Visiting Amboy: A Small Town on Route 66
Amboy's Ghost Town was once a thriving stop along Historic Route 66
I have passed through the small town of Amboy several times. You might remember seeing it in the Movies or in the News when they were selling the whole town for just a couple million dollars back in the late 1990's. The town has a contested population of anywhere from 4-20 permanent residents, and with nothing here but the famous Roy's Motel and Cafe, a Post Office, and a gas station it's no wonder it's now a Ghost Town on the way to Laughlin or Las Vegas.
Before Interstate 40 was built in the early 1970's, people traveled Route 66, and Amboy was a bustling stop in this part of the Mojave Desert. Amboy is one of the oldest towns in California and was originally a train stop and residence for the Chloride Fields that are still in production just outside town. But it's Roy's Restaurant, the old Motel, and the gas station that people remember most. Currently Amboy has another icon that travelers along this portion of the old Route 66 stop for; The Shoe Tree.
Amboy was founded in 1858
The town of Amboy was founded in 1858 and later in 1938 Roy Crowl bought it and built a gas station and cafe named after himself, Roy's. This was the only gas station in this part of the Mojave Desert and he did well. He later added the Motel and did a thriving business until the I-40 Interstate was built North of the town. Slowly the once thriving tourist stop became a virtual ghost town.
Currently the town is owned by Albert Okura, owner of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain who bought it for a pittance with the promise of revitalizing it. I have to say I don't particularly like the new Cafe as the old one was filled with icons, gifts, and had a lot of Route 66 memorabilia in it. But if Roy's can stay open, that's the most important thing. It would be a shame to lose this part of our history of the old Route 66.
Traveling the 350 Miles of Route 66 in So California
The Image of America Series is a Must have for not just the historical information, but the pictures. I have several of these books on different themes. this one takes you through the last 350 miles of the Chicago to LA route, through Southern California.
Traveling to Amboy from the Coachella Valley past the Chloride Canals - Amboy is by the Chloride Fields
Amboy is about 70 miles from the town of Twentynine Palms. Most of the people going this way are going to the Colorado River, Kingman, or Las Vegas. It's the shortcut for Coachella Valley residents that go through Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms by way of Route 62, then make the Amboy turnoff. From here it is pretty desolate, and not much to see until you get to the Chloride Fields. If you like photography, the Chloride Canals are beautiful, and you will probably see people stopping to take pictures.
The Chloride Fields are in dry lake beds and you will know you are there when you see mound after mound of what appears to be dirt, but is really chloride. Then you will see the canals on the left of the road (coming from Twentynine Palms), and if you are lucky enough to be able to turn around it is a great photo op. If you are traveling late in the afternoon, early evening, the dry lake beds look like they have snow on them as they are white. I have never seen the same sight twice as I am never there at the same time of day, but each time I have marveled at the Canals with their turquoise coloring.
The Amboy Shoe Tree- a Cultural Icon in the Desert
Travelers love the Amboy Shoe Tree
There are two main activities that have intrigued travelers along Route 66 from Amboy to the Colorado River, one of them is the Shoe Tree by the bridge in Amboy, and the other are the names spelled out in rocks along the Railroad tracks further East from Amboy.
No one really knows how this particular Shoe Tree started or who threw the first pair up into the branches. Someone a long time ago threw a pair of shoes onto this Tamarisk Tree on the edge of the dry wash, next to a small bridge about 1/4 of a mile East of Roy's Motel and Cafe. Highway travelers have been adding to the shoe collection ever since.
The Amboy Shoe Tree has split in recent years as you can see by the photo, but that hasn't stopped people from decorating it, as can be seen by the Cowboy Hat and clothing on the split branch.
Update 2013: The shoe tree is gone now, but travelers still leave shoes on the fallen branches in this area.
The Amboy Shoe Tree with a view of the Crater in the background
6,000 year old Cinder Cone
Another sight just outside of the town of Amboy is the Amboy Crater. You will notice a large black cone shaped "mountain" to the West, but this is really a 6,000 year old Volcano. It's extinct now, but you can see pieces of lava rock dotting the desert floor for miles.
The Amboy Crater is 250 feet high, 1500 feet in diameter and was formed by ash and cinders. It was designated a California Historical Natural Landmark in 1975. You can walk to the Crater, but we never went as it was always too hot when we happened to be in Amboy. I'm not into walking up and down a volcano, a black cinder one at that in the heat.
If you do want to visit the Amboy Crater there are signs directing you, and a parking lot. I heard it was a 3 hour hike up to the Crater so make sure you take plenty of water with you if you decide to make the hike, especially in the Summer.
Famous Landmark in Amboy
Seeing a rare Rainbow Cloud - The Mojave Desert is full of wonders
Driving through the desert to Amboy we saw a Rainbow Cloud. It was pretty hard to stop at 70 miles and hour to get a picture, that first "oooohhhhh" when you see something spectacular. As someone that loves photography I was upset that we had already passed the larger part of this rare Rainbow Cloud with all the vibrant colors, and had to settle for this shot. But that Rainbow Cloud is etched in my memory, of just one more beautiful thing I saw out in the desert.
The kids and I started talking about Rainbow Clouds and one of the Native American legends about Cloud People, including The Rainbow People that made Rainbows. These rainbows and Rainbow Clouds are made to bring beauty to the people of the Earth. There are other legends and superstitions, but the one of bringing beauty fits with my beliefs, so that is the one we embraced while watching the last remains of our Rainbow Cloud.
I love the ride as it is so peaceful compared to the freeways going into Arizona or Nevada. Road trips to see many of these small towns, whether they are ghost towns, or just small old towns is one of my favorite activities.
I hope you enjoyed this visit to Amboy, and any and all comments are welcomed!