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Route 66 Wednesday; the Californian Mojave (Cajon Pass to the Arizona State Line)

This week for Route 66 Wednesday I look back at old US Route 66 in the Californian Mojave Desert of San Bernardino County as it was back in 2012 from the top of Cajon Pass east to the Arizona State line.

Starting out I'll backtrack a little bit with some of my older photos I recovered of the Summit Inn at the top of Cajon Pass in 2012.   The Summit Inn was established back in 1952 and destroyed in the Blue Cut Fire in August 2016.

US 66 followed Mariposa Road north from the Summit Inn and Cajon Pass into the Mojave Desert.  Mariposa Road today has been largely turned into a warped front road of I-15 which skirts the city limits of Hesperia.  Upon entering the city of Victorville US 66 turned towards downtown on 7th Street which is now part of California State Route 18 and the I-15 Business Loop.  This photo was taken looking westbound along 7th Street.

US 66 turned northward along the Mojave River in downtown Victorville on D Street.  At the corner of D Street is the California Route 66 Museum.

The California Route 66 Museum is probably the best museum located along old US 66 in California.  There are some top-notch old signs that are on display and plenty of interesting reads about US 66 which includes out-of-state content.  I want to say that the Museum was making its own novelty shields that I recall purchasing one, back in 2012 I wasn't quite as serious about sign collecting as I am now.

Apparently, admission is free these days at the California Route 66 Museum, more information can be found here:

California Route 66 Museum

US 66 originally took D Street to National Old Trails Highway crossing the Mojave River on a truss bridge bearing the same name.  There wasn't much of a pull-off to take this photo, I recall having to dip two wheels into the sand to take the photo while slowly cruising back onto the roadway.  I want to say that there were County Route 66 shields from this point northward as well.

The next town eastbound on US 66 across the Mojave River would have been Oro Grande.  Oro Grande dates back to the 1880s when a town called "Halleck" sprung up around local Silver Mining claims.  Apparently, the name of Halleck officially changed to Oro Grande back in 1927.  Today, there aren't too many people in Oro Grande and just a handful of buildings that may or may not be occupied.  This antique store in particular caught my eye.

This mini-mart caught my attention at the time given gas was hovering around $4.20-$4.50 a gallon for regular unleaded back in 2012.  Suffice it to say the Mohawk Mini-Mart couldn't really make it with the huge gas price hikes.

At the corner of Vista Road is Helendale.  Apparently, Helendale was originally a stop on the Pony Express and later became a Santa Fe Railroad siding.  My understanding was that Helendale was originally called "Point of Rocks" before changing to "Helen" in the late 1890s.  Really there isn't anything noteworthy in Helendale aside from this building along National Old Trails Highway.

North of Helendale there was a former rail siding called Hodge.  Hodge often appears on older state highway maps but doesn't appear to be around as of 2012.  North of Hodge is the community of Lenwood which is essentially a suburb of Barstow.  Lenwood appears to be somewhat modern but is often cited in association with US 66 given that it was the namesake of the Lenwood Bypass which was a major realignment south of Barstow.  This photo was from Lenwood heading westbound.

US 66 originally used Main Street in Barstow.  US Route 91 terminated at US 66 in Barstow at the intersection of Main Street and 1st Avenue from at least 1927 (see the USends link below for where it might have been in 1926) until 1947.  Again this photo of Main Street in downtown Barstow is facing westbound.

As for the weird endpoint history of US Route 91, it can be found here.

Ironically, 1st Avenue is the location of the Barstow Harvey House which is also the Route 66 Mother Road Museum.  The Barstow Harvey House dates back to 1911 which is obviously from a time when traveling on the railroad was a much more ornate experience.

I got to the Mother Road Museum way too early to go in, so I couldn't opine on anything other than what I saw on display outside.  The Barstow Harvey House is definitely worth a stop to see given how pretty the design is and there are plenty of rail displays worth checking out.  

US 66 would have used Main Street to exit the city of Barstow where it now is cut off by the Marine Corps Logistic Base Barstow.  The old alignment of US 66 exists on the Marine Base as Joseph L Boll Avenue which becomes National Old Trails Highway approaching Daggett.  Today, Main Street west of I-15 is signed as the I-15 Business Loop, this photo was taken westbound.

The 1935 California Division of Highways Map of San Bernardino County clearly shows the path of US 66 between Victorville and Barstow.

1935 San Bernardino County Highway Map 

The Lenwood Bypass follows the route of modern I-15 on the Barstow Freeway.  US 66 would have been realigned off National Old Trails Highway west of Barstow onto the Lenwood Bypass sometime between 1959 and 1960.  The difference in the routing of US 66 can be seen on the 1959 and 1960 state highway maps.

1959 State Highway Map

1960 State Highway Map

I highly doubt US 91 was ever going to end in Daggett.  Yermo Road was a state-maintained highway back in 1926 which is what US 91 ultimately ended up using.  Apparently, US 91 was meant to meet US 66 in Daggett via Daggett-Yermo Road which isn't shown under state maintenance in 1926.

1926 State Highway Map

I don't have any photos from Daggett but I do know it was created around the same time the mines to the north in Calico opened in the 1880s.  Daggett basically is a haggard wreck of old buildings that are barely inhabited today due to it being at a fortunate location near I-40, I-15, a Marine Corps Station, and Barstow.  From Daggett eastward to the junction of US 95 and I-40, the original alignment of US 66 can still be driven today.  The roadway is known as National Old Trails Highway much like the segment of old US 66 between Victorville and Barstow.  National Old Trails Highway refers to the Auto-Trail of the same name which used to run from Los Angeles to New York City from 1912 to 1926.  Much of the National Old Trails Highway west of Santa Fe, NM became US Route 66 when the US Route system was created in 1926.

East of Daggett is Newberry Springs which was founded in the 1910s apparently.  Newberry Springs is the location of the Bagdad Cafe which is named after a ghost town on US 66 in the Mojave and a movie by the same name from the 1950s.  The actual Bagdad is located to the east of Newberry Springs near the Amboy Crater.

East of Newberry Springs is the community of Ludlow.  Ludlow is where I-40 splits directly into the Bristol Mountains while US 66 split to the south through the low desert via the Bristol Dry Lake.  Ludlow dates back to 1883 when it was created as a railroad siding along what was at the time the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad.  Presently Ludlow is the only location on I-40 you can get gas eastbound until Fenner across the Bristol Range.  Interestingly when I-40 was in the planning stages, it was suggested that nuclear bombs be used to clear the mountains for the highway to be built.  I'm to understand that the area was considered to be so remote that testing nuclear devices as an infrastructure development tool was considered viable.

East of Ludlow to the Amboy Crater there was a series of rail sidings along US 66 called; Klondike, Siberia, and Bagdad.  Klondike appears to be long gone but I did find a wall foundation along the rails that supposedly was Siberia.  Obviously, the names were meant to be humorous given the hostile desert location out in the Mojave Desert.

Bagdad is much more well documented given that it was razed apparently in the early 1990s.  Bagdad is easy to spot due to a really obvious series of trees along the north side of US 66.

Directly east of Bagdad is the Amboy Crater.  The Amboy Crater is a 79,000 extinct cinder cone volcano which is located directly south of US 66.  Supposedly there is wreckage of a fighter jet somewhere out in the lava fields next to the Amboy Crater, but I've never found it.  I've also heard stories of a kid once setting tires on fire during the heyday of US 66 in the crater which led to a brief scare that the volcano was active again.

East of the Amboy Crater US 66 crosses the rails and enters the Amboy ghost town.  Amboy was the first in the series of alphabetically named rail sidings along the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad from the Bristol Dry Lake east to Needles.  In order the names of the rail sidings were; Amboy, Bengai, Cadiz, Danby, Essex, Fenner, Goffs, Homer, Ibis, Jaba, and Kleinfelter.  Amboy and many of the Mojave rail sidings really got an extension at life with US 66 coming through the desert back in 1926.  Roy's Motel and Cafe opened in 1938 which is really the marque location of the ghost town.  Apparently, there were once about 700-800 people in Amboy which was large enough to justify a school.  The motel and the rest of Amboy can be viewed from Roy's, as of last year Roy's even had every grade of gas as well.  Roy's also made an appearance in the 1980s movie "The Hitcher" which was supposed to be a stand-in for western Texas.

Chambless is directly east of Amboy along US 66.  Apparently, Chambless dates back to the early 1920s and was the location of various motels in addition to motor lodges.  Chambless has a couple residents today but there are not many people left.  The ruins of Road Runner's retreat were always one of my favorite spots to pull over to take a picture.

East of Chambless there is a slight uphill jog on US 66 to Cadiz Summit.  Cadiz Summit was the location of a Motor Lodge bearing the same name.  The Cadiz Summit Motor Lodge apparently dated back to the 1930s and is now the location of various US 66 tag art attempts among its various ruins.  Apparently, the building with the US Route 66 shield was once the service garage.

East of Cadiz Summit is an old roadside attraction detailing the story of US Route 66.  The markers are in terrible condition but generally still legible.

East of Cadiz Summit there are a few trace buildings in Danby.  Apparently, the buildings are occupied as various pit bulls tend to pour out of the structures to give chase to cars.

Essex is equally as abandoned as all the other towns in the Mojave section of US 66.  Supposedly there were about 100 people left at the turn of the century, I would speculate that the town is completely abandoned aside from more attack dogs.  There are some pretty neat old roadside service station ruins that can be easily seen from the side of the road.  Supposedly, Essex was featured on the Johnny Carson show in the 1970s as being the last place in the lower 48 states to have cable TV.

Essex is the location of two alignments of US Route 66.  The original alignment which was used until 1931-1932 continued north to Fenner and Goffs.  The realigned segment ran directly east from Essex and meets I-40.  For some reason when I visited the Mojave section of US 66 last year the more modern bypass of Goffs was blocked off while the original road was still in good condition.   The difference in the alignment of US 66 can be seen on the 1930 and 1932 state highway maps.

1930 State Highway Map

1932 State Highway Map

The original alignment of US 66 crosses north of I-40 and approaches Fenner.  Fenner is no longer a railroad siding and now is an RV Park that sells gas at a mini-mart.  My understanding is that the gas prices are inflated due to the generators that run apparently run Fenner today.  Even still, $5.39 a gallon for regular unleaded was an absurd price to pay even back in 2012.

Supposedly Goffs still has people living in it, but never actually seen anyone aside from rail crews.  There is a museum called the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association up Lanfair Road which I've never been able to visit due to the wonky hours.  The old Goffs general store generally has some weird vandalism and tag art on it.

The original part of US 66 north of I-40 became part of California State Route 195 to the Nevada State Line in 1934.  By 1939 US Route 95 was routed southward into California to Blythe and thus a former section of the original alignment of US 66 became a US Route once more.  From US 95 the signage for County Route 66 and Historic Route 66 is actually pretty good.  Kind of ironic that this section of Route 66 was replaced so early on, would become another US Route later the same decade, and has remained so since.

At the intersection of Homer-Kleinfelter Road and US 95/Old US 66 is the location of the rail siding Kleinfelter.  On occasion, there is a honey stand open in Kleinfelter serving travelers likely heading towards the Las Vegas Metro Area.  There aren't any structures at the site, but it can easily be detected due to the abnormally large number of trees along the roadside.

According to the 1935 Map of San Bernardino County I linked above, it would seem that a very early alignment of US 66 may be located directly north of the modern I-40/US 95 junction.  The roadway in question seems to be dirt but crosses over the rails in the same location as the 1935 map.  The grade can be seen merging in with I-40/US 95 east towards Needles which becomes the National Old Trails Highway within the city limits of Needles.  The cut of the road grade can be seen on this Google Maps image.,-114.7279682,4329m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

Within Needles traveling eastbound US 66 used the Needles Highway and Broadway Street.  US 66 in downtown Needles may have once used Front Street, Quinn Street, and possibly G Street at one point as evidenced by the markings on those roads.  I did find this Historic US 66 shield back in 2012 along G Street and shields painted onto Quinn Street.  With that said, I've not been able to find any maps that show an alignment through downtown Needles other than Broadway.

The main highlight in Needles along US 66 is the El Garces Hotel which is a Harvey House built in 1908 to serve railroad passengers.  The El Garces Hotel was undergoing restoration back in 2012 but apparently reopened as a transportation facility in 2014.

East of Needles to Park Moabi US 66 utilized; Broadway Street, 5 Mile Road, and National Old Trails Highway.  There were two major alignments of US 66 at Park Moabi which split at the junction of Park Moabi Road and National Old Trails Highway at this location.


The more modern alignment of US 66 continued east on National Old Trails Highway to the Red Rock Bridge which carried US 66 traffic over the Colorado River in Arizona.  The Red Rock Bridge was essentially rebuilt into I-40 and can easily be seen from the "HISTORIC ROUTE 66 WELCOME" sign on National Old Trails Highway.

Originally US 66 would have used the Colorado Arch Bridge via Park Moabi Road and various abandoned roadways which are now occupied by a gas company.  The Colorado Arch Bridge still exists and currently carries a gas pipeline.

Access to the Colorado Arch Bridge is fenced off but US 66 would have continued west towards Needles looking up the gas plant in this picture. has a detailed summary of the history of the crossing of the Colorado River along US 66.  So before I mention anything about the history, I suggest checking out the link because the page on US 66/CA 66 is a worthwhile read. on US 66/CA 66

To summarize the Colorado Arch Bridge was completed in 1916.  My understanding from local lore is that traffic on the National Old Trails Highway used the original railroad bridge in between trains from 1912 until the Colorado Arch Bridge was completed.  The Colorado Arch Bridge had an extremely low weight limit of about 11 tons and obviously was way beyond functionally obsolete early into the life of US 66.  The Colorado Arch Bridge support towers were submerged by the Colorado River when Parker Dam was completed in 1938.  The Red Rock Bridge was completed in 1947 which led to the more modernized alignment of US 66 I described above.  The changes are too small on the state highway maps to observe but are mapped out on on the link above.

As bad as the Colorado Arch Bridge crossing was it really had nothing compared to the original alignment of US 66 in Arizona along the Oatman Highway.   That's a story for another time and another Wednesday.

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