June 7, 2018 San Bernardino to Kingman, Part 2
After exploring Elmer’s Bottle Ranch, we headed for Barstow, about 30 miles farther along Historic Route 66. In Barstow, CA is the Route 66 Mother Road Museum (681 N. First Avenue, Barstow), described by the AAA map guide as follows: This museum is located within the famous Casa del Desierto, a former Harvey House built by the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe Railroad in 1911. In its day, this impressive complex contained a railroad depot, hotel and restaurant. Adjacent to this museum is the Western America Railroad Museum. They both sounded interesting so we set our GPS to that location.When we arrived, however, we discovered that both museums were closed! It was Thursday and a sign informed us that the hours were Fridays and Saturdays 10 am – 4 pm, Sundays 11 am – 4 pm.
We looked around outside at old train cars.
I found some interesting flowers to take pictures of.
The Casa del Desierto, however, was open and we looked around at some Harvey House memorabilia.
We then drove on through the California desert to Bagdad Café, (in Newberry Springs via I-40 off Exit 18; physical address is 46548 National Trails Highway) made famous by the 1987 movie of that name. The surroundings looked desolate, as befitting the place, but then we noticed a large tourist bus pulling up in front. Oh no!!!
We went into the café to have a look around anyway. By that time, it was crammed with tourists, all speaking French. I had to shoot pictures above their heads.
The walls and door are covered inside and out with photos and messages. There are some vintage jukeboxes that actually work. And it is still a working café.
I stood for a moment at the counter, fingering the brochures which I noticed were also in French! The proprietor, looking harried but cheerful, told me that a busload of French tourists (or maybe French Canadian, I’m not sure) come regularly, and she puts out pamphlets printed in French when she knows they are coming.
Still, I was interested in lunch and a sign outside had advertised buffalo burgers. She confirmed that they did have them on the menu and invited us to have a seat in a booth in the back and she’d be right with us. I was willing, but Dale thought it was too crowded, so after snapping a few more photos outside, we left.Our next stop was Ludlow, primarily for lunch. We stopped at Ludlow Café and I noticed a plaque with some weird-looking cylinder things next to it, so I went over to find out what it said.
Above the plaque was a seal of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. The plaque was labeled Project Carryall. As I read it, I became aware of breathing the hot desert air, wondering if there were still traces of radiation around here.In the café, I went to the one-person restroom, where an attempt at a humorous connection was made on the door:
On our way again, we passed up Roy’s Motel and Café in Amboy (Exit 50 off I-40), whose claim to fame was offering food, water, gas and car repairs to early travelers on the Mother Road. By 1937, Roy’s Café had saved many people who underestimated crossing the desert. When I-40 was completed in 1973, the motel, café and gas station fell into disrepair. Things are looking up, however: in 2008, a new investor bought Roy’s as well as the entire town of Amboy and is working to bring back this site. There is an extinct volcano nearby, Amboy Crater, which has been a well-known attraction from the earliest days of Route 66. Perhaps it will be worth visiting in a few years.
As I mentioned earlier, much of Historic Route 66 followed the railroad tracks, and we saw plenty of freight trains, some of which seemed to stretch for a mile or more.
We crossed a bridge on I-40 over the Colorado River into Arizona, and I took a photo of the Old Trails Bridge, which is 700 ft. south of the I-40 bridge. Nowadays it carries a pipeline across the river.The driving became more difficult as we crossed desert mountains toward Kingman.
I was looking forward to seeing Oatman, Arizona, where our map guide said that wild burros wander the streets. We saw a sign indicating that we were entering Oatman, but other that a few abandoned buildings, there was nothing but rocky desert.
“Where are the burros?” I kept asking. I had my camera (not cellphone) ready to capture these beasts close up.
After what seemed a long time, I assumed we had already passed the town, but then we saw a burro walking on the road! Right after that, we entered the center of Oatman, where there were indeed a lot of wild burros. Locals and tourists alike feed them so they keep coming. We gave them the right of way.
We drove through Sitgreaves Pass on Route 66 (I-40 bypasses this entire area), which was treacherous and steep, with lots of hairpin curves. Imagine what it was like for travelers back in the 1920s and 1930s! Our guide notes: This pass was considered so dangerous that early travelers sometimes hired locals as drivers to take them up to Oatman. …Since most cars of the ’20s did not have fuel pumps, the frightening solution was to use gravity, [which] meant driving up the steep portions of the pass backwards! I shudder to think what the road itself was like back then! Anyway, I took a few photos, until Dale asked me to stop because it was distracting to him and he needed to concentrate.
We arrived in Kingman at about 7 pm, before it got dark (it gets dark earlier in Arizona at this time of year because the state does not observe Daylight Savings). We checked into our hotel (Best Western) and went out to find a place for dinner.