Mojave Desert – Amboy CA, historic Route 66


What? : On one hand Amboy, California is nothing more than a gas station in the middle of nowhere on the old Route 66 highway. On the other hand, this place remind me the song “Calling You” (words: Bob Telson) that got famous with the movie “Bagdad Cafe” (was not filmed in this location):

"A desert road from Vegas to nowhere

Someplace better than where you've been

A coffee machine that needs some fixing

In a little café just around the bend"


Related blogs:

Mojave National Preserve – Barstow

Mojave National Preserve – visit planning, 2 days trip itinerary

Mojave National Preserve – Visit Planning

Joshua Tree National Park


Where? : From Barstow drive 50 miles east on Highway I-40, take exit 50 at Ludlow and drive additional 29 miles on old Route 66, about 80 miles west of Needles.

It is roughly 60 miles northeast of Twentynine Palms, the town just outside Joshua Tree NP.

Google Map Link


When? : Whenever you are driving through here… Late fall, winter and spring is the preferred time to visit the Mojave desert, summer can probably be too hot.


Due note 1: If you are driving from Mojave National Preserve, Kelso Dunes

South to Joshua Tree NP that the shortest route is passing through Amboy.


Due note 2: When I visit here (Jan 2022) Route 66 was close to driving 6 miles east of Amboy, at the junction with Kelbaker Rd.. when driving west to east from Amboy on route 66 you must turn left and drive to I-40 to progress east.


My thoughts: As I wrote, on one hand, it is just a gas station with nothing to do here, on the other hand this is an interesting place to stop at. Located in the “middle of nowhere”, stop and absorbed the atmosphere of a town with only 4 residence and learn about the history of old Route 66. See how the “new” I-40 interstate that does not go through here change this town forever … the same as the story of the Pixar animation movie "Cars" (2006).

The visit:

The Mojave National Preserve is the last place you would want to get lost and it’s the last place you want to run out of gas. At Amboy you can fill up you gas and have a short break on your road trip.


Amboy is an unincorporated community in San Bernardino County, in California's Mojave Desert, west of Needles and east of Ludlow on historic Route 66.

Once, a major stop along the famous Route 66, but since the opening of Interstate 40 to the north in 1973 the town decline to a semi-deserted place with about only 4 residents.

Amboy is home to Roy's Motel and Café, a Route 66 landmark.



Established in 1883 by Lewis Kingman for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad as the first of a series of alphabetical railroad stations that were to be constructed across the Mojave Desert. In 1926, Amboy became a boom town after the opening of U.S. Route 66. In 1938, Roy's Motel and Café opened and prospered due to its isolated location on the route. By 1940, Amboy's population had increased supporting the tourists and the Santa Fe Railroad.


After opening of Interstate 40 it declines almost to a deserted place.

Amboy was purchased in 2005 by the “Chicken Man” also known as Albert Okura, owner of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain.

The 425-thousand-dollar deal included about 490 acres, the town as well as Amboy and Route 66 landmark, Roy's Motel and Café, the church, post office, close school, three gas pumps, two dirt airstrips and all other buildings in the town.


Guardian Lions of Route 66:

A pair of large white marble lions weighing thousands of pounds guard this stretch of the Mojave Desert road, and it is mystery how they got there.

Where: Located east of Amboy on Route 66, from Amboy drive 4 miles east and look right for the first statue, placed few hundred feet south of the road. The second statue is located a quarter of a mile down the road to the east. You can clearly see both statues from the road.

Often called “Foo Dogs”, Chinese guardian lions always found in pairs, one statue is male (symbolizing yang) and the other is female (symbolizing yin).

According to what I manage to find online it is unknown how the lions statues got there.

Standing about five feet high and elevated on cinder block pedestals, they were first sighted in late 2013, and whoever placed them there has never stepped forward to claim responsibility.

In October 2018 Only one of the Guardian Lions was visible. The other statue has been removed. And as of January 2020, the missing lion has returned, and both are now (Jan. 2022) visible from the road.


Salt mines:

Just east of Amboy is Bristol Lake a dry lakebed and an old mining site that produced table salt (Sodium Chloride) and other minerals.

Every time it rains in Amboy, sodium chloride dissolved from the rocks into the underground water, making it several times saltier than the ocean and undrinkable.

You can see some of the salt mine diggings trenches when driving south on Amboy Rd. to Twentynine Palms.


Amboy Volcanoes Crater (I did not visit here):

Amboy Crater is a dormant cinder cone volcano that rises above a 70-square-kilometer lava field, formed around 80,000 years ago.

It is now under the BLM ownership. A steep and rocky hiking trail total of 4 miles out and back will lead you to the crater rim.

The trailhead provides shaded and open picnic tables and public restrooms.

Where: Drive 2 miles on Route 66 west of gas station (after crossing the railroad track) you will see the turnout leading to the trailhead on your left (south of the road).