Visiting the California Route 66 Museum
It’s long been my dream to travel the entire length of Route 66 but so far I have only visited it incrementally. Luckily, a good portion runs through California and I’ve enjoyed cruising it whenever possible. Recently, I was headed to Vegas for the weekend and decided to take it from Victorville to Barstow instead of highway 15 and my first stop was the California Route 66 Museum.
As often happens, my first inkling of the museum was a road sign along the freeway. Every time I traveled the 15 whether to Vegas or beyond I noticed it while driving through Victorville but never had a chance to stop. This trip I decided I would finally visit and soon enough I was checking the California Route 66 Museum off my “must see list.”
When I entered the museum my immediate thought was, “wow!” Nearly every square inch was covered with artifacts and memorabilia devoted to the mother road. Immediately, I knew it was my kind of place and started perusing all the fun items on display.
While I was looking around I was greeted by Lou, a friendly docent. I’ve previously mentioned that docents at small museums are especially knowledgeable about their artifacts and Lou was no exception. He caught me looking at a portable TV set and informed me it was actually his family’s set! He explained how it worked and described his childhood watching TV on its tiny frame.
He was such a joy to talk to that I gladly followed him to to the museum’s piece de resistance – an original Model T parked at a Route 66 gas station replica.
He taught me all about the Model T and showed me just how early travelers drove it around the country. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy! There are multiple pedals and handles leaving the driver little options to actually steer the thing. It turns out you steer with your thighs! Driving has sure come a long way.
I loved seeing the Model T but I especially loved sitting in it. That’s one of the best things about the museum – there are several exhibits that are interactive and visitors are welcome get inside for fun photo ops. Lou happily took my picture and sent me on my way to explore the rest of the museum on my own.
Since it’s located in Victorville much of the museum is devoted to the local portion of the highway and I learned that at one time it was quite a wonderland. There were roadside attractions like Mahan’s Half Acre and restaurants like the Red Log that were sure to keep travelers entertained and fed.
Route 66 was quite something in its heyday and I’m glad the California Route 66 Museum is keeping the memories alive…and reminding folks that the highway is still around and worth visiting. After I left i did just that I had fun antiquing in the community of Oro Grande and stopping by Elmer’s Bottle Tree Village.
Elmer’s Bottle Tree Village is a wonderful example of outsider art located smack dab in the middle of nowhere. As you drive down the road you’ll suddenly come upon a forest of of metal trees outfitted with colorful glass bottles and found objects.
It’s a true wonderland created by Elmer Long who sadly passed away in 2019. Though he’s gone his ranch survives and is open to visitors. Unfortunately, I came upon it when it was closed but I was still able to observe much off it through the fence.
I’m so happy I finally took the time to stop at the California Route 66 Museum and take a little detour along the highway itself. Highway 15 is largely known as a boring drive through the middle of nowhere but when you get off it and take the backroads you’ll discover a world of unique spots that are right there waiting for you to visit.