Final Day: Eric Lalor’s Route 66 Diary

Route 66 Final Day Today was the final day of this magical journey on Route 66. We were going to be swinging into Santa Monica Pier in LA to draw the curtain on this life altering experience. It was also our earliest start as we were setting off from our base in Victorville at 6am. For the first time on this adventure, we were travelling in darkness, but it wouldn’t be for long as we knew sunrise was at 6.40am.

Regardless of how early it was, the highways of Victorville were jam packed with commuters all heading to work. I was put back into Eddie’s team today and was riding with Tommy, a proud Mayo man and a superb motorcyclist. In order to get to Los Angeles we were being directed through a spectacular mountain range. The mountain range didn’t have as much traffic obviously so we weren’t long in making our ascent.

Route 66 Final Day Again, we were met with breathtaking views as we snaked our way higher and higher, up winding and twisting roads, stopping every now and then to take in the awe-inspiring scenery. This is bear country and as we powered our way up the mountains I wondered what the strategy would be if one of the bears fancied jumping out from behind a tree and into our path. As it was early and we were climbing into thinner air, it was very cold and for the first time, I felt what it must be like to be a motorcyclist in Ireland during the winter!

This is California though, so it wasn’t long before the sun started to increase in intensity and very quickly were were all in the land of sweat again. We were making good time on our schedule and had time to stop a couple of times to take pictures. All the teams were running smoothly and efficiently with the goal of hitting a particular point in LA where we would be met by the LAPD who would then give us a police escort to our final destination.

The descent from the mountains was fantastic as we meandered down to the outskirts of the city of LA. The transition from remote countryside mountain range to big city freeways was swift and very real. The lads had practically no traffic to negotiate on the mountain and now suddenly they were thrust into the ‘everyman for himself’ mentality of the Los Angeles freeway and it’s 8 lane madness.

It is a complete hive of activity and this is rush hour so you can imagine 8 lanes all heading in the same direction with cars weaving in and out, over-taking and jockeying for best position. The heat now at this stage was incredible and heading into the nineties. We arrived at our rendezvous point on the world famous Sunset Boulevard with the LAPD and we all went inside a diner to have some breakfast.

Route 66 Final Day They had told us about the police escort the night before and to be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. We were all gathered in the car-park for a safety briefing by the sergeant from the LAPD and then we received a blessing from the LAPD chaplain. This was serious stuff and it only dawned on me how hugely significant this escort was. Here were were, Irish men and women on 60 or so motorbikes being given a police escort through the city of Los Angeles and all for the cause of raising money for Temple Street Children’s Hospital. It was an incredible sight.

All of our bikes were decked out in tri-colours and were being flanked by the LAPD as we made our way through some of the most iconic places on the planet. We drove through Beverly Hills honking our horns as traffic came to a standstill allowing us to complete our journey, we cheered as we drove through Hollywood and all along the route you could see confused looks on people’s faces as they wondered why this big band of merry men and women from Ireland were being given this , the most special of treatments. The only time the LAPD provide an escort like this is for the President, that’s how significant and special this was.

Route 66 Final Day We soon made it on to waterfront and we could see Santa Monica pier in the distance. There was a big crowd there to greet us and as we arrive the noise, from all the horns, the cheering and clapping reaches a big crescendo and there is definitely something in my eye. The bikes all pull up and all the riders dismount and immediately it’s like a valve of emotion is released as everyone is hugging, high-fiving, and there are even some tears. It’s the culmination of two years of planning and it’s a phenomenal feat to complete the journey.

I have had easily one of the most amazing experience of my life these past few days and although there are functions ad formalities to attend, the bike journey is over and there is a tinge of sadness for me. Sadness because I have got to know some incredible people and seen some unbelievable things on this route and I will miss the daily banter, the roar of the engines and the excitement and possibility each morning brings when we set off for the day.

Angi McNulty is the glue that keeps this whole operation together. She is like a mammy to all these bikers and is an absolutely incredible woman. If they did knighthoods and such malarkey in Ireland, this woman would surely get one. I can’t thank her enough for allowing me to be part of this. To all the people I met on this journey, the bikers, the support teams, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your warmth, hospitality and general soundness. Of course, thanks must go to all at JOE.ie for supporting and allowing me to do this, but finally I would like to thank most of all, my wife who is at home minding our kids and holding the fort while I did this. I am a very lucky man. Thanks for reading……

Eric Lalor