Route 66 in the News
Route 66 History Found in California Museums
There is no better way to gain knowledge and perspective about the historical spots along California's Route 66 than to visit two museums in Victorville and Barstow dedicated to the road's history.
Both museums offer extensive exhibits and displays that will heighten your appreciation for the Mother Road. Also, they both have gift shops brimming with Route 66 memorabilia, maps and books.
En route to the Victorville Museum, we always stop for breakfast at the Historic Summit Inn which is located, you guessed it, at the summit of the Cajon Pass on Highway 15. It is here that westbound travelers would stop for a meal before winding through the historic gateway to San Bernardino and Southern California. Later in this series, we will visit many relics in the area, but for now let's enjoy a meal at the Summit Inn.
Exiting Highway 15 at Oak Hill, you get that old nostalgic twinge merely pulling into the parking lot, which is often filled with classic cars and motorcycles. The restaurant entrance has posted numerous articles documenting its status as one of the Mother Road's remaining icons.
Patrons barely notice the lumpy booth seats, so enticed by the menu featuring such dishes as ostrich omelets and ostrich sausage. It is easy to get sucked into the nostalgic atmosphere, knowing that the restaurant has served weary travelers since 1962. For years our order was taken by waitress Hilda Fish, a bee-hived, friendly lady with stories to tell. Sadly, she has retired.
Traveling north to Victorville, exit at "D" Street. The museum, established in 1995, is housed in a building that was once a Route 66 roadhouse, located between 5th and 6th streets on Old Route 66. It is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
My favorite exhibit greets you almost immediately as you enter. Donated by the Duarte Historical Society, the exhibit features the stick sign, Tiffany lamp and wagon wheel chandelier from the Trails Restaurant, a favorite steak eatery and lounge on Duarte's Route 66 from 1952 until, sadly, it was demolished in 2002. A stone plaque recognizing the restaurant's icon status is all that remains.
Among the many exhibits featured here is a favorite of museum visitors: Hula Ville, touted as "an example of unique roadside attractions once found all along the Mother Road."
Miles Mahan, a retired carnival worker and poet, purchased a plot of land on Old Route 66 and displayed roadside litter from trees. He piqued the interest of passersby when he recycled a large discarded metal sign of a hula girl. This started the tradition of visitors donating items to the display throughout the years.
When Mahan was no longer able to care for his collection, it was donated to the Route 66 museum.
Visiting the Mother Road Museum at 681 N. First St. in the historic Harvey House, visitors are often greeted by full-time volunteer Debra Hodkin.
Whether you peruse the exhibits on your own or ask for a narrated tour, you will learn a lot about California's portion of Route 66. Here you can see the large metal sign which once topped the Boulevard Cafe, a famous eatery on Duarte's stretch of Route 66.
The gift shop is extensive and the displays numerous. It is open Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission to both museums is free.
After visiting these museums, you are ready to explore the many places of interest along the Mother Road. Next, we will visit the famed sites visited by westward-bound travelers as they finally crossed the California border. You may find that there is a lot more to see in Needles than you ever realized.
~Claudia Heller, SGVTribune.com