California Dreaming

It was a quiet night in Barstow, even quieter than usual for a Chateau Walmart. I woke up with the sun, made coffee, and attended to my morning meetings. The nice part about being on the west coast is that my east coast based work day was over early, and I was free to ramble on.

Google once again played games with me, taking me to places that didn’t exist, like the addresses of some murals on Main Street. It did find yet another Route 66 museum, but I found myself much more interested in the locomotives and train cars of the railroad museum, which was, of course, closed. Like Kingman, the classic Barstow train station is still in use today. I explored a bit, then moved on.

My drive out of Barstow took me past more iconic Route 66 buildings and businesses. Before I knew it, though, I was back in the desert.

After a short drive I rolled into the small town of Oro Grande, and found Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch. Elmer himself passed away in 2019, but his family continues to operate the place, which was open when I arrived. There is so much to see here. My therapist and I were just discussing how while I don’t know much about traditional visual art, I do appreciate some non-traditional forms of it. This proved to be true here. One man’s trash, another man’s treasure, and all that. I spent a fair bit of time exploring, and could’ve spent more.

This is a neat truss bridge along Historic 66. This is not an illusion. The bridge really is built at an odd angle.

Down the road in Victorville I stopped at the California Route 66 Museum. I’ve seen a lot of these along this trip, but it’s always interesting to get each state’s perspective on the Mother Road. In fact, they started asking me about what the other museums I’ve seen are like, and how they compare to California’s.

This one was mostly a collection of stuff from the early and mid 20th century. There wasn’t a lot of history of Route 66 itself, which is what I’ve been wanting to see from museums like these. Still, if you’re into old stuff, including a 1917 Model T Ford you can climb into, it’s worth a stop.

From here, the driving got more difficult — not the roads, but the traffic. I had to use some Massachusetts ingenuity to creatively get through a gridlocked intersection that wouldn’t clear with the poorly timed lights. California drivers may be even worse and more dangerous than Boston drivers. Many passed me over a double yellow line because I was only going the 55 mph speed limit. A Mercedes zipped around me in the breakdown lane because I had the audacity to exist where two lanes merged into one. As I get closer to Los Angeles, I expect this to only get worse.

My final landmark of the day was Camp Cajon, the site of a famous Route 66 rest stop in the 1920s. The rest area is long gone and plowed under by I-15, and these markers remain to commemorate it. Despite the “Camp Cajon — Free Camping” historical sign, other signs make it clear that overnight parking is prohibited. So I went to find some.

I set up camp in the nearby Angeles National Forest (I hope they use the term “Forest” loosely, since this is still the desert) at an undisclosed location down a dirt road. It’s a nice spot, certainly good for an overnight, maybe two. Not only are there dirt roads around to explore on the bike, there are other good twisty paved roads nearby, some of which I’ve seen in Matt Farah’s One Take video reviews of custom cars.

Maybe I’ll stay here for two nights and spend tomorrow exploring the area by motorcycle, then roll straight to Carolyn’s on Sunday. Route 66 basically disappears from here on in, consumed by LA urban sprawl. There are a few more sites, but I’m not sure if I want to deal with the traffic to see another old restaurant or motel. I can see the 15 from here (gotta say it like they do), and rush hour traffic began at 1:30 pm. Hopefully it won’t be so bad on a Sunday.

Really, the only remaining must-see Route 66 sight for me is the end of the road at the Santa Monica pier, and the Pacific Ocean. Once the van is parked safely at Carolyn’s I don’t know when I’ll go there, but it’ll be sooner rather than later.

I also need to start thinking about what comes next, since Route 66 will be finished in days. I have a few minor interior repairs to make to the van, just things that rattled loose over Route 66. My refrigerator outlet has another loose connection, and I’ve plugged it in elsewhere until I can fix it, again. I should replace my suspected dead O2 sensor. FIXD just assigned me an article about that particular repair, so while I’m parked in a friend’s driveway is the time to do it and maybe cure my check engine light. Overall, though, the van has held up great across the country, and there’s very little I need to fix or want to change. At least, unless I do something drastic like change the fundamental purpose of this van, which is possible…

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