Route 66

If you’re looking for great displays of neon signs, mom-and-pop motels in the middle of nowhere, or kitschy Americana, do as the song says and “get your kicks on Route 66.”


The burly railroad and transportation center of Barstow (pop. 22,639) is located in the middle of the Mojave Desert, at the point where I-40 disappears into I-15, midway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Trucks and trains are the main business in town—even the McDonald’s pays homage to trains, with its dining rooms housed in old passenger cars from a train. Barstow is scruffy and a little scary in the way railroad towns can be. Along Main Street, the old Route 66 corridor, many of the old cafés and motels are now closed and boarded up, but there’s an unexplained copy of the Amboy “Roy’s” sign, and just north of old Route 66, the circa-1911 Barstow Harvey House hotel next to the train station is a survivor from an earlier age. Looking like the Doge’s Palace in Venice (if the Doge’s Palace faced the wide-open desert instead of an intricate network of canals . . .), the gothic-style arcades are a substantial reminder of a time when travel meant more than just getting somewhere. The long-abandoned building has been brought back to use as a railroad and Route 66 museum (760/255-1890, Fri.-Sun. 11am-4pm, free).

Barstow Harvey House Museum (681 N. 1st Ave.)