“Now you go through St. Looey, Joplin, Missouri, and Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico, Flagstaff, Arizona.
Don’t forget Winona, Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino.”
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“Route 66” is a great song about a great, lost road.
The song stops in San Bernardino, Calif. But Route 66 actually went on all the way to Santa Monica. Development has wiped away much of the old route, but the determined can still hit the highlights of the Mother Road in Southern California.
Into “Berdoo”: Start in San Bernardino at the beautifully restored California Theater, which opened its doors in 1928, just two years after Route 66 opened. It was often the site of secret premieres of major movies, as Hollywood would drive just-finished films out of Los Angeles to get the reaction of a real audience. The California Theater is now San Bernardino’s performing arts center.
Further along is the Wig Wam Motel, which has gone from eyesore with a “do it in a teepee” sign to a classic roadside attraction. The concrete teepees are a great place to spend the night, even if the neighborhood isn’t very eye-pleasing.
Rancho Cucamonga is home to the Route 66 Museum at the Rancho Cucamonga Visitors Center. It’s a storefront shrine to the Mother Road, filled with photos, maps and trinkets. In the summer, take in a ballgame of the Quakes, the local A-level, minor-league baseball team
Two old-time Route 66 eateries remain nearby. The Sycamore Inn, once an 1850s stagecoach stop, is now a fancy restaurant serving straightforward American food. The tile-roofed Magic Lamp across the street is locally famous for its prime-rib buffet.
Upland to Duarte: Open space all but disappears west of Rancho Cucamonga. Route 66 cuts through some of the older suburbs of Los Angeles: The college campuses of Claremont, the Madonna of the Trail statue in Upland and Glendora’s old-time downtown.
The zigarrut-like Aztec Hotel opened in Monrovia in 1925, the year before the road out front was officially designated part of Route 66.
Route 66 heads into Pasadena along the Rose Bowl Parade route, Colorado Boulevard. Visit Pasadena’s stylish old town or stop in the Norton Simon Museum for a dose of world-class art.
At Fair Oaks Avenue, the route turns south, passing the Fair Oaks Pharmacy. It’s linked to two spots on the Mother Road, its interior moved almost intact from a shop further east on the Mother Road in Joplin, Mo. Great malts on a hot day.
Los Angeles to Santa Monica: Outside of South Pasadena, Route 66 gets lost in the sprawl of Los Angeles. To speed things up, I suggest you jump on the 110, which was the first freeway in Los Angeles, opened in 1941 as the Arroyo Seco Parkway. Exit at Sunset Boulevard — the Hollywood sign is on the hill nearby — and follow Santa Monica Boulevard through West Hollywood and into Santa Monica.
At the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Boulevard is one of the most famous intersections in the U.S. — the spot where most agree that Route 66 and Pacific Coast Highway meet. The end of the line. Someday you can drive it all the way back to Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
IF YOU GO:
GETTING THERE: A good map is a must. The best is the “Route 66 Travelers Guide” by Tom Snyder (St. Martin’s Press).
—California Theater, 562 W. Fourth St., San Bernardino.
—Wig Wam Motel, Foothill Boulevard and Pepper Avenue, San Bernardino
—Aztec Hotel, 311 W. Foothill Blvd., Monrovia.
—Fair Oaks Pharmacy, Fair Oaks Avenue and Mission Street, South Pasadena.
—Sycamore Inn, 8318 Foothill Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga.
—Magic Lamp Restaurant, 8189 Foothill Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga.
—Rancho Cucamonga Visitors Center, 7965 Vineyard Ave., Suite F5; 909-948-91