Barstow to Pasadena

Day 19 – Sunday

Barstow to Pasadena

Barstow is the home of the Santa Fe depot, which sits alongside the rail line. Like Needles, this town sits firmly alongside the railroad, and with the highways combined, it’s hard to imagine how you would get a goodnight’s sleep sandwiched between rail and road. But with the number of motels doing just that, plenty try, and many say this is a big part of the 66 experience!

Barstow has lots of lovely Route 66 signs and murals once again, but the highlight is Harvey House, one of the last remaining Harvey House hotel buildings, which operated from 1911 to 1971. This one is still the site for the Amtrak station of Barstow, and also houses the railway museum and Route 66 museum.

The journey between Barstow and Victorville us fill of surprises…. our guidebook hasn’t prepared us!

First up is a Wild West style sheriff’s home, just nestled by the road sure. Shortly after we reach the unique and bizarre bottle tree ranch, styled by an eccentric bottle man!

We soon pass our first concrete factory, which towers unexpectedly ahead, dominating the view and casting an eerie shadow. Straight after is the pretty collection of antique stores and eateries at Rio Grande – surprising collections of beautifully displayed antiques and bric-a-brac. No musty smells or dark damp stores – this is vintage, USA style!

As we leave Rio Grande, we spot what looks like a BA plane on the horizon to our right, and decide to take a detour to find out why it is there.

En route, we pass a huge correctional centre, complete with watchtowers. The plane turns out to be just the edge of the old Edward’s Air Force Base, and we can see there are several planes there as we approach. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around (Superbowl Sunday?) so we drive in along the perimeter fence. As we drive further, it becomes apparent that there are hundreds if not thousands of planes here. Turns out it is the ‘home’ for retired planes which are refurbed and sold on, to god knows who. Lots of BA planes here.

I got out of the car to take a few pictures, and I have to say, standing between a plane graveyard, a cement factory and a correctional centre, in the middle of the day, with not a soul to be seen anywhere, was a very odd feeling. There were lots of empty looking office buildings around – like a trading estate – and I would hate to imagine working here. The pictures really don’t do this justice.

San Bernardino is our next stop, or at least drive through. We are nearing LA and the traffic, road signs and navigation is becoming more difficult. So we push on to try to reach pretty Pasadena before it gets too dark.

[PICTURES FROM TODAY TO FOLLOW – LOADING ISSUES – SORRY!]

Pasadena to Santa Monica!

Day 20 – Monday

Pasadena to Santa Monica!

The final leg! only 20 or so miles, and we are at our destination, after over 3000 miles and nearly three weeks. Exciting and sad all at once. It has been a real adventure and it would be lovely to have another week or so to enjoy the Californian sunshine, and yet there is also some pleasure in a job well done!

Our daily ritual on the trip has been planning ‘tonight’s pit stop’ prior to morning departure. This has been relatively easy so far – a combination of budget, location and reviews – often with less than 20 to choose from. but today is the most difficult decision so far. the very cheapest hotel available is £100 (v basic and poor reviews) and we debate alternative locations,and research sites such as airbnb for better options. Staying outside Santa Monica seems a shame, when it is our ultimate destination! Almost an hour later, enough is enough and we decide on the best ‘premium’ option – the Fairmont. £200 – more than double our most expensive hotel so far – but brilliant locale, reviews and price.

We explore Pasadena for a couple of hours – it’s a pretty upmarket town centre, with shops, bars and restaurants,and a few historical buildings thrown in.

IMG_3442 IMG_3437 IMG_3432 IMG_3454 IMG_3456 IMG_3476 IMG_3462 IMG_3468

Our last leg takes us through Sunset Boulevard, and Santa Monica Boulevard, through Hollywood and Beverley Hills (we spot the Hollywood sign, Rodeo drive and the Beverley Hills Hilton) through to the coast!

IMG_3494 IMG_3517j??????????????????????????????? IMG_3544

Just before 5, we arrive at our destination! Nearly 3,200 miles done! We just need to get our picture with the end of Route 66 sign, but that’s a job for tomorrow, after a champagne celebration tonight!

We did it!

 

Needles to Barstow

Day 18 – Saturday

Needles to Barstow

Today we woke up to glorious California sunshine…..so very welcome! I’m not sure if our hotel looked any better during daylight but it’s amazing what a blue sky, sudden emergence of Palm trees and a pretty mountain backdrop can make.

Hotel and neighbouring restaurants…..

IMG_2731 IMG_2741 IMG_2736 IMG_2733 - Copy

Nevertheless, after a soul destroying day yesterday, we wondered if Barstow was going to be as grim as Needles? We had a brief debate first thing as to whether to do a mad Vegas 24 hour detour instead. Tempting! Only 100 miles north, so we could be there early afternoon. However, it would mean a near on 300 mile trip tomorrow, and after a night partying in Vegas, was this wise?! Also, this would mean missing out a big chunk of Route 66…..the purist in me wasn’t happy!

We checked Barstow out, and decided to book a better hotel and give it a whirl. Plus we found there was a discount mall there which was no bad thing!

We took a few photos of Needles highlights (not very many), tried to avoid the crazy people, and pushed on.

IMG_2758 IMG_2751 IMG_2763 IMG_2765 IMG_2768 IMG_2772 IMG_2777 ???????????????????????????????

The disappointment today though was the lack of Route 66 available to drive. Much more was shut than indicated on our maps, as a result of floods a few months ago. So our Route 66 experience was limited to a 20 mile or so stretch, taking in Amboy (including the volcanic crater and Roy’s dinner and mock motel – set for many films), the famous Bagdad Café, and Daggett.

IMG_2850 IMG_2845 IMG_2858 IMG_2831

IMG_2918 IMG_2914 IMG_2912 IMG_2911

IMG_2930 IMG_2934 IMG_2938 IMG_2940

We arrivied in Barstow just in time for an hour’s retail therapy and dinner at the lovely ‘Idle Spurs Steakhouse’. Hotel lovely, shops great, free cookies in the lobby, and lots of great restaurant to choose from! Harmony is restored!

IMG_2955 IMG_2946

Only 2 nights left – San Bernardino and Pasadena tomorrow…and…not to forget….Superbowl Sunday!

Flagstaff to Needles

Day 17 – Friday

Flagstaff To Needles

It’s fair to say that today was one of the low points of the trip so far!

A big factor was the awful weather, as it rained all day – heavy rain through to drizzle, but altogether damp and miserable.

Flagstaff really wasn’t seen in its best light. It seemed to all intents and purposes a lovely alpine resort. We could just about make out some surrounding mountain ranges through the low cloud and mist, but other than a quick drive through a relatively pretty downtown, it seemed the best call to move on and hopefully out of the rain! Maybe one for a future trip in summer time?

IMG_2381 ??????????????????????????????? IMG_5382 IMG_5379 IMG_5378 IMG_2405 IMG_2404 IMG_2392

Today’s drive was the last in Arizona and overnight is Needles, the first stop point for most travelers westbound as they reach California. We have our final time change today, gaining an hour as the differential grows to 8 hours from London time.

The main stopping highlight today was Seligman, a relatively well preserved Route 66 community, with pretty painted buildings, murals, and signs. Angel Delgadillo’s barbershop and gift shop was a real highlight. Angel is a Route 66 veteran, and his shop was one of the best Route 66 stores we’ve seen on the trip. Last stop in Seligman was the genius road kill café….’You kill it, we’ll grill it’!

??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? IMG_2542 IMG_2553  IMG_2559 IMG_2564 ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? IMG_2576 ??????????????????????????????? IMG_2584 IMG_2587 IMG_2596 ??????????????????????????????? IMG_2603 IMG_2605

100 miles or so now left to go to Needles….so let’s get our foot down out of this lousy rain, and enjoy a spot of train chasing!

IMG_2686 IMG_2660 IMG_2652 IMG_2639

Unfortunately 10 minutes later we passed a parked patrol at on the opposite side of the highway. Whilst we were below speed limit, he had zapped us a mile back on the road doing 78 on a 65. 20 mins and a ticket later, any fun we were trying to salvage out of a an already grim day had no chance….:-(

It was dark by the time we reached Needles and things didn’t improve! Our Quality Inn room (best hotel option out of 10 in Needles) was absolutely fine, but the three story motel block had that 1970’s estate feel about it, with a grim outdoor lift and a faint smell of weed in the air. A couple of ladies of the night were loitering hopefully outside Jack in the Box opposite, and it was the first evening that I took my laptop and iPad out with me for dinner! We got a little lost on our way out, and the lack of street lighting and desolate streets, with a backdrop of parked up rolling stock was pretty creepy! We eventually found our chosen restaurant (again, from a very limited list of options), which was really a Chinese takeaway with a few tables in the waiting area. But the food was delicious so thankfully we picked well!

All in all though, a grim day and grim place. Welcome to California!

Day 16

Holbrook to Flagstaff

Back to the Route 66 adventure after a couple of fabulous days in Monument Valley – a great detour, albeit 200 hard miles each way (mile after mile of open road, with very few signs, and often 50 miles between towns/ service stations). Unlike Route 66, which is peppered with quirky diversions, and reasons to pull over.

First stop, downtown Holbrook, with a good showing of wall art, road signs, and motels…

IMG_2183 IMG_2182 IMG_2176 IMG_2190 IMG_2195 IMG_2202 IMG_2204 IMG_2209 IMG_2123 IMG_2112 IMG_2233 IMG_2240

The jewel in the crown being the famous Wigwam Motel. The sign outside asks ‘have you slept in a wigwam lately?’ And the answer for us was no. Whilst it has gimmick appeal, I don’t think January is the best time of the year for wigwam sleeping, and the main road to the front, and rail track to the rear didn’t seem to lend themselves to a good night’s sleep either! Pretty though.

IMG_2079 IMG_2084 IMG_2086 IMG_2092 IMG_2099 IMG_2100

The best attraction in Holbrook was the old courthouse, which was in operation until 1976 and boasts an original jail from 1899. Wouldn’t have liked to have been locked up there.

IMG_2136 IMG_2159  IMG_2165 IMG_2166 IMG_2167 IMG_2171 IMG_2175IMG_2130

 

A quick stop next at the Jack Rabbit trading post, which is a Route 66 iconic sign…….

IMG_2243

And then on to our main stop today – the best preserved and first proven meteor crater in the world. One mile across, 550 ft deep, big enough to hold 20 football pitches and entertain an audience of 2 million. Created by a meteor travelling so fast that it could have flown from LA to NYC in 5 minutes! Awesome sight!

IMG_2315 IMG_2271 IMG_2317 IMG_2275 IMG_2297 IMG_2301 IMG_2285 IMG_2304 IMG_2324 IMG_2318

 

IMG_2274

Two Guns is an old “Wild West” town. All that is left is the ruins of an old roadside zoo, and some other derelict buildings. It’s a place of disputes, colourful characters and murder. Spooky, and I’m on the lookout for rattlesnakes too. The guidebook says in the summer it’s a rattlesnake ‘haven’ so I’m double spooked now!

IMG_2326 IMG_2328 IMG_2329 IMG_2335 IMG_2332 IMG_2337

The Twin Arrow trading post is the last quick stop before Flagstaff. Trading until a few years back, there are plans to re-open, but for today it was another derelict pit stop.

IMG_2359 IMG_2357

Finally, we arrive Flagstaff – which seems like a pretty alpine resort. We are now at 6000ft so, as in Monument Valley, it’s easy to get a little out of breath. Sadly it is cloudy and raining, and it is forecast rain tomorrow. We can’t complain though, it’s our first rain of the trip other than our snow day in Amarillo.

In the meantime, tonight it is curry night! Whoo whee – who would have thought it? Indian food has been rare, if non-existent on this trip, but this is apparently one of the best restaurants in town. We will see.

Route 66 Reading List

My essential 12 holiday reads

Here’s my Route 66 reading list. I hesitate in posting this, as to date I’m not doing very well! I would usually read at least half a dozen books on a trip this long, but apart from the two travel ones at the top of the list, I’m afraid my only success has been heat magazine on the plane over here!

But there’s a week still to go….!

  1. Travel Route 66 by Jim Hinkley
  2. EZ66 guide for Travellers by Jerry McClanahan
  3. Us by David Nichols
  4. The peculiar life of a lonely postman by Denis Theriault
  5. Elephant Moon by John Sweeney
  6. What Alice forgot by Liane Moriarty
  7. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
  8. How to find fulfilling work by Roman Krznaric
  9. Strong woman by Karren Brady
  10. Get rich blogging by Zoe griffin 😉

Plus some magazines, of course! Woman & Home, Marie Claire and  Grazia & Heat bumper pack.

Monument Valley!

Day 14

Gallup to Monument Valley

Today we go off piste. Around 180 miles north of Gallup is the sight that is Monument Valley. It doesn’t seem right to be so close, without a stop by, especially as neither of us has been before.

The route there is a series of mainly single carriageways – roads stretching as far as the eye can see, with dramatic rock backdrops and lots of white fluffy clouds. The roads are mainly quiet, and many of the pickup trucks have passengers sitting in the open back…

IMG_1484 IMG_1508 IMG_1551 IMG_1555 IMG_1633 IMG_1647 IMG_1686 IMG_1700 IMG_1704 IMG_1706 IMG_1709 IMG_1718 IMG_1732 IMG_1735

There is little in terms of significant or large settlements. However, one super stop off is the Hubbell Trading Post, which was established in 1876, before the introduction of currency (which arrived in 1910). You can still exchange goods for goods there today, or pay cash if you prefer! It is like stepping back in time – I particularly like the grocery section with rows and rows of cans, jars and bottles.

IMG_5259 ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? IMG_1585 IMG_1580 IMG_1575 IMG_1569

Today we actually visit 3 states. New Mexico – Arizona – Utah, and then back into Arizona. Utah is the bonus state! We are only there for a few miles, but we got the sign!

IMG_1770 IMG_1773 IMG_1774 IMG_5260

Eventually, Monument Valley, arriving just before sundown, and what an amazing sight?! We are staying at ‘The View’ Hotel, which simply says it all. Every one of the bedrooms here has a magnificent view too and ours is no exception.  I’ll let the pictures say it all.

IMG_1781 IMG_1784 IMG_1789 IMG_1799 IMG_1809 IMG_1826 ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? image1 (1) image2

Tomorrow we do the 17 mile drive around the Valley, before heading back south to re-join Route 66 as we explore more of Arizona!

Would now escape for a sundowner, except it’s a Navajo dry hotel. Good job we have beers in the car boot 😉

Santa Fe to Gallup

Day 13

Santa Fe to Gallup

Today was very much a transit day. Back via Albuquerque to the I-40/ Route 66 path, and them onwards to Gallup. To be honest, the sights were few and far between, and the pictures we took were very much depicting the reality of Route 66 – renovated motels alongside derelict motels, quirky roadside cafes and ‘pile them high sell them cheap’ firework warehouses. But this time with a real native Indian accent.

??????????????????????????????? IMG_1303 ??????????????????????????????? IMG_1430 IMG_1399 IMG_1307 IMG_1306IMG_1431

Perfectly Written!

Perfectly Written!

Only in America??

Only in America??

What is very clear, though, is that the New Mexico landscape is stunning. There is a good reason why it’s the perfect film location! And there is nothing like driving down a deserted highway, chasing the huge train carriages alongside……!

IMG_1257 IMG_1254 IMG_1268 IMG_1287 IMG_1354 IMG_1361 IMG_1367 IMG_1368 IMG_1392 IMG_1439

Arriving in Gallup, there was just enough time to pay a visit to the historic hotel, El Rancho – home to many stars of screen, on location, back in the day. Kitch, OTT and wonderful! Wished we could step back in time 50 years or so and join them in the ballroom at one of their famous parties!

IMG_1441 IMG_1464 ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? IMG_1450

Tomorrow will be a big day – more to come soon!!

Santa Fe

Day 12

Santa Fe

We loved Santa Fe so much when we arrived last night that we decided we would stay another night here. Also, we struck very lucky with some amazing accommodation – like a mini apartment, which is usually a time share, and we got a great deal!

Santa Fe is very arty – galleries everywhere, and feels upscale. Also very pretty and a great place to spend a lazy Sunday.

Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indian of North America to become a saint

N Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indian of North America to become a saint

Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assissi

Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assissi

Pretty Santa Fe

Pretty Santa Fe

Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Inside Museum

Inside Museum

Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Loretta Chapel

Loretta Chapel

Inside Loretta Chapel - the Miraculous Stairway, with no visible means of support

Inside Loretta Chapel – the Miraculous Stairway, with no visible means of support

Loretta Chapel

Loretta Chapel

Museum

Museum

Performing Arts Centre

Performing Arts Centre

Breaking Bad RV Tour

Day 11

BREAKING BAD TOUR!!

Alburquerque

Super excited today! We booked this before we left London and it really is a must do, if you are a Breaking Bad fan of course!

We met our tour guides, Frank Sandoval and Brendan, at the fabulous RV which was an exact copy of the one in the series. They were both extras in the series. One was a DI who worked with Hank and the other a runner who whistles past Jessie, nearly knocking him over, in season 4. Non-speaking roles but it was great to hear their stories and cool to see the clips with them in!
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6526402/

The tour took us past many of the film locations, and they showed us film clips bringing them to life in between. The RV was set up like the maths lab, along with extras such as Salamanca’s bell!

Highlights had to be Walt’s house, Jessie and Jane’s houses, Los Polos Hermanos, the car wash and the laundry/ superlab. We went in the last three which was incredible!

Ted's House

Ted’s House

Los Polos Hermanos

Los Polos Hermanos

Walt's House

Walt’s House

The RV!

The RV!

Let's cook bitch

Let’s cook bitch

Jessie and Jane's houses

Jessie and Jane’s houses

Scrap yard where the RV was crushed

Scrap yard where the RV was crushed

Tuco's pad where Walt scared him with an explosion

Tuco’s pad where Walt scared him with an explosion

Inside Los Polos

Inside Los Polos

Wendy  the prostitute's stomping ground

Wendy the prostitute’s stomping ground

The Car Wash

The Car Wash

The Laundry/ Superlab

The Laundry/ Superlab

Inside the laundry

Inside the laundry

Jessie's first home

Jessie’s first home

Inside the RV

Inside the RV

Store where Walt Junior got busted

Store where Walt Junior got busted

Ready to cook!

Ready to cook!

Brendan

Brendan

Here’s a little trivia we learnt!

  • The scene where Walt throws the pizza on the roof of his house was done in just one take
  • Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn cried for 10 minutes after filming Jane’s death scene. Bryan said it was the hardest scene he had ever shot.
  • The cleaners in the laundry/ super lab were real laundry workers, who got paid too. As they spoke, they also got their equity cards. The illusion was that there was a downstairs maths lab, but this was shot in a studio elsewhere.
  • Walt’s house was just used for outdoor scenes. Often the owner, who we met, was indoors baking cakes to stay out of their way. It has overtaken Tony Soprano’s house as the most visited film location, with up to 1700 drive pasts a day, apparently.
  • Jessie’s house (next door to Jane) is currently available to rent, but people are spooked to live there.
  • Jessie’s worst day episode (when he ends up breaking into the RV in the compound to sleep as he can’t get anyone to put him up) was originally intended to have him chased by a pack of dogs. When they got to the set, Vince Gilligan spotted a compound opposite storing portaloos, and decided that him falling into one would be even worse!
  • Badger’s death (shot by the boy on the bike) had to be re-shot. They had him wearing white for effect, and he was originally shot in the neck. They thought it was too gory so they had him shot in the stomach instead.
  • The crew drank champagne and cried when the RV was crushed.
  • The RV used in the opening episodes (kitted out as a lab) was so wrecked by driving across bushland, that it had to be towed everywhere after then. Another identical RV had to be acquired for the driving shots.
  • The scene when Walt rushes out of the car wash to get to Jessie, driving as 80 mph across a narrow bridge was driven by Bryan Cranston as he didn’t want anyone to get hurt, and liked to do his own stunts.
  • Aaron Paul was just like the character Jessie and was constantly hungry.

Just time for a walk around the pretty old downtown in Albuquerque, before hitting the road to head for Santa Fe, around 60 miles north east and our stop for tonight. What a great day!