End of Trail: Historic Route 66 and the Santa Monica Pier
A couple of things you will notice on the Santa Monica Pier is a Route 66 road sign with the words End of the Trail underneath it, and a decided Route 66 them among the gift shops on the pier. You can buy any type of Route 66 souvenirs that you could imagine. One souvenir shop is an old Airstream Trailer.
The Route 66 End of the Trail sign is right at the point where the portion of the pier over land ends and the portion over water begins. You won’t have any trouble spotting the sign, but it’s also located right beside Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co Restaurant. However, Route 66 never made it that far!
Route 66 was one of the original highways in the original U.S. Highway System. It was established November 11, 1926 and it ran from Chicago though Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before finally winding up in downtown Los Angeles. Parts of it were initially unpaved and parts were referred to as a “sidewalk highway” due to only being the width of a city sidewalk! Obviously there was a lot less traffic back then!
In 1936 Route 66 was extended from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica. However it stopped at the intersection of Olympic and Lincoln Blvd, several blocks short of the pier.
Route 66 became quite famous in American folklore both due to the role it played in the development of businesses along the route… quite needed during the depression and its role in several Hollywood productions. Perhaps the best know of these was the sixties television series, Route 66, that revolved around two friends driving the highway in a Corvette convertible and managing to find trouble wherever they stopped along the way. Although, here again we find the legend of Route 66 and the reality part. Very little of this series was actually filmed along the old highway. It was also featured in the classic novel The Grapes of Wrath and the subject of a popular song, Get Your Kicks on Route 66.
Route 66 was in a state of constant change from the time it was commissioned. The route was modified several times. Finally in 1985 it was officially removed from the US Highway System. Some portions of the original road remain. In California, signs recognition portions of the old Route 66 can be found along Foothill Blvd in Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto and San Bernardino. Along Colorado Blvd in Pasadena, San Dimas, and La Verne there are also a number of signs reading “Historic Route 66.”
Most notably, the Arroyo Seco Parkway in Los Angeles has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today it is the 110 Freeway which to the south is known as the Harbor Freeway and on the northern end the Pasadena Freeway. The section now known as the Pasadena Freeway is the Arroyo Seco Parkway. It was a part of the old Route 66 and the first freeway built in the western United States. If you get the chance to drive on it, you will notice a decidedly different construction in the road and the architecture of the art deco bridges and tunnels.
That all said, now that you are at the end of the trail on the Santa Monica Pier, take some time to have fun. There is plenty to do on the pier and the Santa Monica State Beach to keep you amused for a long time!
See more photos after the break…