From the Mitla Cafe to Santa Monica is mostly just L.A. traffic and sprawl so we cheated a bit and jumped on I-10 for most of the rest of the way. We eventually made it through horrendous stop and go traffic to the intersection of Lincoln & Olympic Boulevards, the official end of Route 66. Of course, just a few short blocks away was the unofficial end, Santa Monica Beach and the pier, so on we drove.
Cars, cars, cars and people, people, people everywhere! It took us about 20 minutes of circling around and looking before we were able to find an available spot in a public parking lot right next to the beach. Paying to park is done via one of those upright kiosk machines that takes cash or credit cards. We discovered 2 things – the price changes depending on where and when you park and the kiosks have trouble taking a credit card. I suggest you take enough cash, between $6 and $15 per day or about $1 per hour. After the machine spits out a permit for you, don’t forget to place it on the dash of your car. During our time there we twice saw police riding around the lot checking for permits on the dashes and giving tickets to any without a valid permit showing.
The beach was really nice with a lot of different activity equipment installed. There were also a good number of toilet/changing rooms. They didn’t exactly smell like fresh petunia’s, but they were not as dirty as I expected. The beach was wide with deep sand – a very nice beach. The slipped disc in my lower back was again acting up and my injured foot was paining me a lot that day, but I was determined to walk out to the ocean and at least get my feet wet. Youngest-daughter wanted to change clothes so she went on ahead of me to the changing rooms while I took the parking permit back to put it on the truck’s dash.
With my hurts it took me several minutes to make it from the parking lot to the changing room area and I was grateful for the bench thoughtfully placed close by so I could sit while waiting. I waited, and waited, and waited. I started to get anxious knowing it doesn’t take that long for her to change clothes. It didn’t take much longer of her being a no-show for me to start getting desperate, the kind of desperate that only a parent gets when they are afraid something bad has happened to their child. I hobbled around the changing rooms several times and was looking for a lady I could ask to check the rooms or a policeman to lock down the whole damn beach and issue an Amber alert, an all-points bulletin to find my baby girl! Bring in every cop, bring in the Marines, bring in the Navy, bring in Homeland Security, send up the drones! Somebody better find my baby and they better do it quick!
Just as I spotted a lady nearby to look into the ladies rooms for me, my totally unawares and unconcerned little female offspring walked up behind me, tapped me on the arm and said, “Hey Dad.” Oh Lord, I almost wet myself right then and there. She had been some yards off to the side at a patch of grass watching some people doing acrobatic stuff and then had gone in to change. I wanted to put my arms around her and hug her tight and I wanted to put a knot on her head too. The hug won out, but just barely.
She took the clothes she had changed out of back to the car (with me watching her the whole way!) and grabbed an empty 2-litre plastic bottle we had saved specifically for this occasion. We walked toward the ocean, or I should say she walked beside me as I hobbled through the deep sand. I’m not an ancient age, but I certainly felt like it right then. I silently cursed the gods who decided that after 3 years of a pain-free back, it was time once again for it to flare up during our trip. After a few minutes, we made it to the edge of the beach. I sat down, took off my shoes and together, we waded into the water. We could now say we had absolutely made it; Route 66 from beginning to end! For proof, Youngest-daughter dipped the empty bottle into the water and captured 2 liter’s of Pacific Ocean to bring back home.
Our great “Daddy-Daughter ‘Mother Road’ Trip” was ending, but wasn’t quite over yet. We still had to make it back home 1,650 miles away. After a few hours on the beach and pier, with the clouds rolling in making everything gray, we decided that was a perfect sign for us to end the fun, get on the road once again and go east this time. We had been gone almost 2 full weeks, we missed the Momma-woman, Youngest-daughter missed her dog, we were looking forward to sleeping in our own beds again, we were tired of driving, and I was really looking forward to getting back home to my chiropractor to get my back fixed. We tried to beat the rush hour traffic, but evidently, until you get 100 miles away from the ocean in LA, there is no beating rush hour traffic because it is always rush hour traffic.
Staying on the interstate going back, we spent that night in Barstow, CA. We awoke early, grabbed some fruit and dry cereal from the hotel breakfast and headed out as the sun made it’s appearance. I quickly settled into the “Everybody get out of the way cause Daddy is driving and determined to put a lot of miles behind us” mode. Youngest-daughter normally is a great sleeper in the car, but this trip was her first to be the navigator and with all the twists and turns Route 66 presents, there’s not really any time the navigator is not needed. She had performed her duties wonderfully and now that there was no navigating needed, she was free to sleep. She proved to be a truly gifted car sleeper! The miles kept piling up behind us.
After spending one more night on the road in Oklahoma, we safely pulled into our driveway. Momma-woman, Riley The Wonder Dog, and even our two very aloof cats came out to welcome us home. Our once-in-a-lifetime trip was truly over. I could check off another bucket list item. Daddy and daughter had not only survived 2 weeks of 24-hour togetherness and a journey of almost 4,000 miles, but had grown even closer. We had set a goal, persevered and completed it. She had learned how to accurately read a map and give directions; had learned the words to a lot of ’60′s and ’70′s songs; had seen first-hand some things she had read about in her history classes; had seen and learned about America’s heartland; had heard new stories told by her dad and had learned a lot more about her family members who came before her. I had shared with my daughter something I had always wanted to do; had learned my baby girl really is growing up even if I don’t want her to; had learned she has a good, interesting personality all her own and definitely has her humorous side; and now I know when she sets a goal, she is strong enough and has the determination to reach it. We have something very special the two of us will fondly remember all of our lives. Thank you, Route 66. Your mystique and magic lives on.