Route 66

It’s no secret that I am a fan of roadside Americana.  While I love to see these 50-plus year old businesses alive and well, my real passion is photographing the abandoned Americana.  I love seeing what time and nature does to man-made structures and objects.  So when my dad said he wanted to drive down the less traveled Californian portion of Route 66 (west from Needles to Victorville) I was all for it.  Camera in hand, Ghost Towns of Route 66 as a guide, we got in the car and drove on a clear and sunny day.

We started in Amboy, which is in the middle between Needles and Victorville, but directly north of Palm Springs, worked our way east on Route 66, then after arriving in Needles, we took I-40 west to Amboy, and dropped back down to 66 headed west, so if these photos seem out of order, in a manner of speaking, that’s why!  I originally shot over 600 photos for this post, but of course with the glory of digital one can shoot as much as they please, and I often take two to six shots of the same exact frame, as well as multiple angles of the same object.  I have narrowed this down to 30, and boy was that difficult.  Most of these images are of long forgotten buildings and signs that dotted the Mother Road, but there are a few images of places that are still in business, because their signage was just too great, and, the sad truth is, you never know when a place might close. And just for fun, I have included a quirky roadside attraction that was just too amazing not to photograph. I hope you enjoy.

Roy’s Motel & Cafe, Amboy

Amboy School, Amboy

Road Runner’s Retreat Restaurant, Amboy

Cafe, Essex

Cafe’s Mens Restroom, Essex

Sage Motel, Needles

66 Motel, Needles



Ludlow Cafe, Ludlow

Garage, Ludlow

Garage, Ludlow

Garage, Ludlow

Garage, Ludlow

Ludlow Mercantile/Murphy Brothers Store, built 1908, Ludlow

Ludlow Mercantile/Murphy Brothers Store, built 1908, Ludlow


Cemetery, Ludlow


Gas Station, between Ludlow and Newberry Springs

Motel, Newberry Springs

Motel, Newberry Springs

Daggett Garage, Daggett

The Village Hotel and Cafe, Barstow

The Torches Motel, Barstow

Palm Cafe, Barstow

Bottle Tree Ranch, Oro Grande

Bottle Tree Ranch, Oro Grande

Mohawk Mini-Mart, Oro Grande

For those wishing to take a similar trip, I highly recommend Ghost Towns of Route 66 as a guidebook.  It offers directions to get off of I-40 if you feel like taking the freeway and getting on and off.  For those more hard-core Route 66 enthusiasts who wish to take 66 the whole way, it’s important to make sure you’re car is in good shape.  There is a stretch of road roughly 20 miles in length that is very rough, so rough there were signs reading “Rough Road”, and it is unlikely much of the more desolate stretches will be repaved any time soon.  Additionally I would recommend dedicating an entire day to the journey, as we were gone from 8:30 in the morning and didn’t return to our hotel until 8:30 at the night.

Rickey Jacket: Hollywood Babylon, Portland, Oregon
Dress: Red Light, Portland, Oregon
Belt: Nordstorm
Mocs: Thunderbird by Minnetonka

19 thoughts on “Route 66

  1. This is so very interesting. Thank you for sharing all these wonderful images of a past glorious time. I first became interested in Route 66 after reading all about Jack Kerouac’s cross country trips and these photographs bring this reference back to me. It’s amazing how many buildings are abandoned.

  2. Thanks for sharing! It’s so cool but yet incredibly heartbreaking that all these buildings are abandoned. I really hope they do stick around and don’t get picked apart by “pickers” and “collectors”. Hopefully there is a way to preserve these fantastic ghost-town like road stops.

  3. I can feel the warmth and the dry air all but radiating from the screen as I loss myself for a few peaceful minutes in these absolutely wonderful travel photos. You’ve done a marvelous job of capturing the beauty and soul of these once vibrant establishments that remain with us as 3D memories of their former lives.

    ♥ Jessica

  4. This has been one of my favorite of your posts to date. I too am a lover of Americana, and had the pleasure of driving the 40 through Arizona and New Mexico at the end of last year. What fun it is to see all the roadside attractions. We stopped for a night and slept in a wigwam, what fun! As a Southern Californian, it is pretty silly that I haven’t ever driven the California portion of 66! Maybe that will change this year.

  5. I love these photos, they’re so interesting. I live in the UK and visited the USA in 2011 and I did get to see a bit of Palm Springs and some of the old Route 66. I look forward to seeing the rest of your holiday photos 🙂

  6. How interesting. I’m always torn when it comes to abandoned places, on one hand I love them but then these places often become a target for vandalism and looters and soon their charm is stolen and often they are demolished which makes me sad.

  7. I could imagine how easy it was to end up with 600 photos. So much awsomeness! Those signs are all amazing and I hope to get to see them in person one day!

  8. Fantastic photos! The signs are remarkable.

    Several years ago my husband and I drove much of the Arizona portion of 66, ending up in Needles. I’ve never been so HOT in my life. It was late June and the temp was 122*. We only drove a small part of 66 in California before heading north to Las Vegas to catch our flight home, but what an experience that part of the world is!

  9. Great stuff! We’ve not made it past Tucumcari yet, but hope to continue my project soon.

    I also highly recommend the EZ-66 guide. Can’t be beat!

  10. Fantastic photos! I never did the Route 66 adventure, but your photos capture the feeling of the desert so well. I particularly like the bottle tree ranch!

  11. I caught this because of the mention of Route 66. I’m a preservationist and enthusiast with a special place in my heart for 66 in Los Angeles, but who got married on old 66 just west of Amboy at the old town site of Bagdad. Some beautiful shots here. If you are ever interested in exploring 66 in Los Angeles – almost all of which remains intact and with 58 National Register landmarks in its corridor in LA County – feel free to drop me a line!

  12. It must have been a long day and you must have felt like you stepped into another time and dimension (I think you said something similar on it on instagram?). It must have been a bitter sweet experience to see what was once so grand and alive now look so haunting and creepy-cool. I loved the sign that said they would not take responsibility for fir or theft…somewhat premonitory perhaps?!? xx Shauna

  13. This has to be one of my favorite posts! I grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona and have tons of relatives in Tucumcari. As a kid, we’d make that trek almost every summer. Watching the towns fade away is so sad, but filled with so much beauty. I think that’s why I’m such a huge fan of the movie “Cars”. That’s Tucumcari in a nutshell!

  14. My father owned the Sage Motel in Needles back in the 80’s. Great to see that old neon sign. I actually stopped there today coming back from Laughlin to Los Angeles. Unfortunately it was abandoned. I used to spend every incredibly hot summer out there as a kid. Today was my first time being back in about 25 years. Emotional day.

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