Route 66: California

This entry is part 8 of 17 in the series GDB & Route 66

Here’s a bit of Route 66 background, if you’re coming in late. If you’re all caught up, start the journey below!

The Drive

Santa Monica pier

My plan was to drop Mindy at Guide Dogs for the Blind and then take Route 66 back to the Midwest. We started from Los Angeles to run eastward. The actual official end of the road, a couple blocks from the coast, is rather boring, so everyone collaboratively declares Santa Monica Pier to be the figurative end.

Route 66 "End of the Trail" sign on the Santa Monica Pier
Colorado St bridge, aka "suicide bridge"
the Colorado St bridge, aka “suicide bridge”

We took a detour at Glendale to meet a trainer friend and a dog she wanted me to see, and then we picked up 66 again to cross the “suicide bridge” over the Arroyo Seco and have lunch at the Fair Oaks Pharmacy.

After a delicious lunch (and enormous — there was a full pint of ice cream in my milk shake, no kidding) we caught the road again and headed east. The route out of LA is necessarily slow, but there are a lot of old road visuals to make it interesting. (And if you wanted only speed, after all, you’d be on the interstate — which might help you anywhere but in LA.)


Some of my favorite photos on the way out of LA and going east:

Because I am a completist, or hard-core, or just (as my husband suggests) a bit obsessed, we tracked down disused parts of old Route 66 and found a way to drive on many of them, too. Note: we do not trespass on what is now private property, of course. But what is still public road, just no longer on maps or marked or maintained? That’s fair game.

This section of old 66 is now a BMX and off-roading course. We got some stares from some unloading bikers as we drove my Highlander by, but hey, it’s an SUV, and we could handle it.

Highlander facing camera on old pavement

This old section (right) used to cross the railroad tracks and now is a driveway into a maintenance area.

view of old road under our car and new road in our headlights

This section (left) runs right alongside the newer road — why they didn’t just upgrade the existing road, instead of wasting taxpayer dollars to start from scratch, is beyond me. But we drove on the old road anyway. Rebels.

We stopped at the Summit Cafe in the Cajon pass, which has reopened since a drunk car thief (alleged, I guess, as I don’t know if he’s been convicted yet) put a stolen car through the building last year. The cafe is famous for their ostrich burgers, so I decided to have one for breakfast. Like an adult.

Me: I’d like an ostrich burger, please.

Waitress: We’re out of ostrich burgers, I’m sorry.

Me: No! I am going to flip this counter, right now. Watch me. Okay, maybe I’ll have a bison burger instead.

Waitress: I’ll just tell you it’s an ostrich burger when I bring it, okay?

Me: That works. Could I have some avocado on that?

Waitress: There’ll be an upcharge, is that okay?

Me: Go ahead and upcharge, you’re already lying to me.

Waitress: Yep, lying and upcharging, that’s our great customer service here!

red seats with Route 66 backs at a counter
interior of the Summit Cafe

She was fantastic, actually, and if I lived locally, she’d be my Angie (from Agent Carter). Almost worth becoming a morning person to have breakfast there.


Near Helendale, you can find the Bottle Tree Ranch, where folk artist Elmer Long creates trees and more from junk he finds in the desert. Elmer says he does it “to keep busy,” but he’s obviously got a passion.

More photos, from before and after the Bottle Tree Ranch: