All things depart from, and all things return to the Mother Road. Poetic sentiments aside, there’s a shine of truth on that statement, just as there’s a shine on the 2015 Bambi that keeps that statement alive. The “Mother Road” was one of the names for the fabled Route 66, one of our country’s first highways, and from its 1926 unveiling, a beloved one. It wiggled a winding ribbon westward, starting in Chicago and ending in Santa Monica, California.
That rolling road emboldened drivers to get out and gobble up some country—and it was only a few years later that Wally Byam started producing the iconic trailers that let those road-trippers pull their stylish mobile lodgings right behind them. So it’s doubly fitting that there’s a Route 66 gift store on the Santa Monica pier, and that the store is housed in a sparkling Airstream trailer.
“We’ve been looking for something completely distinctive and synonymous to the Santa Monica Pier, which is also the western terminus of historic Route 66 and embodies the public’s overwhelming nostalgia for America’s original highway,” says Jeff Klocke, Vice President at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier. “Pacific Park celebrates the Route 66 legacy with a custom Airstream that truly reflects America’s love for motor travel.”
Just as in Route 66’s heyday, the Bambi had to roll out west from the country’s heartland, having been designed by Timeless Travel in Denver, where it took six months to fit out its automotive decor (including its three old-fashioned gas pumps), unique shelving and lighting, and its specialty wood-deck flooring. But it came out on a flatbed trailer, so it didn’t pick up much road grime, unlike the Route 66 pilgrims of the Dust Bowl days.
The Bambi’s gleaming appeal is complemented by a custom point-of-sale counter that resembles the tail end of an Airstream, complete with riveted aluminum, custom taillights and chrome trim. Shoppers can find a selection of Route 66 T-shirts, and branded handbags, clocks, shot glasses and coffee-table books about the fabled road. “Guests are often taking pictures in front of the custom Airstream,” says Cameron Andrews of Pier Communications.
In line with combining nostalgic trappings with a new Bambi, the two-acre Pacific Park has a Ferris wheel—that’s solar powered. Millions of visitors trek there annually to thrill to its steel roller coaster and other rides, which edge right over the blue Pacific. Route 66 itself may have felt like a roller coaster at first; it wasn’t completed until 1938, when our highway engineers were just getting the hang of interstate travel and its complexities.
Route 66, of course, was later shuffled aside by the Interstate Highway System, so that it was no longer a linked thoroughfare; however, segments in various states are designated National Scenic Byways. Put the top down and put it in gear: you’re always likely to see lots of shiny Airstreams out there with you.
-By Tom Bentley