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Article: California's Route 66: old Los Angeles to the beauty of the desert


(all pictures from top to bottom are in order 1 thru 8, plus the map)

Today, Los Angeles is a sprawl of over-congested highways full of commuters traveling across the vast city, but there was a time when Route 66 shuttled road travelers in from their long journey or ushered them out of burgeoning LA toward the deserts out east. As the city built up around the Mother Road, much of it was left, just renamed. This is your California Route 66 map and guide to get your trip started off right:

Highlights along the California section of Route 66 (west to east):

1. Santa Monica Pier

Whether you call it the starting point or the ending point of the Mother Road, it all comes down to one place: the Santa Monica Pier. It’s the perfect spot to stretch your legs after your journey or to snap a couple pictures of the ocean before embarking on your 2,000+ mile journey east. Sure, it’s touristy, but it should be! It’s the Santa Monica Pier! Take a ride on the old 1922 Carousel, grab something sweet from the soda fountain, and take in all the great people watching.

2. Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain

A California institution since 1915, the Fair Oaks Pharmacy was a popular stop on Route 66, and thanks to its restoration in the 1990s, it is again. It functions as a real pharmacy and store, so if you need a prescription filled before heading out on the road, take advantage. The real draw, however, is the soda fountain. At Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Shop you can order old-fashioned phosphate, lime rickey, or egg cream and let a real soda jerk give you a truly authentic experience. The lunch menu also features hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, and salads.

3. Bono's Historic Orange

Ok, it’s not the coolest thing you’ll see on your Route 66 journey, but never, ever pass up the chance to take pictures with oversized roadside food items. The orange sits on the grouns of the now-closed Bono’s Restaurant and Deli. When the place operated during Route 66’s heyday it had an orange just like it on the grounds, but they later demolished it to increase capacity. Restaurant owner Joe Bono then found this orange in the 1990s and had it moved to the site. Not much to do here other than take a picture, but you can never have enough pictures next to gigantic fruit.

4. Wigwam Village #7

If you don’t stay the night here we don’t really understand the point of your Route 66 trip. One of only a few Wigwam Villages left, the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, CA is an absolute icon of Route 66 Americana. In addition to its kitschy design and decor, the current owners are friendly, and the guests seem to all have a similar enthusiasm about the place and often hang out and get to know one another.

5. Mitla Cafe

For over 75 years this charming little Mexican cafe has been serving the best Mexican food in all of California. It was one of the very first Mexican restaurants in the entire country, and the legend says this place actually inspired the founders of Taco Bell to create the chain taco-joint. If you want a classic Mexican place that’s been doing it right forever, you can’t go wrong with Mitla Cafe.

6. Emma Jean's Holland Burger Cafe

If you’re looking for a classic California Route 66 greasy spoon, here you go. While LA is known for its fad foods and diets, outside the city Emma Jean’s is known for its delicious, hearty breakfasts and lunches. The most popular item on the menu is the Brian Burger, but it’s all good. FYI, it is cash only! (You may also recognize it from the movie, Kill Bill Vol. 2!)

7. Bottle Tree Ranch

One man, Elmer Long, started collecting bottles as a kid, and before he knew it he had created the Bottle Tree Ranch, a place with over 200 “trees” covered in bottles. The eclectic collection has continued to expand, now with random gas pumps, cars, bicycles, bird feeders, and road signs. Elmer himself still hangs out quite a bit, so be sure to say hello and let him tell you a story or two on your California Route 66 adventure!

8. Route 66 'Mother Road' Museum

Occupying an old Harvey House called Casa del Desierto, the Route 66 ‘Mother Road’ Museum displays a vast collection of photographs and artifacts related to both Route 66 and the surrounding Mojave Desert Communities. Admission and parking are free. Ample parking space for RVs, buses & big rigs. While the museum is free, they do accept donations, so don’t be a jerk… Throw some money in the bin!

This list is obviously not definitive, but now you've got your map of California Route 66 to get you started! Go and explore California's Route 66 and let us know what you find!

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