Our Cross-Country Trip
Jus’ Moseyin’ Across America!
We stopped to look down the canyon at Burro Creek Bridge, then continued to our destination, Kingman. This little town lies on the longest stretch of Route 66 (about 160 miles) that still exists today. We arrived at KOA Kingman, took advantage of having hookups and laundry facilities, had a relaxing dinner, and then watched some TV since we had cable again. We saw that they had just gotten 2 feet of snow back in Baltimore! So we were happy to be in Arizona headed for CA!
Monday morning we woke early to get our kicks on Route 66, “The Mother Road,” stopping first at the Route 66 museum for hats, tees, pins and a little history lesson. Route 66 was the legendary road that began as Native American trade routes. Later, it became the wagon roads where our settlers migrated west to homestead before and after the Gold Rush. During the Depression era of the 30’s, people living in central U.S. drove their Tin Lizzies (Model T’s and other early vehicles) west on Route 66 to escape the Dust Bowl in search of work. By 1938, the entire Route 66 had been paved and was the main route from Chicago to L.A. For the first time, truckers had a paved road across the country that allowed them to compete with the railroad. During the 50’s, Route 66 became “The Main Street of America.” After the Interstate system was built in the 50’s, Route 40 and other major highways took the place of old Route 66, and many of the businesses on it died. However, some Route 66 towns have revived the history of the much-loved road so that people can step back into time.
A lady in the museum told us of a little known section of old Route 66 not used anymore. We ventured down it through the mountains that turned into a dirt road ending at an old abandoned Dragway, a few miles out of town. We noticed an old hubcap on the side of the road that appeared to be from a 1962 Starfire, which was one of Jim’s first cars. Trying to clean the dirt off of it, Bonnie deeply cut her finger on the rim, then quickly went into shock (turned white, eyes rolled back, and shaking) while Jim tried to get her to a drugstore or doctor as fast as he could! Moments later, Bonnie woke up to Jim screaming at her and saw a terrified look on his face. The worst over, we found a drugstore and took care of it with cleaning and bandages, but it was a scary ordeal, especially for Jim.
We headed to historic Oatman, a former gold mining town on Route 66. The drive through the high mountains along tight curves looking down into the canyons was an experience in itself. You can see the road in this picture we took at the bottom of the mountain. We passed wild burro droppings along the way and saw some kind of ground squirrels running really fast around stone foundations of abandoned homes.
Oatman was located right on Route 66 in the Black Mountains and was the last stop in Arizona before entering the dreaded Mojave Desert in CA. A very small place, just Main Street with a couple of offshoots where some people were still living there in old wooden homes. Entering the town, we saw Llamas walking along the road as we came into the town (we later found out they were free-roaming pets named Sammy & Sunbear). We also saw several burros, one of which was only 3 weeks old!
Main Street was lined with old mining town buildings turned into gift shops, saloons, cafes and tourist attractions like the old Gold Mine museum. Their firehouse, which had some cool old fire engines, was still used too. And so was the Oatman Post Office. We watched a re-enactment of a rather comical gunfight in front of the saloon. Then we had lunch at the Oatman Hotel right on Main Street Route 66, the oldest 2-story adobe building in Mohave County. All their walls and even the ceilings were covered with hundreds of dollar bills! Clark Cable and Carol Lombard were married in Kingman and spent their wedding night here in 1939. A guy sang country songs by request as we ate Indian Fry Bread Taco and Buffalo Burgers. Fun place!
We left Oatman and headed south on Route 66 to Lake Havasau City, home of the London Bridge. The city’s founder, Robert McCullough, bought the bridge for $2.6 million and moved it to Arizona in 1968. It took 3 years to rebuild and it reopened in 1971. As part of the deal, McCullough deeded 1 acre of land at the north entrance of the bridge to the city of London. You can walk up to the bridge from what they called “English Village” below. The village had several shops and boats docked along the walkway around it. From the bridge, we had a great view of Lake Havasau, which was created from the Colorado River
Tuesday, February 18: Barstow, CA
Heading west from Kingman via Route 40, we crossed the California State line at Topock, AZ. On the other side, we were routed into an Inspection Station where they asked if we had any plants or animals, where we were from, and even searched under our RV for Gypsy Moth larvae! Of course, since ferrets are STILL illegal in CA—boo, hiss, sneer, growl--we hid Stinky and lied through our teeth! Driving along Route 66 to Needles, we came to the conclusion that the desert is basically ugly. We never saw any wildlife, and it was covered with black volcanic rock everywhere. Route 66, which was painted on the road instead of using street signs (probably because they were stolen), was totally deserted and a bumpy mess. Since we followed the railway all the way to Barstow, we passed more trains than all other vehicles combined. People had created “Rock Art” along the road to add interest, but it didn’t help much.
At Needles, Route 66 became Rt. 40 again, then we jumped back onto Rt. 66 to Goffs (population 23!). There was an old school house that was built in 1914 for the ranchers and town children living in the 1,000-mile school district there. It was recently restored to its original state but was only open to the public the first weekend of each month so we couldn’t go into it. There wasn’t much else in the town, and even their general store was closed and boarded up.
Next stop on Route 66 was the Amboy Crater, a National Natural Landmark in Amboy. It is one of the youngest volcanic fields in the U.S. It was formed of ash and cinders, 250 feet high and 1500 feet diameter. It has erupted 6 times, starting about 6000 years ago, and its most recent eruption was 500 years ago. Its lava field covers 24 square miles. Guess that explains all the black rocks we saw everywhere!
Near Barstow we passed by this cool but abandoned old place that was once “Road Runner’s Retreat” restaurant.
We pulled into the Barstow Wal*Mart for the night, unhitched and drove into town. Barstow’s Main Street is Historic Route 66, and there were many historic buildings along the road there like Roy’s Motel & Café, El Ranchero Motel, Stardust, etc. On the side streets were tiny homes built into the hills. We watched the children walk home from school, and there were a variety of races--White, Black, Native American and Hispanics.
We had dinner at Peggy Sue’s Nifty 50’s Diner. The owners, Peggy Sue and Champ, restored this 50’s diner and added tons of memorabilia inside, including Betty Boop, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, I Love Lucy, Wizard of Oz, and on and on. They added an Ice Cream Parlor, Pizza Parlor, 5 & Dime Store and more until it grew into the fun place it is today. They have a second diner in Victorville that we want to seek out when we get there. We had a wonderful meatloaf dinner that came with homemade chicken soup, mashed potatoes & gravy and cornbread, all fixed 50’s style. Then we retired to our motorhome for the night.
Wednesday, February 19: Calico Ghost Town to Victorville, CA
Before heading south to Victorville, we took a sidetrip north to Calico Ghost Town.
The town began in 1881 by miners hoping to find their fortunes there. After silver was found by one of the children living there, Calico became one of the richest silver mining towns in the State, producing $86 million in silver plus tons of other minerals. The population rose from 40 in 1881 to 1,200 in 1887, then back down to just 300 by 1893 after the mine was worked out (and ONLY 8 still living there now!). It was purchased and restored by Walter Knott of Knottberry Farms in 1951 (the man who opened the 1st amusement park in the U.S.), then donated it to San Bernardino county in 66.
There were original buildings from the 1890’s, including a general
store, saloon, house, Chinatown ruins and mining camps. We toured a silver mine and walked around
the town & in the shops.
Continuing south on Route 66, we went into the town of Helendale to the Exotic World Museum. Dixie Evans, an exotic dancer from the time she was 20 (she’s now in her 70’s) gave us a personal tour of the museum, complete with amusing stories and Burlesque history. There were pictures and artifacts belonging to dancers such as Gypsy Rose Lee, Blaze Star (from Baltimore) and hundreds of others. The museum, is actually several buildings on 40 acres that another dancer, Jenny Lee, bought to retire to in 1991. Dixie came to help when Jenny became sick and decided to stay herself. Dixie used to be known as the Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque and was even sued by Monroe’s manager until they realized the bad publicity was actually helping her career. Even though we are not big Burlesque fans, it was an interesting side trip for us thanks to Dixie’s informative andenthusiastic tour.
The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum was in Victorville, about 20 miles
further south. Roy Rogers was known as the Singing Cowboy and Dale, the Queen of the West. They had 9 children and hordes of grandchildren and great-grandchildren to carry on their fame through this museum containing thousands of things from Roy and Dale’s singing and movie careers and their life in general. There was even a huge collection of taxidermy, mostly from his hunting trips to Africa, Antarctica, etc. They even had Roy and Dale’s taxidermy horses, Trigger & Buttermilk, and their dog!
Thurs, February 20: San Bernardino, CA
Crossing through the Cajon Pass into San Bernardino, we had incredible
views of the mountains--some carpeted green, others white! By 10 o’clock we changed into t-shirts—warm
weather had arrived! We started seeing
green lawns for the first time in weeks.
We stopped at Camping World to have work done on our RV (we needed to
repair our roof and replace the water pump, and we had an oil leak), but as
usual, they were too busy to fit us in.
A customer overheard us and saved the day by calling the manager at
Arrow (an RV repair center about 20 miles west) who was a friend of his. They said they could take care of us so we
went right over. While they worked on
it, we ran up to Route 66 then east toward San Bernardino.
We found this McDonald’s that looked old but probably wasn’t (pretty cool tho). A little further in Rialto was the Wigwam motel where you could sleep in one of 20 tee pees for just $48 a nite. It was built in 1947 and is now owned by a Hispanic…go figure.
We drove into developments just below the San Gabriel Mountains with nice stucco homes similar to those in Florida. Down Route 66 in Claremont, we went to the 86-acre Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden where we were able to see Giant Sequoias, California Palms and Coast Redwoods--the world’s tallest tree (also the State tree so we grabbed a branch). We saw bigger squirrels than in Baltimore and birds and lizards during our 2-mile walk.
When we returned, it was too late to find a campground, so Adam graciously ran an electric cord out to our motorhome so we could stay next to their shop that night. He said we could hook up to their water too if we wanted. We found out that he has ferrets too (he discovered Stinky in our RV when checking the water pump), so I guess that explains why he’s such a great guy! Adam also discovered that we had an oil leak and recommended a guy down the street for that. We would have highly recommended his service to any RV’ers needing help on while on the road. They made what could have been a huge headache very easy and convenient for us, and did it in less than a day!
Fri-Tues, February 21-25: Anaheim, CA
Friday morning we filled our propane at Arrows and went next door to deal with the oil leak. Thankfully it was just a bad oil filter, but we only had 2 quarts out of 8 left (another day and we might have bought a new engine)! While they changed it, we went back to Route 66 and drove west this time. We finally found the location where Ronald McDonald opened his first restaurant! It was built in 1937 on Huntingdon Drive in Monrovia and called The Airdome because it was an open-air dome-shaped structure. He moved it in 1940 in two sections to San Bernardino, where he rebuilt it and named it the first “McDonald’s.” We saw a picture of the Airdome and a letter written by Ronald McDonald to the owner of this “classic” McDonald’s at the original location. Notice the “McDiner” and the “McDonald Man” on the right of the building.
Our RV fixed and ready to go again, we headed south to Orangeland RV Park in Anaheim for amusement parks, square dancing and a visit with our eBay friend and fellow ferret-lover Muna and her husband Dennis. After spending 3 nites at Wal*Marts and an RV repair shop, we were ready for luxuries like long hot showers and cable TV again! At first they said they were full, but after some pouting and pleading, they found us a spot in their #1 rated park. It was nice…a level cement site with grass and a picnic table and even our own orange tree next to us. They had a heated pool & Jacuzzi too, modem hookup, and even a place to wash your car, which was the first thing we did after hooking up and settling in.
That night we went to Wild Bill’s Dinner Theatre for a Wild West show and family-style chicken & ribs dinner. There was barely elbowroom with 20 people squeezed around long tables. We were early, so we sat at the front of our assigned table closest to the stage. We had more room with nobody to one side of us, but the show was practically on top of us. The service was lousy and impersonal, and the food was mediocre, but the show was pretty good, especially the Indian hoop dancer and the comedian who had us rolling on the floor. Worth the $20 a person we paid, but we would have paid more for more comfort and better service.
Saturday we did some web stuff, then met Muna and Dennis for lunch at Shan’s, an Indian restaurant, in Artesia, about 8 miles west of Anaheim. We met Muna a couple of years ago while selling pet products on the Internet. She moved to California from the United Arab Emirates a few years back and sells jewelry on eBay, including ferret cameos that Bonnie fell in love with. We swapped goods and pictures and became long-distance friends via email, sharing ferret tales and life stories. Muna’s story is amazing, and we couldn’t wait to meet her in person.