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.”

Mojave National Preserve

Spreading north of old Route 66, more than 1.5 million acres between I-40 and I-15 have been set aside as the Mojave National Preserve, a harsh desert landscape of volcanic cinder cones and sand dunes, desert tortoises, and Joshua trees. One evocative landmark here in the middle of the desert is the Kelso Depot (760/252-6165), a restored train station that sits on the main L.A. to Las Vegas Union Pacific railroad line. Trains still rumble past, and the depot, featuring a variety of interpretive exhibits, re-creates the sense of life here in the 1920s, before air-conditioning and cell phones made life in the desert so much more agreeable. Kelso is on Kelbaker Road, about 22 miles north of I-40, midway between Fenner and Ludlow.

Another of the many places in the Mojave Preserve that’s worth the trip is Mitchell Caverns (760/928-2586, $6) at the center of Providence Mountains State Recreation Area, 25 miles north of I-40 at the end of Essex Road. At the time of this writing, the park was closed due to state budget cuts. Call before you make the drive.

Kelso Depot
Mitchell Caverns (Closed)