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A Route 66 Mystery In California

Updated on December 12, 2011

The Mojave Desert is rich in mysteries, tales, and legends but this is not a story about the usual lost gold mine or ghost town. This is a story about real live people who cherish Route 66 enough to leave their mark including them in the route’s vast history.

Driving along a 35-mile stretch of historic Route 66 between the old railroad towns of Amboy and Essex, California, a mystery lies cradled amid the soft soil berm edging the road. Carefully aligned rocks spell more than 50 names and expressions of whimsical travelers inspired to stop the car in the desert heat, hand pick a unique selection of rocks and small boulders, and create.

Some configurations are decorated with colorful painted rocks and the occasional aluminum can for just the right accent. Others take on geometric shapes and double as campfire rings. While even more are simply unrecognizable.

Placed one after the other, these rock creations are interesting sidepieces to the historic route but why write with rocks along one of the most isolated sections of Route 66? Who’s going to take his eyes off of the road long enough to notice "Jennifer Loves Tim" or "Jesus Lives?" Who started this and why?

It’s a mystery and probably one that will never be solved. After contacting a few of the local folks no light was shed on this puzzle but the most likely explanation is that it started when one stranded traveler decided to kill time while he waited for a tow truck.

After all, it’s human nature to leave your mark and prove that you were there. We’ve all done it whether by signing a register or scribbling on the bathroom wall. In fact, look at the petroglyphs and pictographs scattered around the Mojave Desert. These are clear signs from ancient people of early habitation. Perhaps this was their way of saying they were the first. But just as prehistoric rock art is hard to understand so is the motive of the Route 66 scribes.

Whatever the reason and whomever the people, the display placed along Route 66 between Amboy and Essex is an intriguing stop worth exploring. However, if you must succumb to the temptation to create you own pièce de résistance, please keep it natural. Pink metallic and purple pebbles are a bit of an eyesore. Long live the mystery. Long live Route 66.


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    LIsa 8 years ago

    My Dad and his cousins and sisters and brothers and Aunts and Uncles and Parents have a rock on Route 66 that has all their names on it. They were what we call "Migrant Workers". Our whole family lives between Missouri and California. Some of the names on there are "Thomas, Bobbie, Alice, David, Peggy, Bill, Faye, Chester, Marlina" just to name a few.

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    rhonda 8 years ago

    my parents took my brother and sister and I out west in

    1970 and we saw where some people had put their names

    with rocks on the side of the road in the desert and

    we decided to put our names there also. I remember wondering then would we ever get to come back some day and

    try to find our names. I was surprised to find enough

    rocks in a desert to write names with. I also remember standing under a giant saguaro cactus. This was awesome

    for a kid from tennessee.