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Route 66 quirky stops, Barstow, and Home, AZ

Friday, May 6, 2022 - 4:00pm by Lolo
540 miles and 9 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Route 66, Barstow, and Home

Meteor CraterMeteor CraterWe were exactly 1,000 miles from home, too long for a one-day drive. The first half of that was on I40 (the old Route 66) with Barstow at its end, so a perfect place to stop for the night.

To break up the monotony of driving, we figured we would stop at some Route 66 attractions that we hadn’t been to before.

The first one was Meteor Crater, the site of one of the best preserved meteorite impact craters on earth.

Around 50,000 years ago, a huge iron-nickel meteorite, approximately 150 feet wide and weighing several hundred thousand tons crashed into a rocky plain just east of what is now Flagstaff, Arizona.The result of this impact was the creation of a giant bowl-shaped cavity, measuring 550 feet deep and almost a mile across.

Lolo making friends at Meteor CraterLolo making friends at Meteor CraterThe crater has been privately owned by the Barringer family since 1902, when Daniel Barringer, a mining engineer from Philadelphia, became interested in the site as a potential source for mining iron. It was he that set forth the correct theory that the crater had been formed by the impact of a large iron meteorite. He formed the Standard Iron Company and filed four mining claims with the Federal government, thus obtaining ownership of the two square miles containing the crater.

Although scientific research is still done here today, it has become a very successful tourist attraction, complete with movie theater, restaurant, and gift shop. Entry prices are $22 for adults, and $13 per child (free for the under fives).

We decided it was worth a stop. After watching an informative movie explaining the impact, with lots of loud noises and bright lights, we stepped out into the observation area for our first glimpse of what is a very impressive and massive bowl-shaped depression.

Coming close to Roy's CafeComing close to Roy's CafeWe walked outside to two other viewing areas to get a better view of the crater. The only hiking possible is along a short portion of the rim as part of a guided tour. We didn’t have much time, so we skipped that.

Our basic impression was that it was impressive, but not much more so than Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley, where we wereR allowed to walk around the entire rim and hike down to the bottom of it. Oh, and it’s free.

As we continued west along I40, Herb kept talking about wanting to see another Route 66 icon, Roy’s Cafe. To get there, we had to make a turn south off of I40 on the Kelbaker road, just south of the Mojave National Preserve, to get to a section of the original Route 66 in Amboy, California.

There wasn’t much left to the town of Amboy, except a Post Office and the remnants of Roy’s Cafe and Motel - just enough to show that like many other ghost towns along the old Route 66, this had once been a vibrant and popular place to stop.

From the late 1800s until the interstate highway system diverted traffic away from Route 66, the town of Amboy had served as both a railroad depot and a rest stop for travelers.

The famous Roy's CafeThe famous Roy's CafeOpened in 1938, Roy’s was the only stop to find gas, a hot meal, and a bed in the area. During Roy’s heyday in the late 1940s and 1950s, the town (population 150) had three service stations, two cafes, a motor court, and a post office.

Roy’s sign and cafe are both classic examples of “Googie” or (“do-wop”) architecture, a popular futuristic art movement in Southern California from the 1940s to 60s, inspired by industrial progress, car culture, and the space age. It’s characterized by geometric shapes, upswept roofs, vast glass surfaces, bold colors, neon, and the symbols of motion, such as arrows, boomerangs, and wings. It was most commonly used in designs for restaurants, gas stations, bowling alleys, etc.

The romance of a road trip along Route 66 is still alive, well attested to by the hordes of visitors that still come to this out-of-the-way, desolate place, where you can still get an ice cream and a postcard.

Buddha at Roy'sBuddha at Roy'sUnfortunately Roy’s Motel was long gone as a place to lay your head for the night on Route 66, so we continued on to good old reliable Barstow to spend the night.

The next day, Herb did have one more Route 66 stop up his sleeve, so rather than head west from Barstow on HIghway 58 as usual, we made a half hour diversion down Highway 66 to Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch. I don’t know where he found these places.

Bottle Tree RanchBottle Tree RanchWe love quirky desert art, and this place certainly fits the bill. Aptly named, the Bottle Tree Ranch is literally a forest of large metal pipes with bottles of all different colors hanging from them, like branches from a tree. They are especially pretty when the light shines through them, lighting them up like odd-shaped Christmas lights.

Elmer also seems to have had a thing for old typewriters and cash registers, because there are several of them scattered throughout the forest.

When researching this place, I learned that unfortunately Elmer passed away in 2019, and the family just recently reopened it.

It was actually a very good start, but if we kept stopping at this pace we’d never get home.

Bottle Tree RanchBottle Tree RanchOn our way back to Highway 58, we passed (but didn’t stop) at one more desert oddity - a 55+ retirement community called Silver Lakes in the town of Helendale. Seriously, Lakes?? We were in the middle of a barren desert with most people living in old trailers or somewhat dilapidated homes, but this community had beautiful homes with terracotta roofs, nice cars in the driveways, and most surprisingly boats at their docks.

That’s right, docks!! The two man-made Silver Lakes were created in such a way to have side canals running like streets along the backside of houses, so they could keep boats - just like Florida! These boats didn’t have much water to play in, but still they were boats in the Mojave Desert. Of course, I had to go on Zillow and see what these houses sold for and they were in the 300 - 500K range and you got a lot of house for that.

Ok, back on the road with one last stop at Andersen’s Pea Soup Andersen’s on I5 in Santa Nella.

Great trip, but great to be home again as well.

Route 66 quirky stops, Barstow, and Home location map in "high definition"

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