Sandi Wheaton's photographic journey from Chicago to LA with a Jeep, an Aliner trailer and a bunch of cameras

End of the Road, part deux

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

posing at the sign at the corner of Ocean and Santa Monica (this is NOT the official end of Route 66, nor is it the sign I am writing about)

posing at the sign at the corner of Ocean and Santa Monica (this is NOT the official end of Route 66, nor is it the sign I am writing about)

On Wednesday there was a big Route 66 event on Santa Monica Pier.  I had every intention of being there but in the end I didn’t make it (more on why in an upcoming post).  Fortunately, a lot of media did make it – so here are a couple of links sent to me by readers (I think there are many more if you care to do a Google search):

AOL Travel

MSNBC (video)

New York Times

In a nutshell, Route 66 ends at Santa Monica, CA.  The exact end point has changed since 1926 and there is a bit of confusion, and definitely some difference of opinions, on the subject.  Originally, Route 66 ended at Broadway and Seventh St. in downtown LA.  Later, in 1936, it was extended to the corner of Olympic and Lincoln in Santa Monica, which remained its official end until last week.  This is a nondescript corner a few blocks from Santa Monica Pier, which makes for a very anticlimactic ending after 2400+ miles on the road – especially when you know the Pacific Ocean is so close by.  After such a long journey, the pier (and the ocean it leads over) feels like a far more “complete” ending for those who travel Route 66.  So, even though it wasn’t official, most people just said that the Route ends at Santa Monica Pier.

Dan Rice, owner, 66-to-Cali

Dan Rice, owner, 66 to Cali

On Wednesday, the 83rd anniversary of Route 66, all that changed.  The Route 66 Alliance declared the official end to Route 66 is now Santa Monica Pier, and a brand new “End of the Trail” sign was unveiled at the pier.  The sign is a replica of one that was a movie prop years ago, and was left near the pier for quite some time until it vanished.  Now that same sign will greet tourists and mark the end of Route 66, right on Santa Monica Pier.  Some purists take issue with this realignment, but I do think it will be be nice to have it end on the actual pier, since that is where most travelers end up anyway – especially now that Dan Rice and his “66 to Cali” booth are right there as well.

Jane posing next to the 66 to Cali kiosk

Jane posing next to the 66 to Cali kiosk

Dan’s kiosk on the pier is his response to discovering during his Route 66 trip that there were no American-made Route 66 T-shirts available.  He felt that an iconic American road like Route 66 needed high-quality, American-designed, American-produced T-shirts for its travelers – so he opened his kiosk on the pier.  (Actually it’s about more than just T-shirts for Dan… it’s about promoting Route 66, getting the younger generations to take interest and travel the road to bring business back to the Route, and the whole rejuvenate-the-economy-with-American-made-products thing… but currently it’s manifested with a great T-shirt and souvenir stand on the pier.)  Dan welcomes those ending the road here, and he’ll often stay late when he knows travelers are making their last push to the pier into the night.  Had I fully understood this man’s dedication to Route 66 travelers, I would have told him to stay open when I arrived at 9:30pm!

When I returned to LA after the Windsor smash-up, I met up with a lovely woman named Jane who reads my blog.  She showed me the Ballona Wetlands in LA (one of the causes Jane is passionate about – I didn’t even know they were there!  Thanks, Jane), treated me to lunch on Venice Beach, and then the two of us hit Santa Monica Pier to visit the 66 to Cali kiosk.  Not only does Dan have great T-shirts, but he’s just this amazing ball of positive energy.  When I arrived, after a warm greeting, he immediately challenged my assertion in a previous blog post that my campsite at El Malpais in New Mexico was the “best office ever”.  He gleefully threw open the door behind him and revealed his office view: the Pacific Ocean – nice!  Good point, Dan.

Jeff Gardner, producer, "Empty"

Jeff Gardner, producer of the documentary "Empty", in the mini car he's driven across the country

Dan is from Michigan so he knows all about the job loss thing.  Incredibly, when we got to the kiosk, yet another Canadian documenting a road trip across America in response to the current economic downturn was chatting with Dan.  Jeff Gardner is traveling the country in this tiny car with a documentary film crew in tow.  His project is called “Empty” and focuses on a return to American (and Canadian) made products to help our countries flourish again.  Jeff’s blog about the tour can be seen here.

Jeff is from Oshawa, Ontario – home of the Canadian headquarters for General Motors, a place where I also used to work.  We talked about our projects, sat in the car for photos, and Jeff started listing off the celebrities who have also been photographed in this small car.  My degrees of separation to George Clooney apparently just shrank to one!  Sweet!

in Jeff's mini-car... he drove this thing through snow, no top!

Jeff drove this thing through snow, with no top!

And now, I must go shrink the degrees of separation between me and Canada.  I am hoofing it back home for an important meeting on Friday.  That’s where I’ve been the past few days, in the Jeep, driving many hours a day… so it’s time to hit the road again – only this time it’s the “Superslab” (interstate).  Looking forward to catching up with the Burners in OKC tonight!


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