California Route 66 Preservation Foundation

Preservation Foundation

Amboy, Bagdad and Ludlow

Amboy, is Quiet Now

Vintage Amboy Post Card
Vintage 1930 -40s Amboy Postcard

Roys Cafe in Amboy
Amboy 2002 - Notice Cafe in Background!

Quiet Amboy Crater

Ten miles down the road from Chambless (going west on Route 66) you will come to Amboy and Roy's Cafe. Buster Burris, the original owner, has since passed away but he left a legacy for us Mother Road enthusiasts. Buster originally opened his Garage, Cafe and Motel in 1938. It became a landmark along this portion of Route 66, and many a traveler who broke down in the Mojave was glad he was there.

Amboy Crater rises above the desert floor just outside of town. It was an old Route 66 tourist attraction once. Today the Amboy Crater stands silent and lonely. But it wasn't always like that. Once, about 60 years ago along this stretch of Route 66 it woke up.

On that fateful day the residents of Amboy awoke to see a billowing black tendril of smoke rising from the center of the crater, high into the sky. It seemed that what everyone had thought was a dormant volcanic cinder cone was now coming to life with a promise of an eruption that would rival Mt. Vesuvius. With an eruption eminent, the residents prepared to flee. Route 66 and the Santa Fe mainline where shut down as people braced themselves for the disaster.

Funny thing though, there was none of the distinctive rumblings of the earth usually associated with volcanic activity such as this. Furthermore, the smoke didn't seem to get any thicker either. A team of investigators was dispatched to fly over the crater to try to determine the extent of the impending calamity. What they found surprised them. Instead of billowing clouds of ash, red-hot lava and steam, they saw a small, localized fire in the center of the crater and what looked suspiciously like burning tires and trash. The hoax was uncovered! An investigation was promptly set up to find the perpetrators of this dastardly scheme. The clues led all the way to Barstow and ended with some kids from the local high school. Evidently these local youth had concocted a clever plan to simulate a natural disaster, and hauled old tires and junk to the crater then set the pile on fire. The officials duly chastised the local kids. All in all, I can't help but think that the officials found a little humor in the stunt, but not in front of the kids of course. Such a grand plan, the disciplinary officials might have thought. Why hadn't they thought of something like that before? Downright creative it was too!

 

The Ghost of Bagdad, California

Old Bagdad Cafe in the 1950s

Bagdad Townsite 2001

Bagdad, California - pictures of the same place only fifty years apart!

Bagdad Memories in the Desert

Bagdad is located about six miles west of Amboy down Route 66. What was left of the old Route 66 town was destroyed in 1991 when the site was used as a storage area for gas pipeline. The old town site is just a wide spot in the road now.

Bagdad was a real town once. It was already almost half a century old when Route 66 first came through here in the late 1920's.

Bagdad was founded in 1883 as a shipping point for the mines and ranches of the area. Once it was a thriving community of over 600 hardy souls, complete with hotels, churches, and even a school. There was a railroad depot and Harvey House located here also. During the hey day of Route 66 the town provided all the amenities the traveler could want. And the real Bagdad Cafe once was the social center of the desert in this area. From the 1940's through the 1950's the Bagdad Cafe was the place to gather on a Saturday night. With its juke box and dance floor the cafe became the entertainment capital of the Mojave Desert between Needles and Barstow. The music died in 1968 when the cafe closed. In 1972 when the Interstate opened miles to the north of Bagdad the town started its rapid decline. Don't blink as you drive this stretch of Route 66 or you'll miss the ghost of Bagdad.

 

Siberia in the Desert

Siberia was a water stop and siding for the Santa Fe Railroad. When Route 66 came through many Mom and Pop cafes and tourist camps operated out of here in the 1930s and 1940s, providing the weary desert traveler some comfort. Siberia never amounted to very much apparently. Jack Rittenhouse in his famous 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66 doesn't even mention it. One can only wonder how it got its name though. Perhaps it was wishful thinking that gave the town its name. On those hot summer days in the Mojave, residents probably wished they were indeed in Siberia. At least naming the town Siberia made it seem cooler - right?

Siberia, California

 

Ludlow, California Refuses to Die

Murphy Brother's Store in Ludlow
Murphy Bros. Store comes from the mining days of Ludlow.

Ludlow is located along the railroad tracks of the 35th parallel, it became a water stop for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in 1882 (now the Santa Fe RR). The discovery of ore in the nearby hills assured the town of growth in the late 1880's. The decline of mining and rail traffic in the 1940's would have spelled Ludlow's doom if it hadn't been for Route 66. The town picked up and moved north a block to meet Route 66. Today, Ludlow is a town that refuses to die. Ludlow is really three towns in one. It is a ghost town of two eras; the mining era and old Route 66. When Interstate 40 was built the Route 66 Ludlow died. Residents picked up and moved north another block to meet the Interstate. It is the Interstate that keeps Ludlow alive today.

Vintage Postcard of Ludlow Cafe in 1950

Ludlow Cafe 2002

Route 66 memories can still be seen just a block south of the Interstate at Ludlow.

 

Click anywhere along Route 66 on the map below to go there ...

1940 Map of California's Route 66

To Barstow NAVIGATION NOTE: Buckle up and hold on to your mouse! These pages are arranged like the map above, Pacific Ocean being West Route 66 and the Colorado River East Route 66. I have set up this site as if you were traveling from EAST to WEST, much like the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath. You can click on the Route 66 shields to "travel" the Mother Road in either direction though. Clicking West Route 66 or East Route 66 will take you to the next town or area on the map in that direction.

To the East MojaveTowns

 

Photographs taken between January 2000 and September 2002 Courtesy Western Trails

Vintage Post Cards Courtesy PostCards From the Road


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