Ever since I started exploring the Mojave Desert it’s been an endless source of fascination for me. What first appears to be barren and desolate instead contains myriad fascinating inhabitants from indigenous artifacts to massive mining operations to century old ghost towns. On my way to the Grand Canyon I decided to take the opportunity to visit one of its more unique spots when I stopped in the town of Amboy.
Amboy is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Located on Route 66 about an hour from Barstow it’s a blink and you’ll miss it stop that’s practically a modern day ghost town. Like Seligman the town reached its peak during the height of Route 66’s popularity and was a welcome pit stop for travelers. But this time there were no residents rallying for its salvation and by the time it ended up for sale on Ebay in 2003 there were no bidders and its fate seemed sealed.
Enter Albert Okura, the CEO of Juan Pollo. In 2015 he purchased the town with the intention of revitalizing it and he’s starting with its most famous landmark, Roy’s Motel & Cafe.
So far the sign has been repainted and relit, the cafe has been reopened as a gift shop and the attached motel is currently undergoing renovation.
And the renovations seem to be working. The road into town was pretty desolate but once I arrived Roy’s was jumping. There were folks stopping for a snack, looking at the souvenirs and there was even a film crew. It was heartening to see a once derelict property start to turn around.
As a preservation nerd I was aware of Roy’s prior to visiting but Amboy does have another landmark that took me by complete surprise.
Just outside of town is the Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark and it jumps out of the horizon as you travel Route 66. This 250 feet high cinder cone is the result of a long ago erupted volcano and is surrounded by 24 square miles of lava rock. It’s a fascinating site and I would have loved to take one of the adjacent trails to investigate it further but the temperature was in the triple digits and I figured that wouldn’t have been my wisest choice.
Amboy is a town that was nearly erased by history yet somehow still manages to hang on in spite of its harsh locale and desolate location. It’s yet another example of the fantastic diversity of California and is well worth seeing despite the extra effort it takes to reach it.