Route 66

If you’re looking for great displays of neon signs, mom-and-pop motels in the middle of nowhere, or kitschy Americana, do as the song says and “get your kicks on Route 66.”

San Bernardino

Sometimes known as “San Berdoo,” in the 1940s and 1950s the city of San Bernardino (pop. 210,000) was where Maurice and Richard McDonald perfected the burger-making restaurant chain that bears their name. In 1961, the McDonald brothers sold their company to Ray Kroc, and the rest is fast-food history. Though the original buildings were demolished decades ago, the location is now home to an unofficial, ad hoc museum, displaying McDonalds and Route 66 memorabilia (1398 N. E St., 909/885-6324, daily, free).

From downtown San Bernardino, which somewhat confusingly is actually a dozen miles east of the I-15 freeway, the old Route 66 alignment headed west along Foothill Boulevard, where a remnant of old Route 66 road culture still survives: the 19 concrete tepees that form the Wigwam Motel (2728 W. Foothill Blvd., 909/875-3005, around $70). Once as seedy as its “Do It In A TeePee” sign suggested, this Wigwam (one of three in the world—another sits along Route 66 in Holbrook, Arizona) has been fully updated and once again welcomes travelers interested in offbeat accommodations (with free Wi-Fi, a swimming pool, and barbecue grills).

From the Wigwam Motel, Foothill Boulevard runs west through the post-industrial city of Fontana, birthplace of the Hell’s Angels’ Motorcycle Club (and L.A. culture critic Mike Davis), before passing by another great old road landmark: Bono’s Giant Orange (15395 Foothill Blvd.), an orange-shaped stand that, during the 1920s, offered thirsty Route 66 travelers “All The Orange Juice You Can Drink—10¢.” The original orange grove is now a Wal-Mart, and the Giant Orange was moved next to the now-closed Bono’s Restaurant and Deli, where it still stands… for now (it’s been endangered by ongoing road improvements).

First McDonald’s Site and Museum (1398 N. E St.)
Wigwam Motel (2728 W. Foothill Blvd.)
Bono’s Giant Orange (15395 East Foothill Blvd.)