Day 9 — We arrive in LA

The final day of our trip had less pretty scenery than any other day.  It wasn’t as hot as we feared when we started out on our last leg, from Needles to the Santa Monica Pier, and the car did fine.  I’ll explain the first part of the trip, from Needles to Barstow, by referring to a small piece of Colin Quinn’s recent Netflix special, “New York Story,” which I recommend.

Quinn goes through the history of NYC, discussing each of the various ethnic groups that arrived, and shaped the New York personality and culture, starting with the Lenape Indians, and covering the Dutch, British, Germans, etc.  In each part of the discussion, he pokes fun at the accents, behaviors and quirks of each ethnic group.

Near the end, he brings up one specific group, but then drops the subject: “I’m not even going to say anything about Albanians.  And that should tell you everything you need to know about Albanians.”

That’s how I feel about the first part of our ninth day’s journey:  I’m not going to say anything about the trip from Needles to Barstow. 

And that should tell you everything you need to know about the trip from Needles to Barstow.

West of Barstow, there still wasn’t much happening.  We stopped at Elmer’s Bottle Ranch, which is an eccentric creation of an eccentric guy.  It’s a small yard in the desert, filled with what must be hundreds of metal poles stuck in the ground, with small pieces welded to them that stick up like stubby branches.  On each of those thousands of branches is a bottle, or other glass items. 

The poles are covered with a variety of odd objects, including a machine gun, an airplane propeller, hubcaps, shotguns, and God knows what else.  There are also strange objects in among the poles, including old manual typewriters, a rowboat filled with more bottles, and a sewing machine. 

I don’t what it meant to its creator, who just passed away in the last several weeks, but it was oddly compelling and ridiculous at the same time. 

When we got into San Bernardino, the last thing we saw that spoke of Route 66 was the second remaining Wigwam Motel in the country.  (We saw the other one earlier, in Arizona.) The cousins got their books stamped and picked up a few more pins, and we had a nice conversation with the owner’s son, who runs the place for his dad.  They are a family from India, with the surname Patel.

As we left, one of us – I’m not going to say it was me – said that if the Patels were gutsy, they’d list the Wigwam motel as “Indian-Owned.” 

The rest of the drive to Santa Monica was through a series of strip malls and urban blight, starting in San Bernardino.  I’m sorry to say that this part was really anti-climactic after the beauty, open vistas and quirky roadside stops in Arizona.  I’m not particularly enamored of LA in general, and the parts through which Route 66 winds as it approaches its destination are emblematic of its problems.

But as we neared the Santa Monica Pier, things became climactic again, quickly.  We arrived around 5 o’clock, and the first glimpse of the ocean was exhilarating, as it always is after a long, land-bound trip.  

After our initial arrival – driving under the Santa Monica sign, parking, walking to the pier and getting pics in front of “the end of Route 66 sign,” we checked into a small, old-school hotel called the Hollywood Celebrity Inn, which is roughly on the back side of the block that contains Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.   Darryll had been there before, and it was cool old place.

We had an interesting talk with the Indian owner, which gave us some insight into the challenges facing Californians today.  He said that he’d bought the hotel in the last couple of years, but after struggling through the pandemic, he’s having a very tough time getting his employees to come back. 

With the government paying them about as much to stay home as he can pay them to work, he’s trying to be patient with them, because they’ve been good workers.  In the meantime, he’s working practically around the clock to keep things going.  He said, “It’s no way to live,” and I felt for him.  

Darryll asked him if there was some space left in the very small parking lot for the hotel, and nodded to the car, which was parked out front.  The guy’s eyes lit up, and he came outside to look the car over and talk to us about it.  He asked if Darryll would think about selling it, and how much he had paid for it.  Darryll told him that he only had around $15K in it, and the guy told him he’d give him $20K in cash, plus two plane tickets home for Darryll and Bob!   Darryll said he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it, but he took his number.

After we got our stuff to our rooms, Bob was tired, but Darryll and I took a walk down a pretty dead Hollywood Boulevard.   It was a nice, cool night, and we walked around and decompressed a little.  I took pictures of a couple of the stars in the Walk of Fame, as hokey as that is.  I got the one for Tom Petty and Heartbreakers, and the Simpsons (naturally).  (When we went out for breakfast the next day, I said I wanted one of the Trump star, just to egg on the cousins, and both of them rolled their eyes.) 

While we had accomplished our primary goal of completing Route 66, we had planned to spend a couple of more days in California, before I flew home, and the two remaining cousins took a more northerly route home from San Francisco.  

So for those of you who made it this far, I’ll sum up our last couple of days in one more entry…

Next up: a few days in California, and a drive up the PCH.