Starting in sunny Santa Monica and ending in the dramatic California desert near the Nevada border, Athena and I went on a California Route 66 road trip. Legendary Route 66, also known as the “Mother Road”, follows the strip of highway that was the main route for 20th century pioneers heading west in search of the California dream. With stops in Santa Monica, Hollywood, Pasadena, Victorville, Barstow, and Joshua Tree, I followed the historic route enough to get the true “Mother Road” feel and added a few worthy detours to fit my travel style. These were the highlights of our Route 66 road trip in California.
We started our Route 66 journey at the idyllic oceanfront city of Santa Monica on the world-famous Santa Monica Pier. Ride after ride, Athena smiled with her entire face. She was filled with complete joy. I’ve been around the world, but this was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.
Taking Pictures with Athena’s Favorite Characters at Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood is one of our favorite family amusement parks. With rides and shows for all ages, there is something for everyone. It was the character appearances that really made this visit special though. From Sponge Bob and Dora to all of the Despicable Me characters, Athena was wild with excitement to meet all of her favorite stars. The lines were never long and she was never rushed. It was like going to the Oscars but for kids.
California Route 66 Museum is an Interactive museum with over 4500 Sq. Ft. of floor space and photo opportunities for the visitors to share memories in such settings as a 50’s diner and a VW Love Bus complete with hippy wigs and sunglasses for that perfect shot. We spent half the time in the museum playing and taking photos in the VW Love Bus and then imagining driving all of Route 66 in a truck like the one above.
Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is on Route 66 between Victorville and Barstow. It’s two acres of desert chocked full of hundreds of art sculptures, made from welded pipe and bottles by Elmer Long, who began in the 1980s. Although it’s private property, the gates are usually open and we talked with Elmer himself for well over an hour. He explained that his father started the ranch and he picked it up from there. He’s married with children and grandchildren and he loves discovering hidden gems in the desert. He’s stories we exactly what I expected from Route 66 and he made me feel like part of the journey.
Just outside of Barstow is Calico Ghost Town. Calico is an old West mining town that has been around since 1881 during the largest silver strike in California. With its 500 mines, Calico produced over $20 million in silver ore over a 12-year span. When silver lost its value in the mid-1890’s, Calico lost its population. The miner’s packed up, loaded their mules and moved away abandoning the town that once gave them a good living. It became a “ghost town.” Today, Calico is part of the San Bernardino County Regional Parks system. Along with its history and attractions, Calico Ghost Town has shops, restaurants, and offers camping and outdoor recreation. Athena and I rode the train and listened to the history of Calico from the conductor. We also found a stage with seating all around. I played music on my phone while Athena danced and sang. She stood up there performing for almost an hour and I cheered her on by clapping and hooting and hollering. Sometimes all we need is a great setting to have a whole new world of fun.
Route 66 was a road to discovery and while we weren’t one of the pioneers to drive the route, we did discover a bond between us that spans any distances. Regardless if we are at an adventure park like Pacific Park or just at an abandoned ghost town, we always find a way to have fun and enjoy our precious time together.