Checking in from Pomona, CA …
On our last semi-rural leg of this walk across America, my path took me through the San Timoteo Canyon of Riverside County. The canyon winds between well worn hills and is dotted with orange groves and horse farms and equine training facilities. The orange trees were full of smallish juice oranges and the ground was littered with the fruit. We could not understand why the fruit was not being harvested on a timely basis. We saw many beautiful horses and several young girls being trained to post and ride. One farm had some strange striped equines (see photo).
After visiting the attractive town of Redlands, I walked into the town of Loma Linda and could tell that my entire remaining track would be through a suburban or urban environment even though I was still at least 80 miles from Los Angeles proper. Before long, I was walking on San Bernardino Blvd and then Foothill Blvd. These two roads are part of the Historic Route 66 which was one of America’s major highways before the Interstate Highway system. Route 66 was officially known as the Will Rogers Highway, and it ran from Chicago to LA, a distance of 2,451 miles. Unofficially, the highway was known as the “Main Street of America” and the “Mother Road.” Oldsters will remember the television series “Route 66” with Martin Milner (as Todd Stiles) and George Maharis (as Buzz Murdock) finding adventure on the road in their Corvette convertible.
On the San Bernardino part of the road, we found the original McDonald’s Restaurant, the first Mickey D’s. In 1940, brothers Dick and Mac McDonald opened McDonald’s Barbeque Restaurant which offered an extensive menu and 25 very attractive female carhops. It quickly became the number one teen hangout in the area. The restaurant was profitable, but teens tended to hang-out and reduce turnover. As World War II was ending, Dick McDonald saw the baby boom coming and wanted to attract young families. He also studied his sales and found that hamburgers constituted 80% of the volume. So in late 1948, the McDonald brothers took a huge risk and closed their successful restaurant, terminated the carhops and reduced their menu to hamburgers, cheeseburgers, French fries, milkshakes and soft drinks. Reorganizing their kitchen to accommodate the simple menu, the new McDonald’s counted on faster service and lower prices. Today the original restaurant is a museum (no food) where you can see the original Ronald McDonald statue and the golden arches as well as advertisements, caps, shirts, pics, menus, straws and cups that were used back in the 50’s.
In 1954, a milkshake machine salesman named Ray Kroc joined the restaurant as a franchise agent to try to duplicate the concept. The McDonald brothers wanted to proceed slowly while Kroc had visions of a nationwide and perhaps worldwide chain. Frustrated with the pace of growth, Kroc hocked everything and with borrowed funds bought the franchise in 1961 from the McDonald’s brothers for $2.7 million. The rest is history.
Much of the current portion of Route 66 is somewhat rundown and a little dated. The portion through Rancho Cucamonga is an exception, however, and is very upscale and affluent. Bordered by Mount Baldy, this town, which means “a sandy place” in the native Indian language, got its start in the 1840’s as a vineyard area when water runoff was diverted from the mountain range. One restaurant, the Sycamore Inn, was opened in Rancho Cucamonga in 1848 and continues to serve prime beef to this day.
We got a real treat on Sunday evening when Brenda’s cousin, Tripp Doepner, and his family invited us to join them for dinner at the historic and beautiful Mission Inn in Riverside. Both Tripp and his wife, Gincy, are educators, and Gincy is an accomplished organist. It was our first time meeting Gincy and the Doepner’s two daughters, Mary Travis and Dabney Margaret. These two young ladies (ages 13 and 10) proved to be very smart and interesting. Mary Travis is a finalist in the National Science Fair, and Dabney Margaret works diligently on Franklin Graham’s Operation Christmas Child Project. After assembling over 70 shoebox gifts last year, she is aiming to prepare 100 boxes for needy children this holiday season.
The Mission Inn is truly spectacular both in its architecture and the precious art that is everywhere throughout the facility. The Inn is a combination hotel, restaurant, museum, arts center and National Historic Landmark. Opening in 1903 and owing its original elegance to the cultural insight and business genius of Frank Augustus Miller, the Inn pays tribute to California’s early Spanish and Mexican heritage with a quirky inclusion of a remarkable collection of Oriental artifacts and architectural touches. While the Inn fell into disrepair following Miller’s death, it has been restored and enhanced in recent years through the foresight and generosity of Riverside businessman Duane R. Roberts.
The main lobby features a massive carpet showing all of California’s original missions, and the priceless artworks include Tiffany stained glass and a magnificent carving called “The Mandarin’s Journey.” In our opinion and in its own way, the Mission Inn rivals the elegance of the Biltmore House that we have visited on several occasions. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Mission Inn and the chance to visit with Tripp and his wonderful family.
Even though there are 13 days left before I walk onto the Santa Monica Pier, I have less than 60 miles remaining on this fantastic journey. Since we have friends and family coming to share the end of my walk, I’ll stage my walks over four or five more days and then take some down time as Brenda and I visit the Los Angeles attractions. But I will continue to exercise on a regular basis and will then celebrate as the final leg of Heart Trek USA is completed on September 2. Thanks to everyone for your support.