Friday, March 6, 2015

CLASSIC TRIP - Route 66 - Part 1

Note: This story was originally written in 2002...I've tried to update the information to 2010 where applicable.

This is a very low key trip, yet it is connected very well with some very major tourist destinations. It's served by excellent, accessible public transportation yet you will be hard pressed to find other tourists while you're here. You'll find yourself on possibly the most famous...and fabled...highway on earth but you won't feel you're at a tourist mecca.

Route 66 of course is that fabled route to California from Chicago made famous by the likes of John Steinbeck and Bobby Troup. Although the highway was decommissioned, hundreds of miles of it still exist.

One stretch that almost no one talks about any more is the part that winds its way though San Bernardino County into the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. The past icons along this stretch are quickly succumbing to encroaching suburbia, but there is still much to see and do here.
Winter Warm-up Event: Savings are Hot!

There are three areas of lodging that are particularly good here, depending on what's important to you. Staying in the lovely little college town of Claremont gives you superb access to the area's transporation grid...even if it is a bit out of the way. It's also close to our hiking area, noted below.

Staying in Pasadena puts you right in the thick of things and gives you great transit access via the Metro Gold Line. You'd probably want to avoid it around New Year's day unless you're doing the Rose Bowl or the parade.

The third choice is my choice for the best compromise. There is a hotel/restaurant row right on the border of Arcadia and Monrovia that gives you great affordable lodging in a good neighborhood with a very short walk to dozens of good restaurants.

For lodging, you have budget (Oak Tree Inn), midrange (Springhill Suites, Hilton Garden Inn), and upscale (DoubletreeEmbassy Suites) to name but just a few. All the hotels in this area are newer and have good handicapped rooms.

You can fly to Ontario, Burbank, or LAX to get here. Ontario or Burbank would be best.

OK, on to the report...

Day 1

Since this is our hometown, we are going to have to imagine some of the following, but...apart from staying in the hotels...all of this actually happened.

The Springhill Suites is located just east of Santa Anita Racetrack n Arcadia.  We sleep in a bit, wanting to shake off travel fatigue. Just up the street from the hotel, we indulge in an early lunch at BJ's Pizza, Grill, & Brewhouse just west of the hotel. There are so many restaurants here that the only problem will be choosing which ones to eat at.

I have a superb french dip sandwich, my wife has a pot roast sandwich, and Tim has a BJ's burger. It goes very well with BJ's own beer and cider. For three people, it's less than $25.

After lunch, the Foothill Transit route 187 bus (the 187 traces mostly along Historical Route 66 from Colorado Bl. in Pasadena to Foothill Bl. in Claremont) picks us up across the street and drops us off a minute later at Santa Anita Racetrack (for those up to it, it's about a quarter mile walk from restaurant row to the track). We enter the back entrance which leads into the infield and spend the afternoon watching the ponies and trying not to lose all of our money. We actually end up about forty dollars ahead. (Santa Anita has live racing in October and from late December through is pretty much open all year for sattelite wagering)

One note here, although we had a lot of fun and met some wonderful people who work at the track, we did go up to the clubhouse restaurant (we had clubhouse passes) for drinks and ran into the rudest people who work there. After receiving very poor service and attitude, we left before ordering anything and returned to the friendlier confines back at ground level.

After the races, we returned to the hotel and had dinner at the Claim Jumper, just half a block east of BJ's. Priced moderately to expensive, you get three meals worth of food for each order. You could very easily split something, or take leftovers if you have a place to store it and heat it up.  Even better is their monday through Thursday happy hour where a pizza costs just $3.  It's all very tasty...and filling!

Day 2

Wanting to exercise some of those Claim Jumper calories off, we again board Foothill Transit's 187 line heading east right in front of the hotel. In Claremont, it's an easy transfer to Foothill's line 292 at Mountain Avenue and Foothill Bl. The 292 drops us off at Baseline and Mountain and we walk three blocks west to the Thompson Creek Trail.

This trail, owned and maintained by the City of Claremont, is a very wheelchair friendly paved path that traces the edge of civilization. On one side are the tract homes of Claremont...which progress from humble bungalows to stately mansions at the end of the trail...on the other is mostly wild area, scrubby chaparral.

Thompson Creek is really a concrete lined drainage ditch, but other than that, the scenery is wonderful. My wife, ever the bird watcher, pointed out hundreds of Cedar Waxwings, a Flicker, dozens of Robins, warblers, and the occasional hawk or eagle. I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye and stopped. Up on a ridge about 100 yards away sat a family of four deer keeping a wary eye on our progress. The two mile trail (four miles round-trip) ends up in a brushy field in the shadow of Mount Baldy. Another more primitive trail starts just north of this one. We'll save that for another trip.

Retracing our way back, the 187 westbound takes us to a true Route 66 treasure, Pinnacle Peak in San Dimas. On the menu here are big, juicy, cowboy steaks cooked over hardwood charcoal served with beans and bread. What's not on the menu here are ties. Thousands of forbidden ties hang from the rafters. They are cut off the offending owner's neck and strung up. If you do wear a tie to dinner here, just to add to the collection, be aware that they have a big ceremony where everybody in the place stops what they're doing just to see your tie get sliced. That's the voice of experience talking there...

Day 3

Today we want to expand our horizons a little. After breakfast, we take the 187 west to the the Sierra Madre Villa terminus of the Gold Line.  If you stayed in Claremont or Montclair, you would have easier access to Metrolink but be farther away with less amenities...the choice is yours.

First, a word about tickets. Metro offers no transfers, so get a day pass instead of a single ticket. We ride the Gold Line into Los Angeles where we get off at Union Station and take the elevator downstairs to the Metro Red Line.  The North Hollywood bound train takes us to the Hollywood and Highland Station. Upstairs is the Hollywood and Highland complex which includes a shopping center with great views of the Hollywood sign, restaurants ranging from hot dogs to very expensive sit down dinners, the Kodak Theater (home of the Academy Awards), and the Chinese Theater...a true Hollywood landmark.

We grab a couple of hot dogs and compare shoe sizes with the stars in the forecourt of the Chinese Theater. The shopping center has great access from the subway and is nice if a little bland. It does make a big improvement to a very nasty neighborhood. That's a big step in the right direction.

Back downstairs, the Red Line continues on. The next stop in Universal City.

At that stop, we cross the street to catch a shuttle up the hill to Universal Studios. The shuttle pulls up's not accessible. No problem, the driver radios up the hill and a lift-equipped van is dispatched to pick us up (you don't want to walk up this steep hill in a wheelchair...even if you're up to the challenge, the curb cuts stop half-way up, forcing you into a very busy street).

Universal Studios is a lot of fun. We take the studio tour, see the Backdraft special effects walk-through, ride Jurassic Park, and see the Waterworld stunt show. In between, we have a few beers at Mulligan's Pub and then out from the pub to see Terminator 3-D across the way. Afterwards, we have a nice dinner at Karl Strauss Brewery and Gardens at the adjacent CityWalk. The Red Line takes us back to Union Station where we catch the Gold Line back to Pasadena and take the 187 back to the hotel.

Stay tuned for part 2, the finale.

Copyright 2002 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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