On a recent foggy Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m. I kissed my loved ones goodbye and left for San Bernardino (or, as Hunter S. Thompson called it, Berdoo). The plan was to check out the Stater Bros. Route 66 Rendezvous for a future road trip weekend for myself and for Hot Rod Memories videotapes.
With only general directions — "It is on 2nd Street. You cant miss it!" — I was off with a full cup of coffee and an old Byrds CD playing in the van.
When I saw 7th Street, I knew I was close and got off the freeway. Now, to find 2nd Street. After driving around for awhile, I realized that something was not right. The car show had moved. At least, there were no cars on 2nd Street.
Seeking direction, I finally asked a guy who was filling up his 68 Camaro at a gas station. He told me that I was in Riverside and not San Bernardino! He also gave me some more information about the show. He said "Look for the 2nd Street sign in San Bernardino and turn right on 2nd." He also told me to park at the Carousel Mall and walk in.
While we were chatting about his Camaro, I noticed something moving to the right of me at the gas station by the trash can. It was rats! There were probably five or ten of them looking for food next to the mini-mart. I didnt know I would be seeing more rats than this small horde before the day was done.
I finally arrived at the Carousel Mall in San Bernardino and then saw why the directions included, "You can’t miss it!" The car show is huge. It runs between 2nd and 5th Streets for probably 10 blocks. There were all kinds of activities. There was a fun zone for the kids, a giant food area featuring offerings from local restaurants and bars, vendors selling all kinds of automotive things and, of course, classic and restored cars, hundreds of them.
The program is this: if you have an old car you can register and get in Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for $80. If you just want to look, it’s free.
Two things are different about this event. The first one is "flamers," cars with a spark system in the tailpipe to make a flame thrower effect. The second one is allowing open headers on any vehicle. There were even contests for the best flame and the best sounding engine.
Im glad the California Legislature wasnt there with their lame-ass 95 decibel limits. Keep those rats in Sacramento. What a bunch of idiots. With all we have to worry about in California, exhaust noise should not be a priority at all. Lets work on a reduction of taxes or bringing new businesses into our state or making more jobs available for Californians.
Please excuse me. I digress. Back to Berdoo.
To cover this huge area in a day looked difficult at best. I needed two things: a map of the event and some more coffee. Starting on 5th Street and working my way down to 2nd Street was the plan. Lucky for me there was a Jack In the Box right on 5th and it was open. Let me tell you, the crowd there at 7:30 a.m. was colorful. There were car owners. There were various street people. There were some cops. Everyone was in harmony.
I left and walked east on 5th. A few prostitutes, people looking for money, and a drug dealer all greeted me in their own way. Next to one building on 5th, I even saw some more rats. 5th Street in Berdoo is the outer limit of the annual car show.
Getting into the middle of the Route 66 Rendezvous was quite nice and there were some excellent cars. It was a different crowd; there were not many L.A., San Fernando Valley or Orange County cars out there. Everything was from Riverside and San Bernardino County and new and interesting to me.
My favorite was a 1957 Chevrolet Nomad (a Trailer Queen) with a 1999 Corvette engine, transmission, and rear end. It was impressive because of the amount of work — and money — spent on this car: $135,000. It showed. It was gorgeous.
Here are some other favorites: a 1962 Chevrolet Impala 409 four-speed with only 22,000 miles. A 1965 Pontiac GTO Survivor four-speed with 12,000 miles. Two six-pack hemi Plymouth Road Runners. A 1928 Model A vegetable delivery truck used in Berdoo by a produce company.
I thought the most creative was the "Headhunter Cadillac." This 67 Cadillac followed an African theme right down to the skull on the steering wheel. The delegation from the Headhunter Cadillac was in a festive mood and they were all over the single women. What a come-on line from the girls: "Are you guys Headhunters?" Good taste from this writer will not allow me to include the response from the Headhunter delegation to the intoxicated females.
I saw most of the show and it was really good. There was something for everybody and there were hundreds of beautiful cars.
The only unfortunate thing that happened was I was a witness to a cruise car crash. The Route 66 Rendezvous has a cruise course that is the best I have ever seen. In front of the car wash was a beautiful Plymouth GTX driving in the cruise lane and it was hit in the front end by a driver of a Reliant K car. The driver of the Reliant turned right into the GTX, obviously not paying attention. Then the rat in the Reliant jumped out of his car and started to blame the GTX driver.
What a rat! The most important thing in any accident is checking that everyone is all right, not who’s at fault. I dont think the Reliant rat driver liked the fact that I saw the whole thing or that I took pictures of the scene after I was sure everyone was okay. Im sending the pictures to the GTX owner for his insurance. I wish him well.
So the report from the Berdoo Route 66 Rendezvous is youll find great cars, good food and drink, rats, prostitutes, and headhunters. Its well worth the drive. Ive just gotta start using maps.
Originally published in the November 2002
Automotive Booster Magazine.
Copyright November 2002 by KAL Publications Inc.
Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.