Friday, July 22, 2016

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66 - Part 2, Central California

We continue our tour on the Mother Road, Route 66. Once you leave the Los Angeles valley and rise out of Cayon Pass on Interstate 15, you are in the Mojave Desert. The towns along I-15 still have the ubiquitous California urban sprawl, but there is undeveloped desert between them.
Route 66 is also known as the National Trails Highway in central California. About 15 miles from Cajon Pass, the National Trails Highway diverges north away from I-15 at Victorville. Drive north a few miles and you reach Oro Grande. There is not much to downtown Oro Grande other than an old-fashioned business block, but it contained an active restaurant and a couple of gift shops.
Salvaged & Tattered, at 19248 National Trails Highway, was open. Songs by Edith Piaf emerged from the door - what, Piaf in the desert of California? Interesting place; the charming proprietor graciously let me take a photograph in her store. She said many Europeans stopped at the store, and a surprising number did the trip both directions. They rented a car in Chicago, drove to Santa Monica, and then turned around and drove back on 66. She said she had also met Europeans who bought a high-horsepower American muscle car, did the 66 trip both directions, and then shipped their car home as a used car. Some people do interesting things...
Just north of Oro Grande, I passed a field with some old cars. By chance, a fellow was at the gate waiting for someone to let him in. The lady who came to the gate said I was welcome to photograph this handsome Hudson Statesman Custom. Her uncle or dad(?) was restoring it - one day. They really made massive cars in the 1940s.
A few miles further northeast, near Lenwood, I came across the abandoned Dunes Motel, at 23135 Main Street. The palms really needed pruning. Many odd birds lived in the foliage. I watched for snakes because I was wearing sandals.
I doubt anyone will ever use the Dunes again. Possibly it had been modified to serve as apartment units.

The National Trails Highway turns east, running north of I-15. We enter Barstow, which was a major mining and transportation center starting in the 1800s. It was on the Old Spanish Trail from Santa Fe as well as the Mormon Road from Salt Lake City. Barstow became a major rail center for the Santa Fe railroad as well as a stopover for Route 66 travelers.
And who could resist stopping at the famous ElRancho Motel? The signs tell you how far it is to various popular cities, including Cairo and Jerusalem (Route 66 goes that far?). A tenant at the hotel emphasized that Marilyn Monroe stayed there.
Downtown Barstow is rather uninspiring, despite many attempts to link contemporary stores with Route 66.
The Route 66 Mother Road Museum is located in the historic Barstow Harvey House hotel. The hotel has been restored and is used for formal events and graduations. The National Park Service has a description of the Harvey House and other sites along Route 66. Amtrak's Southwest Chief train stops here. My daughter took the Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles many years ago but may have slept through Barstow.
The Western America Railroad Museum is next to the depot. Unfortunately, you can't go into the locomotives, but there is still plenty to see.

We will continue our Mother Road expedition in future updates. Please stay tuned and thanks for reading. All photographs were taken with a Fuji X-E1 camera, with in-camera monochrome setting. I used a polarizing filter on many exposures to emphasize the dark sky.

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