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Get Your Kicks On Route 66 (May 16th 2019)

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"Prends ton pied sur la Route 66" comme diraient les Rolling Stones !

After our night in Las Vegas, we’ll be driving along Route 66 to reach the City of Angels!

The day starts around 6.30 a.m. for me, and around 8 a.m. for Sarah. The last few days have been rich in discoveries, but we’ve also done a lot of driving, and we’re getting tired. At this point, we’ve already covered over 1,000 miles with our rental Mitsubishi, and the road is far from over. I take advantage of this early-morning wake-up call to finish yesterday’s blog post and gather my things before setting off again for new adventures… on the “Mother Road“!

Breakfast in a tiny room

We’re having breakfast at the hotel, in a small room that’s already packed to the rafters with CNN running on a loop. Surprisingly for a hotel of this size, there isn’t much choice. But I find plenty to satisfy me, and Sarah too. We gobble up bananas, bagels, cream cheese, banana and muffins.

Departure from Sin City

Then it’s off to Route 66. We leave Las Vegas with a sense of relief, although we’re not sorry we came – we were beginning to suffocate. The skyscrapers of Sin City gradually shrink in the rear-view mirror as we pass the suburbs where many of the people who work in the skyline’s buildings probably live. As we make our way along Interstate 15, we find ourselves back in the now-familiar desert.

Peggy Sue 50’s Diner


After 2.5 hours of driving along old Route 66, we stop for a bite to eat in the small town of Yermo, in San Bernardino County. We chose to eat at Peggy Sue 50’s Diner, which we’d seen advertised on the driveway. I would later learn, while researching this iconic place, that Peggy Sue, the owner, buys a new billboard every three years.

The Diner-Saur Park

Even before entering the restaurant’s parking lot, we notice the gigantic dinosaurs in the park and immediately think of our oldest daughter, fascinated by these big lizards. Once the car is parked next to a huge camper van, we start by visiting the park at the back of the restaurant and can admire the pond next to which a sign reads “Welcome to Diner-Saur Park, Please Do Not Touch the Turtles“.

We soon spot the real-life turtles alongside fictional ones, a baby alligator and giant dinosaurs. Underneath the stegosaurus is a note saying “Do Not Feed True Diner-Saurs“. In all, three dinosaur species (spinosaurus, brachiosaurus, stegosaurus) and King Kong are represented.

The acrobat

In the middle of the pond, on a small patch of land, a man can be seen climbing trees. Of course, it’s a mannequin. In the same park, the men’s toilets are hidden behind a jukebox-shaped facade. The park is beautiful and quiet, but our stomachs are calling us to order.

A history of artists

We enter through the main entrance, also shaped like a giant jukebox. At the entrance, a luminous sign, like those found in front of cinemas, reminds us of the owners’ past as actors. On our left is the gift store, while on the right, the restaurant awaits us.

The gift store

We start by visiting the boutique, which is reminiscent of a “curious shop“. These are stores where you can find all sorts of souvenirs and unusual objects. Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Betty Boop, but also more recent brands such as Disney, Star Wars and Coca Cola, to name but a few, are represented here. You’ll find lunch boxes, t-shirts, figurines, games, plush toys, handbags and lots of goodies. It’s hard not to find what you’re looking for. I treat myself to an American flag patch.

The yellow line

Our shopping done, we return to the reception desk to move on to the restaurant side. It’s now up to us to find a free table. It’s quite simple: just follow the yellow line on the floor to navigate the restaurant. The various rooms of the establishment are occupied by tables of various sizes, as well as a jukebox, life-size statues of Betty Boop, Elvis and other well-known characters. On the walls are numerous framed photos, posters and newspaper brochures. The King’s music plays through the speakers.

She’s been working here since I was born

This building, located near old Route 66, exudes the spirit of the ’50s. The waitresses are dressed in period garb, patterned green with a touch of pink. Most of them have been here a long time: their year of arrival is written on their badge. The one serving us has 1989 inscribed on her chest. We settle down at a table next to one of the Elvis replicas.

Interesting and surprising names

The pink menu features dishes that seem to come from another era. Menus bear names like “Tarzan of the Jungle Salads“, “Love Letters in the Sandwiches“, “Oh Boy! Omelettes“, or “King Kong Monster Burger“. It also mentions the diner’s history, which dates back to 1954.

Owned since 1987

It was built with railroad ties from the nearby Union Pacific Rail station. Peggy Sue and her husband Champ arrived from Southern California in 1981. They bought and reopened the restaurant in 1987. One of their priorities was to restore it to its original condition. Before moving to the desert in 1981, Champ had worked for Knott’s Berry Farm. Peggy, meanwhile, was in the movie business. The diner was the perfect place to display their vast collection of film and TV memorabilia.

Family recipes

To complement the warm atmosphere of the diner, they wanted good home-cooked food and good 50s music. They started by using family recipes handed down from the owner’s grandmothers. Gradually, with the support of locals, truck drivers, military personnel and tourists, the restaurant grew in popularity. Peggy and her husband soon ran out of space and had to expand the establishment.

A good American meal

We order a Tina Turner – tuna sandwich, house potato salad and coleslaw – for Sarah, and the house burger – with curly fries and coleslaw – for me.

A group of French friends settle in at the round table next to ours. Elvis and his guitar separate us, but I can hear their conversations and criticisms of the food served. Anyway, Sarah and I are in for a treat! For dessert, she chooses an apple pie (the American Pie) while I opt for a cherry milkshake, a dessert that reminds me of 50s diners, so it’s the perfect place to have one. When it arrives, I’m pleasantly surprised: the dessert is served with a shaker containing the rest of the preparation.

When we’ve finished – we’re definitely full – we pay at the counter, thank the waitress and set off again.

Calico, the ghost town off Route 66

We’d planned to stop off in the ghost town of Calico, but it starts raining cats and dogs just as we get to the hill with the giant letters CALICO. Yes, we’ve got rain… in the middle of the desert!

Barstow and Barstow Station

We turn around and head for Barstow, where there’s a rather special fast-food restaurant. It’s an old station – Barstow Station – which has been refurbished. A McDonald’s has taken over the premises. It is spread over a portion of the central building and no less than six carriages. As you’d expect, we don’t stop for a bite to eat, as our excellent meal at Peggy Sue 50’s Diner has not yet been digested. We get back on the road, a stretch of the old Route 66 to be precise.

We’re driving on Route 66!

Yes, at last we can drive on the Mother Road. Not for long, but it’s something. On Route 66, which runs alongside the railroad – which is still active – we pass two trains, one in the colors of the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF).

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, on Route 66

Half an hour after leaving Barstow, we stumble across the famous 24266 National Trails Highway, Oro Grande. It’s Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch. The stop wasn’t planned, but the it is well worth the detour, at least for a short visit.

The owner is Elmer Long, a local artist who imagined the place with his wife in the early 2000s. Not only are there numerous objects salvaged here and there from Route 66, such as tires, old toys, advertising signs and billboards, a motorcycle carcass, a typewriter, a Jeep, a boat, a giant stuffed animal and musical instruments. But most important of all is the large collection of glass bottles stuck to the branches of the many metal trees that seem to grow all over the property. Sadly, Elmer will die a month later, on June 22.

We get back on the road before coming across another site that catches our curiosity, again in Oro Grande. Two Lincolns, a speedboat, two fire engines, a limousine and several other vehicles seem to have been abandoned here. We take a few photos, but don’t linger any longer than necessary.

Shelley’s Shop Around the Corner, along Route 66

We climb back into the Mitsubishi for a few minutes and, as another train passes by, we stop in front of another antique store: Shelley’s Shop Around the Corner. We walk around the building, take a few photos and notice the old Volkswagen Combi sitting there. Before we set off again, the county sheriff’s car pulls up in front of us, and an imposing man gets out to greet the owner.

Off to L.A.!

We’re back on Route 66, and for good this time. Direction: Los Angeles. Sarah falls asleep for a while. Traffic flows smoothly for many miles, but becomes heavier as we approach the City of Angels. And it’s only 3:30 pm. We head straight for our hotel on Huntington Beach.

Huntington Beach

We park the car and check in. Our room isn’t much to look at, but it’ll do, and from the window we can see the Pacific Ocean – priceless in my book! As Sarah unpack her suitcase, I consulte my computer to find out where Foose’s company, featured on TV’s Overhaulin’, is located. I hadn’t particularly imagined checking this place out when booking a hotel in Huntington Beach, but now that we’re there, why not give it a try?

Chip Foose’s

A few minutes before 7 p.m., we park on Sampson Ln, next to a fence on which a sign in the Foose colors reads “No Parking in the Driveway“, and behind which an oval logo proudly displays the Chip Foose brand. Unfortunately, it’s too late to hope for a tour of the premises, but that’s not why we’re here, and a few photos are enough to satisfy my enthusiasm. The well-known Foose logo is everywhere, even on the mailbox lock. We take the time to look around and spot a few cars that deserve a little tender loving care. A few blocks away, we come face to face with the Overhaulin’ partner body shop: Lanzini Body Works.

Huntington Beach Pier

We don’t linger any longer and park a little further on to take full advantage of Huntington Beach Pier, the 564-metre-long pier – the largest on the US West Coast – at the end of which is Ruby’s Diner, also known as the Surf City Diner.

At the back of the Diner, a commemorative plaque quotes “The oceans can bring people of all faiths together…” and I totally agree. It’s very windy – more so than at Dante’s View – and we notice that the place looks a lot like Santa Monica. Nevertheless, it seems less touristy. It’s sunset time and I take the opportunity to take a series of shots. The colors are sublime, whether along the pier or on the beach where the volleyball nets are permanently installed. In fact, on the beach near the jetty, a small crew is filming and interviewing two people. The spot is ideal for sunset filming. With the sun finally out for the day, we head off to a Japanese restaurant for some original American sushi.

Sushi in Huntington Beach

The name of the establishment – Tsunami Sushi – isn’t very reassuring when you know you’re going to spend the night in an oceanfront hotel. I’m disappointed by the sushi, too far from common sushi for me, but it suits Sarah well and that’s the main thing – she was the one who insisted on Japanese food. And remember, I’m always in the “happy wife, happy life” frame of mind.

Back in our hotel room, we’re fast asleep. Today, we’ve walked (only) 4.4 miles and driven a distance of 311 miles.