Barstow marks the boundary between the “sparsely populated” and “heavily populated” sections of Route 66 in California. And it marks a visible shift from businesses that are just hanging on (or have long gone) to businesses that capitalize and thrive because of their association with Route 66. There are, no doubt, numerous reasons for this. I’m sure that, with a larger population base, many of these businesses would survive even without Route 66. However, I suspect that tying their business to Route 66 also attracts the tourist trade. And some of these businesses have been around since the heyday of The Mother Road.
A few blocks off of Route 66 in Barstow is the Barstow Harvey House. Built in 1911, it was originally a Harvey House Hotel and train station. It now houses various offices, train station, train museum, and a Route 66 museum. I toured the latter museum and it is well worth the visit.
As always, click on a photo in the galleries to open a larger version.
If you are looking for a vintage motel experience, the Route 66 Motel offers accommodation in renovated rooms that still retain the feel of a 50’s motel. My room was plain but very clean and comfortable.
A new restaurant is Roy’s Cafe – inspired by the original in Amboy. While the building is owned by the same fellow that owns Amboy, the cafe itself is operated independently. It’s an interesting mix of a burger joint and Mexican restaurant. It also serves breakfast. I tried it both for dinner and breakfast and would definitely go again if I am in Barstow in the future.
As you drive through Barstow, there is lots of evidence of its connection to Route 66 – from murals to old buildings and new businesses.
A little west of Barstow, near Oro Grande, is The Bottle Tree Ranch. It is a unique “forest” of old bottles. Entry is free however they do accept donations.
Another rather interesting place was just a bit further down the road from The Bottle Tree Ranch. While I was stopped and taking a few shots of the obviously closed Iron Hog Restaurant & Saloon, a fellow came out from inside and we started chatting. He said the place was being renovated after a fire and asked if I wanted a tour of the inside. I said “sure” and he showed me around. The actual bar was quite old and seemed like the perfect spot to belly up for a beer. The fire damage was most predominant in the kitchen area and this is where the renos were being concentrated. Their hope was to open at least part of the business as soon as they could. I haven’t been able to confirm online if they have in fact reopened yet, but maybe next time through I will stop by and check it out.
The claim to fame of the Iron Hog , other than its long history, is that parts of some movies had been shot there, including Easy Rider and Erin Brockovich.
In the town of Oro Grande itself are some interesting little antique and craft shops along with a pizza restaurant.
Perhaps one of the better known and oldest eating establishments along this section of Route 66 is Emma Jeans Holland Burger Cafe, just on the outskirts of Victorville. Originally called the Holland Burger Cafe, it has been serving meals since 1947. In 1979 Richard Gentry bought the cafe for his wife and renamed it after her. Richard and Emma Jean have since passed away but the cafe is still in the family, operated by their son and his wife. The food is reputed to be fantastic, however as it was too early for lunch I opted for one of their famous shakes.
The city of Victorville has a great Route 66 Museum. In the museum is the neon sign from another Route 66 motel, The Green Spot Motel. The motel itself, minus the green neon sign, is a few blocks from the museum.
From Victorville to San Bernardino parts of Route 66 get swallowed up by the I-5. A good guide book helps to navigate one’s way along the freeway and eventually back onto The Mother Road.
A few blocks off of Route 66 is the San Bernardino train station. The building’s architecture makes it a “must see” if you are in the area.
By now I needed a good night’s rest, so it was off to the Wigwam Motel to get a feel for Route 66 in its heyday. The San Bernardino location is one of the remaining three of the original seven motels. This one was built in 1949 and has been thoroughly restored since the current owners purchased it in 2003. The teepee-shaped rooms are definitely unique.
As you continue your way along Route 66 a good guide book is almost essential for directions. Along the way there are plenty of references to the historic highway.
There are a number of great dining spots along the way. At the Donut Man in Glendora, be prepared for long lines. Their Strawberry Donuts (a seasonal specialty) can only be described as a bit of heaven on earth! They are huge and one is a meal by itself! A great spot for breakfast is LeRoy’s in Monrovia. And if a donut and breakfast doesn’t fill you up, stop in at the Fair Oaks Pharmacy in South Pasadena for a burger or a sundae! The Pharmacy has been around since 1915. If only those walls could talk!
For a little detour off of Route 66, one can easily spend a few hours or all day at Huntington Gardens. It’s a perfect way to walk off breakfast at LeRoy’s before you go for a burger at Fair Oaks Pharmacy! The gardens are absolutely beautiful!
Route 66 has had three terminations over the years due to different alignments. The last termination was at Santa Monica Pier and this is what folks now generally consider the end of Route 66. As it was getting on in the afternoon when I left Fair Oaks Pharmacy, I opted to drive by the quickest route to the pier rather than trying to navigate, using my guidebooks, the streets of LA. One day perhaps I will return to seek out the first two endings for the historic highway.
As it was, it was a good thing that I left myself lots of time as, on the first pass, I missed the driveway to my hotel which was only a couple of blocks from the pier. With a lot of traffic in the area at that time of day, it literally took me about an hour to drive around the block. Believe me I didn’t miss the hotel entrance the second time! I didn’t have a lot of time after checking in to get settled in my room then get down to the beach for a sunset shot of the pier.
The next morning I took some sunrise shots of Santa Monica Pier then spent a bit of time on the pier itself.
To finish off my journey, I spent about half an hour standing near the sign marking the end of Route 66. Just for fun, I took a photo of everyone taking group photos or selfies at the sign. It is quite amazing how many photos are taken in a relatively short time. To end off this post, here is a collage of some of the shots I took.
Love this photo tour! Route 66 in California is high on my road trip wishlist. I’ve only driven the route between Oklahoma City and Flagstaff. The San Bernardino Wigwam is really cute! I just saw the one in Holbrook a couple of weeks ago. It was nicely staged with vintage cars but not so appealing as the nicely-landscaped and restored San Bernardino location.
Thanks for your comments. There’s lots of great stuff to see on the California section of Route 66. This coming winter/spring I’m hoping to drive the Arizona and possibly New Mexico sections.
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