downloaded from Google Images:

We did not visit any of these sites (though I regret not visiting the soda fountain and bridge in Pasadena, nor the historic Olvera Street (it was my intention to visit this area which marks the origin of the City of Angels, with its Mexican cultural roots manifested in shops, restaurants and murals by Mexican artists). The reason was primarily the hassle of going to downtown Los Angeles, considering the traffic. It was the end of the day, and by the next morning, after spending the night in San Bernardino (more about that on Day 2), it would have been a delay of several hours to return to Pasadena and Los Angeles. Maybe on my next trip to Los Angeles, whenever that may be!


Typical bumper-to-bumper L.A. rush hour traffic