Victorville to Barstow
9/11, Saturday - I woke at 0-dark-00, as usual, but since this was the first camp in days I didn't have to sneak out of, I took my time and enjoyed the desert air and scenery. I had a big can of Red Bull, watched the trains roll by, and eventually got underway in my own sweet time.
It sure looked like Old 66, two lanes through wide-open desert past isolated derelict businesses cut off by the Interstate. I was surprised at the southbound traffic, but it's the same story all over the US - the heavily subsidized "American Dreme™" helping people turn low-value rural land into highly-taxed residential land, 60 miles out from every source of income. These were Dremers enwombed in their cars because "further out buys more house".
I passed the Iron Hog, a 1930s roadhouse still in business but not open so early. I rode 15 miles before I got my coffee at Molly's Country Café on the south edge of Helendale, a small town centered around the dry river.
From there it's 16 miles of desert and ranches to Lenwood on the outer fringe of Barstow, about where Todd Station is on the 1915 map. I stopped for cold refreshment at a fortress-like minimart there. The Arab running the place looked mad at the world. He had a TV going, an Arab news channel with guys dressed like Arabs, and Arabic subtitles. "Is that Al Jazeera?" "No," he said, pointing at the subtitles. "That's Japanese." I busted out laughing so hard he cracked up too.
I rode on into Barstow past miles of vacant commercial buildings. One of the reasons I picked this sunblasted desert route over the cool pines of Flagstaff was to have a good look at the local Harvey House - "Casa del Desierto" - and check out 2 museums located there - the Route 66 Museum and the Museum of Western Railroading.
But I got a nice little extra surprise, too. This weekend the 66ers were doing their thing in Barstow, with a fine collection of roadsters displayed on Main Street.
Of course I ran into friendly people who dig the road and the people on it. A young guy from Berdoo was flattered when I complimented their Harvey House, but he looked jealous when I added "but you ought to see the one in Victorville!". When I showed him that little bus shelter they have there, he busted out laughing.
I dug the roadsters, had a hot dog, and more cold fluids, then headed for la Casa, north on 1st Street downhill toward the river. The old town was down there until the railyards expanded and moved the town south up the hill.
La Casa del Desierto is in beautiful condition, un palacio del desierto. You might not think a little desert crossroad town would rate such a palatial edifice, but back in the day everybody travelled by rail - miners, merchants, soldiers, tourists - and the railroad appreciated their business. For a lot of people in the days before the motor car a train trip was the adventure of their lifetime. The railroads made money, and labor was cheap.
I lived on 66 for 8 years up in Oatman, and it gets in your blood. The Route 66 museum's a kick - several rooms of knicknacks, photos, books, and memorabilia. They had a fine vintage map of California 66 framed on the wall. I was disappointed they didn't have any reproduction maps for sale. <HINT!> The ones I'm using on these pages came from archive.com, and they're pre-1925, old enough to be ©-free, in the public domain.</HINT!>
Too bad I was travelling light, and couldn't hit a post office til Monday. All I could get was a 66 sticker for my bike and a souvenir bandanna.
The railroad museum's on the east wing, facing the tracks. It gave me my third kick in Barstow, with a few rooms of railroading books and artifacts and some vintage rolling stock outside. You do indeed get your kicks on Route 66, thanks to the people who make it happen.
I dodged the heat of the afternoon playing guitar in the shade of la Casa, watching the freight trains roll by. When the sun got low and less fierce I rode back up into town - got online briefly at the Starbucks - got supplies, and got out of town while the getting was good. I like to be off the road early on party nights.
The route east from Barstow is on I-40 - 66 is blocked by a military base. I got up on the slab, and found another Apache camp, another little niche hiding in plain sight. I had a good dinner and slept well.
Well - pretty well. I had a tough stretch of desert ahead, and it was in my dreams.