Los Angeles is one of the most visited cities in the country, and they reap plenty in tourist dollars from other points of interest. But we’re focused on following “The Road.” We finally tear ourselves away from the beautiful beach and head back west. As we go through West LA we keep our eyes peeled for the Historic Route 66 signs. I watch carefully while Larry drives, trying to decide how many ‘30s looking buildings are still there. I want to know how much of the true ambience survives. I find that, in short, not much. And that’s not surprising.
Always a city that celebrates the new and more beautiful, it seems metropolitan LA has given a mere nod to the Route 66 contribution and moved on. It’s old news. Most buildings are either destroyed or replaced with new, and (a few) seem to have changed or updated their facades. However, one piece of architecture, the Mormon temple, stands out as pretty spectacular, even though we just did a drive-by. The green, expansive lawn slopes up from the street and stands in beautiful contrast to the white edifice. Upon completion in 1956, the temple’s 250-foot-tall spire, topped by the gold-leafed statue of the Angel Moroni, made it the second tallest building in Los Angeles. Perhaps a fitting sight as you enter the “City of Angels.”
The Route heads directly through posh Beverly Hills, and, as expected, we could see huge houses on either side, complete with tour busses crawling by. Many maintained their Spanish influence that became so popular during that 30s/40s period and the neighborhoods are complete with tour busses. One day, perhaps, we’ll come back and do the tour bus thing among the mansions, hoping for a two second glimpse of some celebrity. But it’s not exactly on my bucket list at this point. Today, we’re sticking with Mother.
I’d heard that Hollywood was no longer the “in” place to get noticed, and that there’d been some push to clean it up. I can see why. On the other hand, that neglect has probably preserved more buildings from its Dust Bowl refugee roots than surrounding cities. Obviously, there’s not been a lot of “beautification” effort. I’m trying to find descriptors, and, while I wouldn’t call it “slums,” like I’ve seen in Chicago, I’d definitely call it Bohemian and “artsy” – intentionally off-beat and low-rent looking. Crystals, tattoos, East Indian looking fabrics and brightly colored murals painted on retaining walls are de rigueur; think throwback to the ‘60s. Probably inviting, if you’re into that sort of thing. Best thing about Hollywood: I can now say I’ve seen, in person, the famous “Hollywood” sign up on the hillside.
Pretty suddenly, however, we’re out of the downtown-looking section as we travel through Pasadena, Arcadia and Monrovia. The Road becomes a part of an older, narrow freeway and bends and winds through a nice, but residential community, a bit hard to follow in some spots. One stretch goes through the Glendora Country Club, which is green, pretty and feels kind of weird to have a major street here. The cities flow together and only GPS designations tell us when we’ve left one and entered another. At times, we’re driving right through beautiful neighborhoods and lovely tree-lined streets. At others, we dog leg onto a freeway and back off again. As we struggle through the maze of modern highways we are grateful to have purchased a set of 8 maps from Ghost Town Press in preparation for this trip. Without these, finding what exists of the old Route 66 would be a real challenge. Click on the link in our sidebar to buy this set of maps from Amazon.com.
Other than the occasional sign, nobody makes a fuss about the road’s historical value until we get to Glendora. Here they name an intersection “Route 66” and have the name carved into a six-eight foot stone monument in the median. Ahead, we see a good-looking football-field-long mural painted the full length of an overpass that features the map outline of each state on one side and a bunch of the old 66-era cars on the other. I wish there were a place to pull off, get pictures and check the detail, but I have to be satisfied with a slow crawl past and then a view from the rear window after we go under the bridge.
We do a lot of stops and starts through a gazillion stop lights, and, what looks like a couple of inches on the map takes nearly 3 hours to travel. I decide that the reason we seldom read much about the California part of Route 66 is that there really isn’t much that’s exciting to see in this state (with a few exceptions) related to the road. But, if you want to say you traveled the entire thing, you just drive it, stop when something looks interesting and see what you can see. Some of it is downright boring. But, I decide, it’s sorta like being an avid bird-watcher – you HAVE to experience the sighting, but once you’ve laid eyes on a species, you check it off in your birding book and move on. There are other interesting sights down the road.