Route 66 in the News

Route 66 Still Valued

2011-09-03 17:51:44

In the decades since the Interstate Highway System bypassed Route 66, the famed road has continued to provide value as a source of civic pride and inspiration to public officials and roadside business owners.

Across parts of the Inland Empire and San Gabriel Valley, Route 66 is Foothill Boulevard, one of the regions' most important commercial routes.

Among the road's new shopping centers, and not-so-new strip malls, sites like the Wigwam Motel on the San Bernardino-Rialto line and the Golden Spur restaurant in Glendora remain as evidence of the road's 85-year-old history.

And in Glendora, Route 66 is officially known by its famous name. City officials there restored the name 10 years ago, before which the road was known as Alosta Avenue.

The federal government designated Route 66 in 1920. The road linked Chicago to Santa Monica and earned its place in American history as the route destitute Dust Bowl farmers traveled along during the Great Depression in search of jobs, as well as a symbol of post-World War II prosperity and the car culture it spawned.

Nostalgia for those boom years -- a time remembered as an era of roadside diners, space-age inspired Googie architecture and the freedom of the road is the source of Route 66's current value.

In San Bernardino, the Stater Bros. Route 66 Rendezvous is the city's most important public event.

The annual rendezvous begins with a motorcade of classic cars that line the street's of downtown San Bernardino for the event's duration. Car enthusiasts gather to admire the restored machines and feast on bratwursts and other festival foods.

The event's 2011 iteration is scheduled for Sept. 15-18, and each year's show is worth $45 to $50 million to the city, a tourism booster said.

"The hotels still enjoy a real amount of push for that," said Wayne Austin, CEO of the San Bernardino Convention & Visitors Bureau. "What's really nice is we're going to get a lot of TV coverage."

Rancho Cucamonga is home to Route 66 Fountains and Garden Art, a business formerly known as Route 66 Memories.

As of Thursday, Owners Gilbert and Rosa Ramos were still in the process of moving their wares to a new location on Foothill Boulevard near its crossing with Helms Avenue. Much of the Route 66 themed memorabilia has yet to be placed on display, but the couple had a lot filled with statues, fountains, pottery and metal statues of ferocious animals like a shark and a leaping tiger.

Route 66 Fountain and Garden Art's sister business is Jurustic Garden Art, which sells sheet metal sculptures of dinosaurs, as well as creatures from the quaternary period.

Rosa Ramos started her fascination with Route 66 as a child in El Salvador. An American pen pal often sent her pictures of the road and when Ramos immigrated to the United States in 1981, one of the first things she wanted to do in her new country was to drive the length of the road.

She said she achieved that goal in 1983.

Going the distance from Santa Monica to Chicago in a Chevrolet Nova.

In the years since, she has encountered many customers from other countries who have stopped by her store while traveling Route 66 in search of the real America, she said.

"I want to go see the culture of the country. The history of the country," she said.

At the official level, Rancho Cucamonga Councilwoman Diane Williams has floated the possibility of Rancho Cucamonga following Glendora's lead and changing Foothill's name to Route 66.

That idea may end up being too difficult to pull off, she said. A name change would mean the U.S. Post Office would have to change addresses belonging to thousands of businesses.

But city official plan to pay tribute to Route 66 by erecting commemorative arches to the road over Foothill at the city's western and eastern ends.

Also, the city's project to replace to the Foothill Avenue bridge near Baker Avenue calls for a chunk of the original Route 66 bridge to be placed on display.

"We're of course trying to capitalize on anything we can do to have some fun with it," Williams said.

~Andrew Edwards,


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