The mention of Route 66 evokes images of a bygone era- of old cars and cross country road trips, summers spent national parking with stops at diners for a slice of pie and a cup of joe. In some ways, the old route, or at least portions of it, was what brought my family to California from Chicago decades ago.
U.S. Highway 66 was completed in the 1930s and connected Chicago, Illinois with its western terminus in Santa Monica, California. The highway traverses the states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. For many, the building of Route 66 brought new economic opportunities as the American transportation industry blossomed. For many others, it ushered in a new era of freedom and a sense of adventure on the open road. This symbol of American spirit is often romanticized in songs, movies, and other media. While the road was decommissioned in 1985 after stretches of ‘The Mother Road’ were bypassed by wider, more traffic-friendly interstates and fell into disrepair as depicted in Disney Pixar’s “Cars,” there are private organizations along with the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program working to preserve this important piece of American culture and history.
Living in the San Gabriel Valley, whose foothill cities are bisected by stretches of this historic route as it makes its way west, I’m accustomed to seeing symbols of the old mother road. The foothill city of Glendora is a prime example of this celebration of road-tripping history. In addition to elaborate road signs with symbols of the Route 66 area, there are some great old-timey places to eat. In this post, I’ll share two of my favorite breakfast haunts.
Flappy Jacks- 640 W. Route 66, Glendora, CA 91740
Flappy Jack’s is a Glendora brunch spot that has been serving up pages of fluffy, delicious pancakes since 2002. The restaurant has an old retro feel, paying homage to the famed road on which it is located. Their menu boasts pancakes of various kinds- from fruit pancakes to multigrain, to specialties such as potato pancakes and crepes. The menu has simplified quite a bit since Covid, but the pancakes are still delicious and the portions are large enough to share. After our last hike in the Claremont Wilderness, Michael and I split orders for the stuffed cream of wheat pancakes and the Hawaiian pancakes. Even so, we took home leftovers.
If pancakes aren’t your thing, there is a selection of omelettes, French toast, waffles, and other breakfast specialties. Lunch fare is also served. There is no dinner service as Flappy Jack’s is only open until 3 pm. For us it’s a family favorite for its good food and good service.
The Donut Man- 941 E. Route 66, Glendora, CA 91740
For the last 50 years, The Donut Man has been a fixture in Glendora and has been featured on many travel shows, such as ‘Visiting’ with Huell Howser. Made from potato flour, the donuts are light and fluffy, perfect for an after-hike treat or easy breakfast. The Donut Man is especially popular in the spring and summer when strawberries and peaches come into season and are used to stuff their famous fresh fruit donuts. But also super delicious are their cream cheese donuts, apple fritters, and tiger tails- a twist donut with a thin ribbon of chocolate. You really can’t go wrong with any of the donuts at The Donut Man- except when they are out of something. The only bummer on my last visit was that they were out of the raspberry cream cheese. So I ordered a strawberry instead and had zero regrets.
The original Donut Man along Route 66 turns 50 this year. The store is selling commemorative merch for die hard fans and donut lovers, and there is a banner in the parking that folks were taking photos under. Including us.
I find myself at The Donut Man more often than I should admit. In addition to taking graduate courses at nearby Azusa Pacific University, there are several hiking trails that are in the area. Either are a good reason to make a stop. Sami looks forward to the periodic after-class treat, and a fresh donut makes a great before hike fuel-up.
There are more fun spots to visit when in any of the foothill cities. In this section of the SGV, there are many places to get your eats on Route 66.
Bonus: Azusa City Trails
Just off the mother road, in the city of Azusa, are some nice spots to take a walk or catch a sunset. North of Foothill Boulevard and west of APU are some really pretty neighborhoods with small parks and walking trails. My favorite is perhaps the walk from Sierra Madre Park to Summit Park and south to Arroyo North through the walking trail and to Arroyo South. You can almost feel like you’re on a mini-hike walking through the lush landscaping on Arroyo North, and Summit Park is right up against the foothills on Camellia Way. Whenever class dismisses early enough for it to be light out, I like to take a ‘hike’ through these suburban trails and watch the sunset over the valley below before heading home.
I feel really blessed to have so many green places in close proximity to work and school. Being outdoors, even in city parks, is a great way to recharge after a long day. And even in the suburbs, the foothill sunsets are pretty indeed.
U.S. Department of the Interior. (n.d.). Route 66. National Parks Service. Retrieved June 6, 2022, from https://ncptt.nps.gov/rt66/
U.S. Department of the Interior. (n.d.). History. National Parks Service. Retrieved June 6, 2022, from https://ncptt.nps.gov/rt66/history-and-significance-of-us-route-66/