2) It is now (since when?) legal to ride the shoulder of I 40 between Barstow and Needles. I saw a bunch of "Share the Road" signs along the way. This is key because Old Route 66 on that section has some of the worst pavement on the planet, and there seems to be zero motivation for fixing it. Also, once past Fenner, I 40 is by far the safest route down to Needles. There are some bridges under reconstruction west of Fenner, so be warned, but touring cyclists should be down in the Amboy region on Route 66 anyway--much more scenic and quiet.
This happened just before the Bicycle Route 66 maps were published in February 2015. See SOLUTION: Bicycle Route 66 Concerns blog post. Since that time, bridges have been repaired and technically I-40 is only open to cyclists from exit 23 to 50. Of course, this can change with the next major thunderstorm bringing rains that turn into flash floods in the desert.