Route 66 — A Few Miles, A Couple of Decades…

I'm not one of those Route 66 obsessives who travels the Mother Road every year and who can reel off all sorts of facts and factoids about this or that motel or byway or storied bar or whatever. I don't really know much about Route 66 except the bits that are in California, and even then I can't pretend to be any sort of expert or have local knowledge or anything.  

But I do know a bit about the role of Route 66 in US history, and when I moved to California from London, it was enough to make me seek it out fairly early on to see what it looked like. And over the years I've driven all the bits you can still drive from Santa Monica to Kingman, AZ (not all at once, though), mostly just out of curiosity. And I drive the bits between Lenwood (the Barstow area) and Amboy (or Chambless, sometimes, a few miles east of Amboy, where the road currently ends due to roadwork) pretty much every time I'm in the area because it's a good way to see up close what life can be like in the Mojave Desert (pretty tough), and to be able to stop and walk around natural sites like Amboy Crater or the Pisgah lava fields, or the ghost town bits of Ludlow, instead of just passing by quickly on Interstate 40.

And who doesn't want to see Siberia, California up close (it's right on Old Route 66)? Or Bagdad, California? Or the real-life working cafe featured in the cult 1980's movie Bagdad Cafe? (See both the movie and the cafe if you get a chance — I don't think it's the greatest movie ever made, but it's a nice way to spend ninety minutes, especially if you know the area). There's a lot to see along this section of Old Route 66 (called National Trails Highway on this stretch) if you've got the time. One thing you can't miss — in real life as well as in these photos — is just how heavily the railroad is intertwined both physically and economically with this stretch of the old Route 66. Unlike the road, it's busy, and it's still the main freight line between LA and Back East.

So here's a bunch of snapshots I've taken over a couple of decades from that stretch of Route 66 in the Mojave desert between Lenwood and Amboy / Chambless in Southern California (either from or on the road itself, or within a mile or so of it) to give you some sort of feeling for what it's like to drive the less than one hundred miles between the two places. Do it yourself if you ever get the chance…

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