Saturday, February 5, 2011
Day 171: Go Granny Go
Glendora to Pasadena. 20 miles/3307.8 total
Saturday, February 5, 2011
9:26 a.m. I am heading out from the parking lot at the corner of Amelia and Foothill in beautiful Glendora, heading west in the direction of Pasadena, a distance of 20 miles.
High wispy clouds in the sky today, heading up to about 70.
The biggest challenge so far today, and the reason I’m getting off to a late start, was finding a parking place for the motor home in downtown Pasadena. Finally I asked a policeman and he suggested I go down to a residential section with no meters and try my luck there, which I duly did. Now I just hope I can remember where I left the damn thing. Dude, where’s my motor home?
The Route 66 signs still abound on various businesses. In fact, I think Foothill is called Route 66, officially, here in Glendora. But in general the U.S. highway shield with the 66 on it is more of a business logo than anything else.
Glendora appears to be well-balanced on either side of middle income, with lots of older housing stock dating from the 1960s, along with a sprinkling of newer stuff. Tall, muscular gray eucalyptus trees rise 50 or 60 feet out of the median. Trailer parks abound.
I stop to get a cappuccino in Glendora, about an hour into the walk. At 3.5 miles, crossing Barranca Avenue, I enter Azusa. There’s a college here, Azusa Pacific University. The foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains loom large in the northern distance.
At 4.6 miles I come to the Azusa Foothill Drive-In Theater, or its sign anyway. Now it looks as if the land belongs to Azusa Pacific University. The road takes a turn to the left and straightens out to run due west again.
The name Azusa has obscure origins, probably coming from an Indian word. Jack Benny used to have a joke that it stood for “Everything from A to Z in the U.S.A.” At Dalton Street I reach what I believe is the political center of the city, the very handsome City Hall and Civic Center and Senior Center, done in the Spanish colonial style, off white, with a tiled roof and a beautifully manicured front lawn. It looks like the home of a Latin American drug lord.
In its westernmost reaches Azusa flattens out into a series of warehouses and office parks. The next town I enter, at 6.6 miles, is Irwindale. This one I know nothing about. Azusa at least I’d heard of, from the jokes on the Jack Benny show and Bugs
An interesting thing about Irwindale, amid these communities of tens and even hundreds of thousands, is that it has a very low population—only 1,446 in 2000. The city consists almost entirely of rock quarries, which are its main source of income. I pass the Vulcan Materials plant immediately on entering the city. It's a city of gravel pits, but also based on some signs I see, of landfills. They made money digging the holes, now they're making money filling them up.
Off in the distance to the south is a Miller Beer brewery. Past one of the quarries I cross the San Gabriel River, fed by runoff from the mountains to the north. There’s also a recreational area here, with a bike path, probably reclaimed from some industrial use. This river is flowing better than any large river I’ve seen in the west since beginning the walk again in October.
Next I enter Duarte, which bills itself as The City of Health for some reason. It’s a city of about 22,000. Down the road from me is the Duarte Historical Museum. I’ll put that on my list of things to see after I’m done with the entire walk. That list is growing. Duarte has a lot of apartment complexes on both sides of the road, lots of big shade trees on the sidewalks. The San Gabriel Mountains sweep up majestically to the north. Old Route 66 road here is called Huntington Boulevard.
The banners that hang from the streetlights don’t merely heap adulation on members of the military, they name graduates of Duarte High School who are going on to college, as well, and put the colleges they’re going to on the banners. The banners are in pairs, and I look up to see side-by-side Jesuses, each going to different colleges.
It has developed into a warm day. At Huntington and Calle Andres I come to a statue of Andres Avelino Duarte, 1805-1863, on horseback. He joined the Mexican Army in 1821 and was eventually assigned to Mission San Gabriel, somewhere around here. When he retired the government gave him 7,000 acres. Following the Mexican War and the transfer of the area to the U.S., Duarte began selling off his land to the Anglos and it became parts of the present day cities of Duarte, Bradbury, Monrovia, Azusa, Arcadia, Irwindale, and Baldwin Park.
Not long after I cross Buena Vista Street, at 9.6 miles, I leave Duarte and enter Monrovia. Monrovia’s piece of Huntington is pretty busy. I pass a place called Genzyme Genetics, which looks like the place where Arnold Schwartzenegger and Danny DeVito became embryonic twins in that movie.
Monrovia’s charming downtown, which I have driven through, lies a few blocks to the north of Huntington. The town has a population of around 36,000. A guy named William N. Monroe bought some of Andres Duarte’s land, and eventually the town was named for him. At the time of incorporation, in 1887, it was established as a dry town by some prohibitionists. Upton Sinclair lived here at some point, and his house is now a landmark, which I plan to visit after the journey is over.
Monrovia honors both its high school graduates who go on to college, as Duarte does, and its young members of the military, though at least it doesn’t insult everyone’s intelligence by calling them heroes. I suppose it’s the little products of the propaganda machine, like the fawning banners, that help to maintain support for and fuel our country’s permanent volunteer imperialist army, fighting endless wars to maintain the Pax Americana, propped up heroically by stable dictatorships all over the world.
Now here’s an interesting tidbit. In 1937, Patrick McDonald opened a restaurant at the now-defunct Monrovia Airport called the “Aerodrome,” at the corner of Huntington and Mayflower. It featured ten cent hamburgers and all-you-can-drink orange juice for five cents. In 1940, Patrick and his two sons, Maurice and Richard, moved the entire building forty miles east to San Bernardino, where they renamed it McDonald’s. The rest is history. So Monrovia can lay claim, in a way, to being the birthplace, or perhaps the father, of McDonald’s restaurants.
Huntington in Monrovia is very busy. I cross under I-210, and at 12.2 miles I enter Arcadia, where things become noticeably quieter. Arcadia is an upscale-looking place, shady, reminding me a little of Birmingham, Michigan.
Arcadia in its modern incarnation was founded by a guy named Elias Jackson Baldwin, known as “Lucky,” who bought a good deal of land around here in 1875, exclaiming when he saw it, “By Gad! This is paradise!”
Like everywhere else in Los Angeles County, Arcadia was once, and for thousands of years, the home of the Tongva Indians, who apparently still exist here and there. When the Spanish came they established Catholicism at the San Gabriel Mission and put the Indians under their control. But the worm turned again, and the area passed into Anglo hands, where it essentially remains today, although there is a decent-sized Asian population here. Up until the Supreme Court struck it down in 1965, there was city ordinance in Arcadia mandating that all sales of property be to white Protestants. And perhaps not coincidentally, James Dobson founded his fascist front organization Focus on the Family here in 1977, although it later moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Rounding out this parade of ignominy, the Santa Anita racetrack was used as an internment center for Japanese Americans during World War II for about a year and a half, until the prisoners were shipped further into the interior.
I turn right to head north a few blocks to Colorado Boulevard, because I know that will be the main street of Pasadena and the continuation of old Route 66. At Santa Anita I turn left onto Colorado, passing the Mandarin Baptist Church. After going near the Santa Anita Park racetrack, I walk through a long residential corridor with no sidewalks, finally arriving at Rosemead Boulevard. I know I’m in Pasadena, though I’m not sure exactly when I got here.
Colorado Boulevard, lined with tall palm trees, is a very busy urban byway. This street, or a portion of it further to the west at least, is the route of the Tournament of Roses Parade. I’m wearing my Michigan hat, representing, mindful that the University of Michigan has played in more Rose Bowl games—20—than any other school except the Pac 10’s own USC, which has been there 33 times. Not that we’ve won a whole lot of them, but even our eight victories is the second most, after USC’s 24 wins. Here’s hoping we'll be back here soon.
I also can’t help thinking about the immortal Jan and Dean song “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena,” also covered by the Beach Boys.
And everybody’s sayin' that there’s nobody meaner
Than the little old lady from Pasadena.
She drives real fast and she drives real hard,
She’s the terror of Colorado Boulevard.
My sense of anticipation is building, as I’m now in the last city before I enter Los Angeles. I pass probably the fiftieth person I've seen dressed as the Statue of Liberty, attempting to wave people in to get their income tax filings done.
On the west side of Sunnyslope, extremely large mature ficus trees begin to line the boulevard. Pasadena is a city of about 145,000, but gives the impression of being larger than that, and certainly is more mature and turned out than some of the more populous suburbs behind me to the east. It’s the home to several colleges and universities, including Cal Tech, and also has the Norton Simon Museum, which is on my list of things to see after the walk is finished. And of course there’s the Rose Bowl, which is the home field of the UCLA Bruins. Of the many famous people who are listed in Wikipedia as being from Pasadena very few were actually born here. Julia Child is one who was. Another, I’m sorry to say, is Sally Field.
At 17 miles I reach Altadena Street and gradually the ficus trees give way. I pass Pasadena City College, a modern-looking collection of white buildings, and across the street an old Baptist Church, in the classic Greek-influenced early 20th century style. In spite of the fact that California was visited by Europeans long before the English came to the east coast of the country, I think it’s fair to say that this area isn’t known for a long history of distinctive and enduring architecture. Late Victorian is considered really old around here. The reason for this is in part that the Spanish and Mexicans considered this to be a backwater at the northern reaches of their empire, and didn’t settle it with nearly the enthusiasm that they did the areas further south. They had governors and sent missionaries to tame the Indians, to be sure, but it wasn’t until the Anglos came that things really took off. Los Angeles, for instance, had 1,600 residents in 1850, 11,000 in 1880, and 102,000 in 1900.
At 18.9 miles I come to Lake Avenue. I’m now in the middle of downtown. Up at Los Robles I turn left and head down into the shady neighborhood where I know I’m parked somewhere. The last few days of walking, starting from Redlands, have been characterized by urban walking, mostly on sidewalks, interrupted frequently by large intersections where I sometimes have to wait for the lights to change. Those buttons you push to get the “walk” signal come in several different shapes and sizes. The one in the photo above is probably the most interesting I’ve seen so far.
At Green Street I cut down a block and start walking south on shady and ever-narrowing Euclid. In a few blocks I find the motor home, waiting patiently like a good motor home should, parked across the street from the Mayfield Junior School of the Holy Child Jesus, near Bellevue Street.