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



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