Our Route 66 trip was the reverse of the ‘normal’ direction, as Route 66 became famous as the “Mother Road” that took travelers west to the Pacific Coast originating from Chicago.
That’s why the sign on the Santa Monica Pier says “End of the Trail”.
For us it was the beginning. Technically Route 66 ended a little further inland at Lincoln Boulevard & Olympic Boulevard (at least in 1936 – many changes were made to Route 66 over time).
There is also a plaque at the top of the bluffs overlooking Santa Monica Beach – another unofficial end point.
For our driving adventure we started from the 1936 end point at Lincoln & Olympic.
From there we started our trip – me as the driver and my daughter as the navigator, with her collection of maps and guide books.
To keep the theme of the trip along the way, we rigged an iPod up to a couple of computer speakers which had a playlist of tunes especially selected to be appropriate for places along the way.
We headed through Hollywood and Beverly Hills through Pasadena (where we got off-track for a few minutes, but as luck would have it allowed a Starbucks stop), then through Arcadia and Rancho Cucamonga (I’ve always loved that name).
From there the city would be left behind as we started to climb into the mountains heading for Victorville and then the Mohave desert where our music was the obligatory ‘Killers’.
The Bug plodded along happily, and I was getting more used to driving it.
It DID take a little getting used to a car that had no cup holders or places to put things.
Fortunately my daughter used her McGyver skills to create a place for everything using the glove box door and grab handle!
Here we find one of the first real parts of Route 66 that we can differentiate from the current highways.
Up until now Route 66 has just followed existing roads with no real ‘feel’ for the old road from the 30’s 40’s and 50’s.
From now, we can see old parts of Route 66 that are no longer used, as well as parts that you can drive on that are obviously pretty classic.
Our first stop is at the Route 66 museum in Victorville, CA – a good stop to rest the Bug after a long uphill climb in pretty warm temperatures.
I was surprised there were not more classic Bugs on the road in California. There were certainly more than back east, but I found out a lot of old cars were taken off the road in California due to an anti-pollution initiative that gave pretty good cash incentives for people to junk their old cars.
Because of that, we got a fair amount of attention whenever we stopped. That was true at the Route 66 Museum in Victorville where a couple of guys that worked there came out to check out the car!
From Victorville, it was pure Mohave Desert through Barstow, and into Needles, just near the Arizona border.
Needles was our first stop, and the Bug had performed well. I had checked the oil at every stop and was surprised that it had not used one drop, which was very unusual for an old Bug. Well to be truthful they don’t USE oil so much as drip it out!
The only issue with the car was that once it was running hot, if we stopped, when we started it again it wouldn’t idle without stalling until we had driven for a while again.
I managed to make do by keeping a foot (or half a foot) on the gas pedal if needed when coming to a stop until it got in a better mood.
As it turned out when I got home, the main reason was that the original vacuum advance and retard distributor had been replaced by a mechanical advance distributor when Victor removed the EGR / pollution controls on the Bug years before. To his credit though, he had kept all the original parts – hoses and original distributor all wrapped up nicely in a box in the trunk. When I got home, I swapped back the original distributor and the Bug ran 100% better – ie: no more idle when warm problem and it got rid of a hesitation on acceleration. Thanks Victor!