Alternate title: “There and Back Again: A Route 66 tale by Rhys Martin”. After a week of driving Route 66, I spent the majority of Sunday taking the concrete super-slab that is I-40 all the way back to California. I was on the road for twelve hours total, which included two breakfasts, some time on the Old 66 that I missed, and a few unexpected stops that further engaged me with the Route 66 community.
I was sad that I left Holbrook so early that I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to the proprieters of the Globetrotter Lodge. They wer great hosts, and my room far exceeded my expectations. I was also sad that I was too early for my continental breakfast, and instead had to drive-through McDonald’s as I got my drive started. I turned my cruise control on at about 5:30 AM, heading towards the distant Pacific Ocean. I had a feeling that my luck with temperatures was about to run out. The night before, another summer shower had dropped the temperature and I awoke to about 50 degrees out! It made me wish I’d bought a hoodie at Mother Road Brewing Company rather than a hat. I guessed that my concern with being chilly wouldn’t last long. At my first stop (bathroom breaks were plentiful on the drive west) I sent a message to a fellow roadie I had not yet met, a man named Nick Gerlich. He is very respected in the community and is highly active in the southwest. He had spent some time in Vegas and was heading to Albuquerque; I was heading to LA on the same highway. As it turned out, we would reach Kingman AZ at about the same time!
We met for “lunch” though I had breakfast again. Seriously, any time there’s breakfast available on the menu, it takes everything in me not to order it no matter WHAT time it is. I did not resist, even though Mr. D’z Diner had a great selection of foods I enjoy. Nick and I hit it off immediately. I was able to regale him with my experiences on the Route 66 Relics tour and show him the little guide booklet I received. We talked about the road itself and the people on it; it was an excellent conversation that covered a lot of bases. Nick is also really into Breaking Bad and photographing old neon signs, so we could have sat there and talked for hours. Alas, we both had a lot of road in front of us. It was nice to spend a little more time in Kingman, too.
The closer I got to California, the more I had to adjust my air conditioning. I took a short detour through Yucca before hitting the border, and the temperature topped 100 degrees. In fact, for the next couple of hours it was 105-110 as I wove my way through the Mohave Desert. I passed through Needles and waved towards the River Road Resort; if I’d had time, I would’ve stopped to say hi to Rosie again. And perhaps take a dip in the river. But there’s never enough time. I stopped in a few familiar places to gas up or get some more water, and had a chance to drive the pieces of the Route that I missed last week. Daggett is hardly a town, but they have a great little Desert Market that goes back farther than Route 66. I also drove through downtown Barstow, marveled at their neon signage downtown, but didn’t stop. Next time!
As I weaved westward, I reached out to someone else I hadn’t connected with; a man named Delvin that volunteered at the Victorville Route 66 museum. Luckily, I would arrive in town while the museum was still open this time around! I arrived at about 2:30, which left me half an hour to meet another road enthusiast and tour the museum, which actually ended up being my only museum stop this trip. I had a lot of suggestions, and even had time to attend a few of them, but I much prefer to go to museums with Samantha. It’ll give us a road trip together, too! After Delvin gave me the tour and talked about his OWN Oklahoma heritage (his family came right down Route 66 to California back in the 30s!), we shook hands and parted ways. Like Nick, it was an easy connection and conversation flowed freely. I had about a 40 minute drive to my last motel in San Bernardino.
As I drove that last leg, I could feel myself wearing thin. I have driven A LOT this last week, and I’m ready for a full rest. When I reached the city limits of San Bernardino at 4:30, I had dinner (In-n-Out, yes!) and took a brief drive through their downtown. I would have loved to walk around, but it was dreadfully hot and, as I mentioned earlier, I was about spent. My last motel was a special one, though: the Wigwam!
Wigwam Motels are a legendary chain of motels that were built in the 30s and 40s. The rooms are giant concrete tepees and they originally boasted seven locations, though only three remain. One in Kentucky (I was shocked to find that the chain STARTED there, and only the last two were built out west) and two on Route 66. I’d seen the one in Holbrook, and decided to stay in the one in California on Sunday night. The California motel was the last one constructed, built in 1949, and had been recently rehabbed. It was a comfortable way to spend my final night on Route 66, both in kitch and in comfort. It’s a shame I didn’t have the energy to make use of the pool, it sure looked inviting!
My flight on Monday morning left LAX at 7:00 AM, and it was a 1.5 hour drive from the motel to the Avis Rental Lot. That meant I had to leave at 3:00 AM to make sure I had enough time to get to the airport, return the rental car, and go through security. I set my alarm for stupid o’clock and went to bed early, eager for a restful sleep. By the time I handed the keys to the little Hyundai Elantra to the clerk, I had put 1,912 miles on the odometer. I have no idea how many pictures I have on my camera, but I know it’s also in the thousands. It’s been a wild and wonderful trip, but I’m eager to get home to see Samantha and put my feet up for a while. Of course, I always say that and then, I get an idea and hop in the car…