Sometimes Pat and I get the travel bug,
so we stock up the Lazy Daze motorhome, and get out on the highway. For
this trip, we’ll tell you how to: Get Your Kicks on Route 66!
Written by Bobby Troup and recorded
dozens of times, Route 66 has inspired travelers from all over the world
to explore the legendary “Mother Road”. The lyrics “Wind from Chicago
to L.A.”, but being in Southern California already, we’ll go the other
direction, and select some appropriate tunes for entertainment along the
When Veronica Plays Her Harmonica (down
on the beach at Santa Monica). A song I heard on Dr. Demento several
times, and probably on earlier radio shows. The traditional end of
Route 66 is on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, but the official
end is a few blocks inland.
I Just Wanta Have Fun (until the sun come
up over Santa Monica Boulevard). Now designated State Highway 2, Santa
Monica Blvd runs through its namesake town, Beverly Hills, West
Hollywood and the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. One landmark near
La Brea Ave. is the Formosa Cafe, part of which is a retired Pacific
Electric trolley car body. It was a location in the movie “LA
Confidential”. I first heard the song for this street, recorded by
Sheryl Crowe, while driving through, of all places, Connecticut, going
from one trolley museum to another. I bought her CD at a record shop in
Boston’s North Station.
I Love L.A. by Randy Newman. Not quite
the same as I Left My Heart in San Francisco, but to many, this is the
unofficial Anthem of Angeltown.
Los Angeles, How We Love You by The
Zanies, is a more obscure salute to our metropolitan area. Note that
for the first ten years or so, Route 66 ended at 7th and Broadway in
downtown L.A. In those days it was a major crossing for the LA Railway
narrow gauge streetcar lines, and it still has heavy bus traffic.
Everything’s Coming up Roses, for that
section of 66 that ran on Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena. The Tournament of
Roses sees this street come alive with mind-boggling floral creations,
ground-shaking marching bands, and equestrians reminding us of long-ago
days in California.
The Bird, by the Pomona College Sagehen
Band. We leave Los Angeles County at Claremont, home of Pomona College
and several other institutions of higher learning. We’ll follow
Foothill Blvd on east to San Bernardino.
King of the Surf Guitar by Dick Dale,
with vocal by The Blossoms, which mentions San Bernardino. “San Berdoo”
used to be the home of the Santa Fe Railway “back shop” where
locomotives could be given “frame up” overhauls. Even units that had
suffered heavy wreck damage could be straightened out, rebuilt and put
back into service. The shops are gone now, but the smokestack from the
old steam plant stands as a relic of those days. After going east from
LA, we now turn north and ascend the Cajon Pass grade. There are still
some pieces of 66 here, but the old road finally dead-ends at an
embankment, so we have to take I-15.
Old Trails, by Adam Marsland’s Chaos
Band. Once we get over Cajon Pass on I-15, we follow it to Victorville,
where the old road parallels the BNSF Railway. This section is part of
the National Old Trails highway, which predated numbered routes. The
Edison power line which parallels the road and feeds the hamlets between
Victorville to Barstow is the “Old Trails 33KV” circuit. We even have a
song for the “Mother of the Mother Road”: Old Trails one of my favorite
Adam Marsland compositions.
Barstool Cowboy from Old Barstow by Spike
Jones and his City Slickers. A very rare recording by the “Master of
Musical Mayhem”, heard on (where else?) the Dr. Demento Show. Barstow
is a major junction point for rails and roads. Santa Fe (now BNSF) has
a big yard and locomotive servicing facility here, and folks heading for
Las Vegas branch off to the northeast. We’ll be heading east on I-40,
because the section of 66 east of Barstow runs through a US Marine Corps
base (not where they do amphibious landing drills). At Daggett, we can
pick up the old road, and follow the Santa Fe some more. We’ll see some
of the Edison power facilities at Coolwater and then head into the
desert, but we’ll have to get back on I-40 when 66 dead-ends again.
Ludlow 6:18 by Adam Marsland. Ludlow is
a wide spot in the road with gas stations, a motel, and a restaurant
which may or may not be open. Here we can take a side road to “Old
Ludlow” which is almost a ghost town, and find the ruins of the Tonopah
& Tidewater Railroad, which once headed north from here to the gold
mines of Nevada. The T&T finally gave up around 1940, and the rail was
salvaged for military base yard tracks. From here we can follow the
Santa Fe all the way to Needles, passing through such hamlets as Amboy
On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe,
from the MGM film The Harvey Girls. Whole books have been written about
how Fred Harvey established dining rooms in major Santa Fe Railway
stations in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. His waitresses were
wholesome young women who were carefully watched over by female
supervisors as they brought as touch of civilization to the Wild West.
Take It Easy by the Eagles. “Standin’ on
a corner in Winslow Arizona” has become a “must do” in many music-loving
tourists’ trips along Route 66. There’s even a statue of a young man
with a guitar, just waiting for visitors to take photos. On another
corner is a souvenir shop, where I bought my copy of the “Eagles’
Greatest Hits”. Winslow is also the home of La Posada, one of the last
of the “Harvey Houses”, where travelers can sleep in an historic inn and
watch the trains go by. One can even get there by train, since Amtrak’s
Southwest Chief stops here every day.
Two Gun Harry from Tucumcari by Dorothy
Shay. I was looking for a song about New Mexico, and found this on
CDNow. Haven’t heard it, not even on Dr. Demento but thought I’d throw
it into the mix. Tucumcari is where the Rock Island Line diverged, one
track heading for Amarillo TX, the other one going northeast to Dalhart,
Texas. At Santa Rosa NM, we started to follow what’s now a Union
Pacific line, and it uses the Rock Island route to get to Kansas City.
The line to Amarillo and points east is mostly abandoned, and we’ll see
old embankments and almost-ghost towns along I-40.
Rock Island Line by Leadbelly, Lonnie
Donegan and Stan Freberg. Dating back to the 1930’s, this song
memorializes the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific, which finally gave up
the corporate ghost in 1980. Although the song mentions New Orleans, it
never went there (but the Wabash Cannonball never went to Minnesota,
either). Sections of it remain in service, including a busy pair of
commuter lines between Joliet (for all you Blues Brothers fans) and
Amarillo by Morning by George Strait. A
more modern country song, it remind me of the time I was heading home on
the Greyhound bus between St. Louis and Albuquerque in 1977 (The “Dog
Tired Tour”) and we had a rest stop at Amarillo around 2 AM. A bit on
the “bleak” side, but at least I had a ticket that was good all the way
Deep in the Heart of Texas. I think this
song came out in the 1940’s. It has an “audience participation” element
in that folks are expected to clap their hands at certain points in the
music. I read somewhere that during World War II, it had to be deleted
from the playlists of background music services because of its effect on
production. Workers would stop what they were doing to “clap along”.
There’s a parody titled Deep in the Heart of Jersey, with a line “The
air in June, ain’t like perfume/Deep in the Heart of Jersey.”
A relic road: former US 66 pavement west of Shamrock Texas. The RV park
we stayed on the
eastbound portion of our coast-to-coast trip.
Boris the Spider, by the Who. The RV park
near Shamrock TX was part of the Good Sam network and had an OK rating,
but it wasn’t graded for creepy crawly critters. It had way too many
tarantulas and other wee wildlife for Pat’s taste. It did get extra
points from “roads scholars” by being located on a frontage road that’s
a section of original Route 66 narrow concrete
Oklahoma! Now for our big production
number! Quiet on the set! Lights! Camera! ACTION! All singing! All
dancing! Oklahoma! was one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s biggest hits
of the musical stage and then on the silver screen. (but the movie
location work was done in Arizona)
She Caught the Katy (and left me a mule
to ride). A song made famous by the Blues Brothers, it celebrates the
now-vanished Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway (M-K-T, think of the last two
letters). One relic that’s still in use is the former MKT depot in Elk
City OK, which is now “Ed’s Katy Diner”. One of the advantages of RV
travel is that one doesn’t have to worry about where to have lunch—it’s
anywhere you can pull off the road and open the fridge. But sometimes
it fun to take a break and try a unique eating place like this one.
We’re going to take a break here, pull
into the campground, set the brakes, connect to the hookups and kick
back for a while. But look for the next chapter in two or three months.
Keep the shiny side up and the dirty side
down. Remember the Golden Rule of Railroad Grade Crossings: If you race
a train and it's a tie, YOU LOSE!