Electric Route 66 Dashcam: Edge of California
It's May 2023, and I have once again assembled and posted another edition of Electric Route 66 Dashcam. This video comes to us from the eastern edge of California, south of Needles near the Colorado River.
|The Blue Spirit has a little bit of suspension lift, for better clearance when it goes off-pavement.
We visited Needles in February 2023 to attend and assist with their annual Route 66 info fair. We had enough time to check out a couple new things in the area before we headed out to abandoned 66 south of town. In addition to two new Tesla Supercharger stations, Needles also boasts a new business named The Filter Change, which serves up helpful liquids for both cars and people. While our EV doesn't need oil changes, we loved their menu of coffee, tea, and smoothies for ourselves!
The rarely-traveled section of Route 66 in our video is a dead-end road in poor condition, and has been abandoned for decades. One indication of its age is the striping still visible on parts of the road: the center line in this area is white, because yellow striping was not yet standard when this road was bypassed by a newer alignment in the 1940s or 1950s. While some pavement with center stripe remains, a lot of the road is only dirt.
|Old 66 as it leaves 5 Mile Road. It starts out fine, but soon turns dicey.
Driving this section of Route 66 can be a little nerve-wracking in a regular car. After decades of abandonment, even the remaining pavement is often covered with dirt and sand deposited by flash flooding, which is common in the Mojave Desert during part of the year. The flash floods have also washed out or undercut portions of the road. Ultimately, our drive on this section of road was stopped by such a washout, which left a dropoff too steep for our car to handle. The Blue Spirit has been equipped with a lift kit to aid in clearance on rougher patches of road, but it's still just a regular passenger car, so it can't navigate large dropoffs like a truck or SUV equipped for offroading.
Our eastbound drive, beginning from 5 Mile Road near its interchange with I-40, suffered from some technical glitches in the video, so this video is the return trip: from the washout that was too big for us to navigate, we travel westbound on old Route 66 until we reach the pavement of 5 Mile Road. As we drove this section, we were careful to avoid the dropoffs on the downstream side of the road, which often cut into the old highway by several feet. We were also forced to leave the old alignment of the road towards the end of the video; a large washout completely wrecked the path of 66 so we had to divert to a parallel dirt path for a short distance and then return to 66, just before reaching 5 Mile Road.
If you'd like to travel this section of Route 66 in a car, please be very careful! There is ample room for walking and bicycling, but the washouts are numerous, and there is the potential for undercuts from flooding that are not easily seen from the road. Do not travel this road when monsoon rains are near; highly dangerous flash flooding can come very suddenly. This section can be accessed from 5 Mile Road near its intersection with I-40; look for the Historic Route 66 California Gateway - a picnic rest stop with interpretive signage that sits right next to the entrance of this abandoned stretch of Route 66.
We hope you enjoy this slow cruise on a forgotten section of Route 66. The video is embedded below, or you can follow this link to view it directly on YouTube.