Friday, October 22, 2021

Not Gone, But Mostly Forgotten-Suburban Archeology

 We usually think of "archeology" to be about mummies, King Tut, and other ancient stuff. Stuff long buried. Ruins. If it isn't dated BCE, it isn't archeology. 


Nonsense. Archeology is about uncovering "the  human past using material remains. These remains can be any objects that people created, modified, or used." (Google definition. It's as good as any.) 


This "human past" can be a fluid concept, so anything in the "past" is fair game. Now, of course we're not being flippant and saying that if we look at stuff made last week it's "archeology." Some significant amount of time has to have passed, and the subject of study must be of some cultural significance. 


Then, there is the other part of my title: "suburban." As in, yes, you guessed it, the vast suburbs that have spread like a rash outwards from major cities. Nowhere is this phenomenon been more obvious than the vast 'Burb of Southern California. The term, if not created by SoCal, certainly typifies the landscape of the counties that make up the area. "Ninteen suburbs in search of a city," as Aldos Huxley (not Dorothy Parker, nor Robert Benchly, nor even HL Menken) aptly put it in 1925. 


As happens with the spread of what are essentially bedroom communities, (people sleep in Covina, Arcadia, Bell, or Hawaiian Gardens but commute to work, mostly in Los Angeles), means that what was once there has been swallowed up mostly by housing and small businesses to provide the essentials for those living in the suburbs. 


"Suburban Archeology" is therefore a search for evidence of what was there before this insatiable need for housing ate up the citrus groves, vineyards, and ranch lands that had previously eaten up the semi-arid scrubland that was home to people less "blessed" by "civilization." 


So, what does any of this have to do with "Road Trippin'?" A lot. Road Trippin' in LA can't be about the open back roads, there aren't any now. However, one can, using Suburban Archeology, find evidence of what was once vast open space. And where better than traveling the Yellow Brick Road that led to LAOZ than Route 66? 


The "Mother Road" has a history in three phases:

 The first was as an escape route from the Dust Bowl to jobs picking fruit in the vast orchards of California. The citrus of SoCal, the crops of the Central Valley, provided a modicum of relief for those who'd lost everything in the ecological disaster of the mid-1930s. These people eventually, as World War II began to relieve the ills of the Great Depression, took up residence here and either joined the military or got jobs in the various defense plants. This required housing and areas like Burbank, El Segundo, Lakewood, and Hawthorn grew up around the plants. 


The second phase was in the post-war boom. In the late 1940s and well into the 50s, an even more vast exodus from the Mid-West began to flood California. Mustered out Marines who'd trained in Camp Pendelton, Sailors who'd set sail from San Diego or Long Beach, Soldiers who'd done their Basic at Camp Roberts or Fort Ord got home, spent maybe one or two winters up to their hips in snow and cow dung and dreamed of the sunny winters of SoCal. That greatest of all SoCal promotions, the Rose Parade, was now broadcast nationwide on television and it didn't take too much convincing to sell the family farm and move west to the land of sun and orange blossom honey. Armed with their back pay, the GI Bill, and maybe the college degree it provided, they headed west. And of course, this is where Route 66 assumes its mantle of America's Main Street. 


The third phase was a direct result of the second. Almost a 2b. All those Nebraskans, Iowans, all those refugees from the icy blasts of Minnesota and Chicago could, now solidly middle class, get to take that icon of middle class respectability, the Two Week Vacation. Back "home" to visit the relatives who'd stayed behind. 


All this travel activity meant a boom in businesses to support the Great American Road Trip. Gas stations, that new-fangled place to stay the Motel (motor hotel, get it?), and of course, Road Side Attractions and Happy Crappy Tourist Stuff. 


Nowhere is the overlay of Suburbia more apparent than the 42 mile stretch of Route 66 (Foothill Boulevard as it is know now) between San Bernardino and Monrovia. A 42 mile slog that will take you TWO HOURS. One way.


I know this route well from my days as a charter bus driver in the 1970s. Almost every summer weekend we'd row across the freeway-less expanse of orange groves and eucalyptus wind breaks taking happy campers to their week-long battle the Nature in the various camps in the San Bernardino Mountains. We'd schlep a convoy of five or six Crown Coach school buses out Foothill, up Euclid, across Highland and up into the mountains. 


Claremont was the edge of civilization. Rialto was a crossroads with a single stop sign and a flashing red light hung over the middle of the intersection. Cucamonga wasn't yet a "Rancho" and only known to Jack Benny devotees. A vast sea of orderly groves that did indeed "reek of orange blossoms." That was HL Menken, by the way. 


In the fifty years since, it has all disappeared, swallowed by houses so jammed together that you can shake hands with your neighbor from bedroom window to bedroom window. 


The other day, in a fit of nostalgia, I fired up the Yellow Submarine and retraced the whole of Foothill from LaVerne to San Berdoo and back, looking for evidence of those long lost halcyon days of Route 66. A bit of Suburban Archeology. My finds were both spectacular and mundane. Some of the great icons are still there, and nestled in-between the miles of big box stores, fast food chains, and acres of housing are the more modest signs of former glory. 


I began the road back at the San Bernardino train station. Once a pillar of the Santa Fe Railroad, it has been restored and has most of the ambiance of the heyday of the Super Chief. 










http://www.sbdepotmuseum.com

From there, it was a short hop to The Quintessential Route 66 Icon, the Wigwam Motel. Yes, it is still there and it's been brought back from derelict to a thriving success, fueled by the mighty power of Nostalgia. I spoke with the General Manager, Samir Patel, who told me business is booming! Especially on weekends, he has a full house from about March to November. This is great news for us fans of Road Trip Kitsche. It is one of the three extant "Sleep in a Teepee" spots, the others being in Holbrook, Arizona and the original, in Kentucky (of all places!). The local one was built by the originator (and patent owner!)  Frank Redford in 1947 as part of his chain. The one in Arizona was built as a franchise. Yes, it's hokey and borders on the sterotypical and maybe offensive, but it is a perfect example of the era from which it sprang. When one looks at what were once rows of cookie-cutter motels, the Wigwam stood out. A genius bit of marketing. 








https://www.wigwammotel.com
And, speaking of motels, this is where one really has to dig. Or at least be observant. For dotted in clumps, hidden in the afore mentioned big box stores and seas of houses, are the tiny survivors. Curiously, almost all are on the north side of Foothill. Placed such because if you were going west, you didn't have to cross traffic to enter? Most appear now to be used as inexpensive housing for people who's incomes are so tenuous as to need to pay rent on a weekly basis. Some have been converted to poor-man's strip malls, housing one-person operations for notary publics, contractors, and a plethora of others balancing on the edge of insolvency. Some still seem to be motels. Clearly at one time the dream of business ownership to fill the burgeoning need for places to spend the night for travelers who'd timed things wrong. Faced with driving the two-lane highway with feeble headlights at night, Dad (because only Dad did the driving back then) finally stopped, exhausted from a day of terror descending the Cajon Pass. Or perhaps on the way in from Palm Springs or Indio. Or salesmen plying their vast routes. Or that other group, those who didn't dare be caught after dark in many of the "Sundowner Cities" along the way. Cities that, by law, banned Blacks and other "undesirables" from being within the city limits after sundown. No matter what the reason. 


People who had to rely on the "Green Book" for travel advice. Advice that would tell them that their "less-than-acceptable skin color" would not bar them from a night's accomidation. It is the dirtiest secret of Road Trips that Blacks, until far too recently, had to plan their trips with great care. Even driving through a "Sundowner City" after dark could mean arrest and, at best, a police escort to the city limits and a stern lecture about their "proper" place in America. The "Green Book" was compiled to show Blacks where they could eat and sleep on the road. One has to wonder which, if any of the small motels were listed and which were "restricted." By the way, "restricted" didn't just apply to Blacks. Minorities of every flavor just weren't welcome. And, yes, Jews fell into that catagory. Sad doesn't half cover it. 


One also has to wonder at other back stories to these motels. There are dozens of them along the way. What attracted someone to think that putting up people for the night, then cleaning up after them was a good business model? One in particular, the "New Kansas Motel" has to have some kind of story to it. 













The last of the wonders of this stretch of 66 are my personal touchstones. Places that still thrive, despite the vagueries of progress. One, the Virginia Dare Winery was once a derelict ruin, now an office building. Another, what was a river rock gas station in Claremont is now a florist shop. Others, the Sycamore Inn and Magic Lamp Restaurant are still in operation and quite good. Then there's the "Madonna of the Trail" at Foothill and Euclid. I feel that as long as at least these are extant, the Route 66 of my days driving Foothill Boulevard are not lost to the developers' shovels. 





There are more out there. I'll leave them for you to unearth. 


Sunday, September 19, 2021

Rendez Vous 2021

 At long last! Not only a car show, but one you had to DRIVE TO! But wait, there's more! Overnight in a hotel for TWO whole nights! A BANQUET! An organized Drive! We were partying like it was 2019. Well, almost. We DID wear masks indoors, were a bit nervous throughout, but everything seemed to go according to plan! Amazing! 


Last year, of course, the annual Rendez Vous between the SoCal Citroen owners and our NoCal compatriots didn't happen. Like so many other things. This year, thanks to most of California being shot up, things opened up enough for what we had planned last year. Just skip 2020, reset, and pray it never happens again! 


Most years, the RDV takes place in Cambria, but the SoCal Cit Brain Trust (Tina, Chuck, Marianne, and Me) looked for someplace better. After a day of cruising about the Central Coast, visiting a number of venues, we hit on the Shore Cliff Hotel in Pismo Beach. What a spectacular spot! Right ont the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. I guess that's why they call it the Shore Cliff? Just a guess, mind you. And as a bonus, a good resaurant with a banquet facility within staggering distance. All with spectacualr views of the coast as it sweeps around from the Pismo Dunes to Avila Beach and the Port of San Luis. Even the weather was perfect. Nice, cool 70s! 


The turnout was good, given all we've been through, some 30 cars and maybe 80 people! And good variety of cars. Everything from Tractions, to 2CVs to Ds to SMs with a few oddities (a GX, a Mehari, and a spectacular 1928 AC4).


One of the regular events of the RDV is, of course, a drive on Saturday. This year, your intrepid blogger and Road Trippin' Wizard got to put it together. You know what that means. Anyting but normal. 


I went for a "Gimmick Rallye" type of event. Nothing too extreme, but a chance to visit some of the out of the way spots around the Pismo area, learn a bit of history, and see some great scenery.  Naturally, the History Teacher in me came forth, and, not just content with having them show photos of key spots along the way, I included a quiz. See how you do!  The route and quiz are posted below, as are some photos. 


The best news was that the Yellow Submarine was able to join in the fun. It was touch and go, I managed to finish the clutch change the weekend before and with only a few miles of shakedown, a couple of fiddles to the adjustment, an oil change, and other sundry Stuff, we set out Friday AM. 


Along the way we stopped at Bob's Well Bread Bakery in Los Alamos for baguettes even our dyed in the wool French members heartily approved of. No mean feat for Bob's to impress Frenchmen with their bread! Another stop at Trader Joes for Vin et Fromage and we rolled into the Shore Cliff about lunch time. 


Just in time to eat our Bob's Well Bread Sandwiches on the BALCONY facing the ocean! This place is so well laid out, every room has a balcony facing the ocean! So, with scoops of pelicans flying below us and roosting on the cliffsides, we ate, then began helping check people in. 


Satruday, we were off early to set up the Car Show. Again, we opted for something different this year. In the past, the Show has always been in the hotel parking lot, and about the only people to see our prides and joy were, well, us. I had the idea this year to end the morning drive at a more public place, giving the Great Unwashed a chance to revel in the glories of Weird French Cars. And, since the show was at the END of the drive, to get judged, why, you had to DRIVE your car, not just off load if from the trailer! So, after driving for some two hours (unless they missed one tough to see road sigh or just wimped out), everyone arrived in Avila Beach. 


This is a great little Old School Beach town. About two whole blocks of eateries and happycrappy shops, a pier, a harbor, and that's it! It took a bit of asking about, but finally learned that the Port Authority runs all the parking. They have a large lot near the "hot spots" and after a bit of mild grovelling, sold us 30 parking spots in advance. Not their usual MO. 

  

Mari and I headed out early to set things up and rope off an area at the back of the lot for our rag-tag bunch, and then we waited for them to roll in. Which they  did in spirts, all commenting on how much fun they had. We attracted a lot of beach goers and even had them vote on a People's Choice award. This turned out to be a great opportunity to not only show off our cars to a wide audience, but to get people interested in what must be the planet's oddest cars. 


Back at the hotel with enough time for a quick nap and change, it was off to the banquet at Ventana Grill. Good food and a chance to chat with a French couple from NoCal. At the raffle, they even won a copy of my new and updated "Road Trippin'"! (ahem, have you got YOUR copy yet? hmmm?). They were delighted. Mari and I also did well with the raffle, scoring a Citroen Monopoly game, a Citroen Memory Match game (who knew such things existed) and a pair of cute books (in French) for Abby and Nora. 


The highlight of the evening was a presentation by our Guest of Honor. (I'm not sure we've ever had on of those!) Fanny is the driver of Suzanne. Suzanne is a modified Traction Avant (DS engine, disc brakes, and a few more tweaks). Fanny is driving her from Prudoe Bay in Alaska to Tierra del Fuego! Shades of our friends Guy and Eunice and their Austin 7! For more info on the whys and werefores, see: https://www.facebook.com/tractamerica/ and https://terramerica.fr/?fbclid=IwAR10GcgbOcDIKb0fm_d6OrS6oNM6U9O3bxJUW8Y1ohAgc2Vc5PD6TtZNOYI 

It's a fascinating story and Fanny had joined our Official Pantheon of Road Trippin' Heros! 


Sunday was just the drive home, and we left early enough to even beat the traffic through Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Pasadena! The Traffic Gods were indeed smiling on us! 


So, if you've a hankering to get away for a couple of days, hit the Shore Cliff and do the little drive, drink some wine, eat cheese and bread and have fun! 



The Photos:



















































The Drive and Quiz:

le 101 sur le 101 grand rallye amusant


les règles: 

ALL participants MUST follow ALL traffic laws, have current registration and insurance for their vehicle. 

There are no time limits for this Rallye, no penalties or prizes for early, on time, or late arrivals.

Rallye Terms:

tournez à droite sur: Turn Right Onto...

tournez à gauche sur: Turn Left Onto...

continuer sur: Continue Onto...usually indicates a change in road name without a turn.

fusionner: Merge--only used to enter a freeway

Nord: North--drive in a northerly direction

Sud: South--drive in a southerly direction

Est: East--drive in an easterly direction

Ouest: West--drive in a westerly direction.

Directeur Rallye: Steve McCarthy, Vice President, Citroen Car Club of SoCal. His decisions are final. He will be at the finish with his DS Wagon “The Yellow Submarine”-Look for the yellow umbrella

Opportunités de Photos: Stops along the route to take a photo of your car at the location. These will be so designated in the Instructions d'Itinéraire.

Instructions d'Itinéraire: Route instructions. Distances are given in kilometers (or parts thereof). Each instruction will list first Direction to turn, next, Name of Street, last Distance to NEXT turn. Use of a GPS (or other map/direction app) is allowed. You may find it helpful to enter each Opportunités de Photos into the GPS and use it to guide you. Minor variations might occur, and you might miss some wonderful roads and scenery. It’s your call. 

Compass directions will only be used if a freeway is to be entered. 

To Earn Points towards the coveted Grand Rallye Trophée you MUST present to the Directeur Rallye the following:

     a. Photos, taken on your phone of the FOUR (4)designated Opportunités de Photos in

           the Instructions d'Itinéraire. Value: TEN (10) Points Each. 

     b. The filled out Multiple Choice Quiz. Correct answers will be worth FIVE (5) points each.

     c. FIVE (5)Bonus Points will be awarded for business cards/brochures of up to three extra wineries. Tour the Dana Adobe and earn FIFTEEN (15) points.

In case of a tie, a Bonus Quiz, plus whichever car is dirtiest will determine the winner.

The Car Show will take place in the Avila Beach Parking Lot at the end of the Rallye. 12-3pm


départ

1 h 54 min (110 km) approximate time/distance without stops to lunch.

 It is suggested you start around 9:30am. This will allow you plenty of time for stops. and get you to Avila Beach for lunch around noon or a bit after. 

Shore Cliff Hotel

2555 Price St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449

1. tournez à droite sur Price St 850 m

2. tournez à droite sur CA-1 S/PCH, towards Pismo State Beach

continuer sur CA-1 S, 

Destination will be on the right 2.3 km

6 min (3.2 km)

FIRST Opportunité de Photo--TAKE A PHOTO THAT SHOWS YOUR CAR HERE!

Monarch Butterfly Grove

400 S Dolliver St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449


3. continuer sur CA-1 S 25.4 km

Destination will be on the right

25 min (25.4 km)

SECOND Opportunité de Photo--TAKE A PHOTO THAT SHOWS YOUR CAR HERE!

Guadalupe Cemetery

Guadalupe, CA 93434

CEMETERY IS LOCATED AT THE NW CORNER OF CA 1 AND CA166/MAIN ST. 

BETWEEN THE CEMETERY AND THE NEXT STOP, THE ROADS GO THROUGH OPEN FARM LAND. WATCH OUT FOR SLOW MOVING FARM EQUIPMENT ON THE ROADS!!!! 


4. tournez à gauche sur (EST) CA 166/W Main St 1.5 km

5. tournez à droite sur Simas Rd 1.5 km

6. continuer sur Betteravia Rd 4.8 km

Destination will be on the right


7 min (7.9 km)

THIRD Opportunité de Photo--TAKE A PHOTO THAT SHOWS YOUR CAR HERE!

Abandoned Union Sugar Factory

Betteravia Rd, Santa Maria, CA 93455


7. tournez à gauche sur Sinton Rd 2.9 km

8. tournez à droite sur Ray Rd 1.7 km

9. tournez à gauche sur CA-166 W 550 m

10. tournez à droite sur Bonita School Rd 5.3 km

11. tournez à droite sur Division St 5.4 km

12. tournez à gauche sur S Frontage Rd 1.0 km

13. tournez à droite sur W Tefft St 260 m

14. tournez à droite sur S Oakglen Ave 1.6 km

DESTINATION WILL BE ON LEFT

22 min (18.9 km)

FOURTH Opportunité de Photo--TAKE A PHOTO THAT SHOWS YOUR CAR HERE!

Dana Adobe

671 S Oakglen Ave, Nipomo, CA 93444

THERE IS A NICE VISITORS’ CENTER HERE. TAKE THE TOUR OF THE ADOBE ($5). 

Show evidence you took the tour and earn FIFTEEN (15) BONUS POINTS! 


tournez à droite sur S Oakglen Ave out of the parking lot

(back the way you came) 1.6 km

16. tournez à droite sur W Tefft St 850 m

17. tournez à gauche sur N Thompson Ave 5.1 km

Look for Jocko’s Steak House on the left! 

18. continuer sur Los Berros Rd 7.4 km

19. tournez à droite sur Valley Rd 1.5 km

20. tournez à droite sur Fair Oaks Ave 700 m

21. tournez à gauche sur Traffic Way 500 m This is a sharp turn, just past the bridge.

22. tournez à droite sur W Branch St/CA227 1.2 km

23. continuer sur Corbett Canyon Rd/CA227 800 m Sign towards CA227 to San Luis Obispo

tournez à droite  et continuer 

sur Corbett Canyon Rd (no longer CA227) 9.8 km Do NOT follow sign to CA227

25. tournez à droite sur Carpenter Canyon RdCA-227 N 2.5 km (back onto CA227)

26. tournez à droite sur Biddle Ranch Rd

Destination will be on the right 800 m

7 min (8.6 km)

Edna Valley Vineyard

2585 Biddle Ranch Rd, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

NOTE: The winery will be open, but is a bit funny about large groups. If you wish to do a tasting, at least look as if you are in a group of less than six people. You may have to wait a bit to taste. It’s OK, this is not a race. REMEMBER, even a taste will impair your driving!!!! 



tournez à droite sur Biddle Ranch Rd

(out of parking lot) 1.0 km

28. tournez à gauche sur Orcutt Rd 4.5 km

29. continuer sur Tank Farm Rd 700 m

At the traffic circle, 

continuer sur Tank Farm Rd 3.8 km

31. tournez à gauche sur S Higuera St 3.4 km

32. tournez à droite sur Ontario Rd 37 m

tournez à gauche et 

continuer sur Ontario Rd 3.2 km

34. tournez à droite sur San Luis Bay Dr 2.3 km

35. tournez à droite sur Avila Beach Dr 4.3 km

36. tournez à gauche sur San Juan St. 35 m

37. tournez à gauche sur 1st St 110 m

38. tournez à gauche sur parking lot.

LOOK FOR THE “YELLOW SUBMARINE” AND THE YELLOW UMBRELLA

23 min (21.6 km)

Avila Beach Parking ($6 ALL DAY)

502 1st St, Avila Beach, CA 93424

LUNCH IS ON YOUR OWN IN AVILA BEACH. THERE IS A LARGE SELECTION OF RESTAURANTS FOR YOU TO CHOOSE FROM! WE WILL BE PARKING TOGETHER IN THIS LOT. THIS IS WHERE OUR ‘CAR SHOW’ IS. SEE STEVE McCARTHY TO TURN IN YOUR QUIZ AND SHOW HIM YOUR PHOTOS. HE WILL GIVE YOU A BALLOT FOR THE CAR SHOW JUDGING. WE WILL ALSO BE ASKING THE GENERAL PUBLIC TO VOTE ON A ‘PEOPLES’ CHOICE AWARD’!!!! 

WE HOPE YOU HAD FUN AND A GREAT DRIVE! SEE YOU BACK AT THE HOTEL FOR THE INAUGURAL RENDEZ VOUS BOULES TOURNAMENT! 



TO RETURN TO THE HOTEL: 


Avila Public Parking Lot

502 1st St, Avila Beach, CA 93424


Right Exit parking lot onto 1st St. 180 ft


Turn left onto San Miguel St 479 ft


Turn right onto Avila Beach Dr 2.7 mi


Turn right to merge onto US-101 S 3.4 mi


Take exit 191B for Price St 0.1 mi


Turn right onto CA-1 N/Price St 272 ft


Destination will be on the left


Shore Cliff Hotel

2555 Price St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449


L’Exam le Plus Absurde de Tous les Temps


Each season, the Monarch Butterfly Grove counts have been:

Increasing

Decreasing

Staying about the same

They don’t know


Pismo Beach is famous for what tasty bivalve?

Mussels

Clams

Oysters

All of the above


What is the name of the restaurant you passed made of old railroad passenger cars?

The Station Diner

The Hot Rod Diner

Joe’s Diner

Rock ‘n’ roll Diner


Andre Citroen first made his fame making what?

Cars

Herringbone gears

Berets for the french army

Forks for eating escargot


Which of these French authors was not born in France?

Sartre

Hugo

Camus

Dumas


What does the tallest building in Guadelupe have painted on its side?

Our Lady of Guadelupe

Gang graffiti

Nothing

A map of coastal California


When looking at the angelic tombstones in the Guadelupe Cemetery, what important  Doctor’s advice should you follow?

Cross yourself

Beware of zombies

Look the other way

Don’t blink


What did the abandoned Union Sugar Factory use to make sugar?

Sugar cane

Sweet corn

Yams

Sugar beets

The Dana Adobe was the home of an American Sea Captain from:

Boston

San Diego

San Francisco

New York


 Citroen currently makes a model named for which artist?

Picasso

Monet

Van Gogh

Manet


What epic C.B. deMille silent movie was filmed on the Pismo Dunes?

The Ten Commandments

Ben Hur

Birth of a Nation

The Adventures of Tin Tin


Avila Beach was originally a harbor for what nearby Spanish Mission?

Santa Barbara

Santa Ynez

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Rey


A major design criterium for the 2CV was:

High Speed

Ability to not break a farmer’s eggs on rough roads

Ability to use the front seats as beach chairs

Hill Climbing Torque


The Traction Avant was favored by French gangsters because:

It could hold a lot of loot.

It got the best gas mileage

It could go faster than French police cars

It was cute looking. 


US Highway 101 was ORIGINALLY called:

The Coast Route

El Camino Real

The West Highway

None of the Above