Not up for any desert hike? Please join me in one of my favorite driving detours to Las Vegas, stops along old Highway 66, from Barstow to Goffs, California. It's rocky and dry and has an eerie outer-spaceness about it (to give you an idea of the terrain, the Amboy Crater was the research site for the Mars Rover). Here you'll find solitude like you've never experienced before. It's just you and some prehistoric rock - and way out there, out on the horizon, an idea that could be something, someday…
A little trip down the "Mother Road" always puts me in a bright and sunny mood and in the mood for sunny side-up eggs, hash browns, biscuits and gravy. Of course loaded with cholesterol.
When Route 66 was established in 1926, the townspeople of Ludlow moved Main Street north to line up with the road. It started as a water stop for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in 1883 and when ore was found in the nearby hills, Ludlow became a happening-kind of place. There were no wells in those olden days so water had to be brought in from Newberry Springs - about 27 miles west. The major portion of the town was built along the railroad tracks where many shacks are still located.
With the popularity of the movie, “Bagdad Cafe,” Route 66 became a must-see for tourists - homegrown and foreign-born.
The Newberry Springs cafe is a Route 66 survivor and was once known as the Sidewinder Cafe. After the movie was filmed here the name Bagdad Cafe stuck. It is open for business serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Say hi to the proprietor who has done a great job of keeping the Bagdad Cafe alive for all us Mother Road fans. If you're lucky, maybe General Bob will show up and entertain you with his colorful stories from the past!
The area around Newberry Springs has been a source of water in the arid Mojave Desert since the earliest days. The site of Camp Cady is located a few miles from present day Newberry Springs, and was a resting place and watering hole along the Mojave River for wagon trains coming to California in the 1850's on the old Mormon Trail. In the 1880's the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad hauled tank cars of water from Newberry Springs to the stations and towns in the area making life in this arid land possible.
The real Bagdad Cafe, in Bagdad, was once the social center of the desert. A few building foundations are all that remain of the town.
Amboy Crater rises above the desert floor just outside of town it was once an old Route 66 tourist attraction. Today the Amboy Crater stands silent and lonely. But it wasn't always like that.
About 60 years ago this stretch of Route 66 woke up. On that fateful day the residents of Amboy awoke to saw a billowing black tendril of smoke rising from the center of the crater, high into the sky. It seemed that what everyone had thought was a dormant volcanic cinder cone was now coming to life with a promise of an eruption that would rival Mt. Vesuvius. The residents prepared to flee. Route 66 and the Santa Fe mainline where shut down as people braced themselves for the disaster. Funny thing though, there was none of the distinctive rumblings of the earth usually associated with volcanic activity such as this. Furthermore, the smoke didn't seem to get any thicker either. A team of investigators was dispatched to fly over the crater to try to determine the extent of the impending calamity. What they found surprised them. Instead of billowing clouds of ash, red-hot lava and steam, they saw a small, localized fire in the center of the crater and what looked suspiciously like burning tires and trash. The hoax was uncovered! An investigation was promptly set up to find the perpetrators of this dastardly scheme. The clues led all the way to Barstow and ended with some kids from the local high school. Evidently these local youth had concocted a clever plan to simulate a natural disaster, and hauled old tires and junk to the crater then set the pile on fire. The officials duly chastised the local kids. All in all, I can't help but think that the officials found a little humor in the stunt, but not in front of the kids of course. Such a grand plan, the disciplinary officials might have thought. Why hadn't they thought of something like that before? Downright creative!
Essex was as a small Mojave Desert community that chiefly served the needs of the tourists. Essex once provided towing services, gas stations, markets and cafes to the Route 66 traveler. This post card from the 1940s shows Essex in it's hey-day.
About ten miles from Essex on the old Route 66 is Goffs, here my detour ended.