No road has ever held more appeal for more motorists than the legendary U.S. Highway 66, commonly known as Route 66. And rightly so – it was the first continuous paved highway connecting Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. About 320 miles of its total 2,400-mile length runs through the Golden State, and a great place to learn about this fascinating highway is at the Route 66 Mother Road Museum in Barstow.
Stuffed with historic photographs, artifacts, books, and souvenirs related to Route 66 and nearby Mojave Desert communities, the Museum can keep your attention for hours. The endless displays explain how Route 66 was developed, and includes the “mom and pop” businesses and sites found along the route. You’ll also get a kick out of seeing a few historic vehicles – the very same you would have encountered while driving “back in the day.”
Fun reading includes the history of Burma Shave signs, and the “1943 Guide to Hiring Women” that appeared in the July 1943 issue of Transportation Magazine. The latter provides 11 tips for getting more efficiency out of female employees, such as “husky” girls are more even-tempered than their underweight sisters; and young married women have a better sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters. Try printing that today!
The Museum’s location is a treasure itself – a historic Harvey House. During the heyday of rail passenger service in the Western United States, Barstow boasted a splendid rail depot/restaurant/hotel complex called the “Casa del Desierto” or House of the Desert. Completed in 1911, the Casa del Desierto was the fourth Harvey House built by the Atchinson, Topeka, and the Santa Fe Railway Company along its right-of-way and operated by the Fred Harvey Company. These Harvey Houses established an unparalleled standard of food service for the traveler. The train yard outside is still in use, and a Western America Railroad Museum is next door. Lots to see and do here!
In California, Route 66 has been replaced by modern Interstate 40, Interstate 15 and Interstate 10, but you can still travel sections of the historic Mother Road just for fun. Whether you plan to drive a little or a lot of the old route, this museum in Barstow will get you headed in the right direction, and connect you to the sense of adventure that “America’s Main Street” provided travelers for 60 years.
IF YOU GO:
Route 66 Mother Road Museum
681 N 1st Ave.
Barstow, California 92311
Open limited hours:
Friday and Saturday 10:00am – 4:00pm
Sunday 11:00am – 4:00pm
Take the I-15 north to Barstow, exit at “L” Street, turn left at the end of the off-ramp onto “L” Street, turn right on West Main Street (Route 66!), follow West Main Street to First Avenue, and turn left on First Avenue. The Harvey House is on the right after you cross the bridge over the railroad tracks.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com