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Route 66 With Nissan, Day Seven: Needles, CA to Santa Monica, CA

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Route 66 with Nissan, Day One: From Chicago to Cuba

Route 66 with Nissan, Day Two: From Cuba to Tulsa

Route 66 with Nissan, Day Three: From Tulsa to Amarillo

Route 66 with Nissan, Day Four: From Amarillo to Albuquerque

Route 66 with Nissan, Day Five: From Albuquerque to Flagstaff

Route 66 with Nissan, Day Six: From Flagstaff to Needles

See also: The History of Route 66, the Mother Road of America

It’s a wrap, after seven days, for our westward crossing of Route 66 with Nissan. It was an amazing journey, but the first recommendation I’d give to anyone considering driving it is, don’t do it in seven days. There are quite simply too many things to see and places to visit. Still, for those of us fortunate enough to be working at something we love, these are the restrictions of the job we’re glad to accept.

Here then is an overview of our last day on the journey that took us ultimately to Santa Monica, California. Stay tuned on Auto123 during the month of December as we present galleries of some of the more memorable stops made on this mad trek across the western half of the USA.

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1 — Roy’s Motel Cafe

Photo: D.Rufiange

In 1938, Roy Crowl opened a gas station on Route 66 in the town of Amboy. Two years later, he and his brother added a café, then a garage for automotive repairs and cabins in travelers could stay. But like so many other locations along the route, the town died virtually overnight once Highway 40 was completed. In this section that was in 1977.

From then on, people no longer had a reason to go through Amboy. From a population of around 700 in the 1950s, the town has shrunk to just… one resident, who maintains the buildings.

That resident works on maintaining the place because a saviour has bought the town with the idea of restoring it and attracting tourists. We tip our hats…

Photo: D.Rufiange

2 — Bagdad Cafe

Photo: D.Rufiange

The 1987 film Bagdad Café, though a German production, is set in the town of Bagdad, California, in the heart of the Mohave desert. What many don’t know, even those who saw the movie, is that the town of Bagdad, like Amboy, lost its population in 1973 when the local section of Highway 40 was completed.

In this case, all of the town’s buildings were razed; when the film’s makers wanted to shoot, impossible to do it there. Instead, shooting took place about 80- km away, in Newberry Spring. The Sidewinder Café in that town graciously accepted to be temporarily renamed the Bagdad Cafe. But the signage stayed on after the filming ceased, the cafe’s owners likely smelling a business opportunity in making it a tourist attraction.

Unfortunately the place is rather run down today.

3 — End of the road for Route 66… and for us

Photo: D.Rufiange

On the pier at Santa Monica is posted a sign designating the end of Route 66. The sign is merely symbolic, of course, meant to imply that only the ocean can put an end to the route. The official finish line is actually at the corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Olympic Street. Back in the day, a sign instructed drivers to turn left to get to the Ocean. 

At the corner of Lincoln and Olympic, you also find the famous Mel’s Diner, the ideal spot to enjoy a hearty meal and soak in the atmosphere of those decades past.

Photo: D.Rufiange
Photo: D.Rufiange

4 — The arrival

Photo: D.Rufiange

From the photo included here you can see that, to get to the end of Route 66, you pass through the city of Los Angeles and follow the signs for Santa Monica. After all those miles on the road, crossing the continent, it’s a strange feeling to know you’re nearing the end.

Then, when you stand in front of the sign declaring you’re at the end of the road, it’s hard not to think of Forrest Gump. Having arrived at the ocean after running across America, his overwhelming desire is to go back to the start and do it all over again.

Photo: D.Rufiange

For me personally, there will a third trip on Route 66, and possibly even a fourth. I can’t say when. But I’m pleased that this year I joined the ranks of those who have driven its length more than once. That I’ve done so twice, and want to do it again, tells you about the experiences that await those who head out to get their kicks on Route 66.

I recommend adding it to your bucket list, if it isn’t already on there.

Photo: D.Rufiange
Photo: D.Rufiange