Saturday, September 28th, 2013
Spending too much time away from the Mojave Desert has proven that I have without a doubt, an addiction to my beloved desert home. I felt that there was a powerful need to return to the desert and get away from the overcrowded and congested life of city living. Although I can terminate my work contracts at any time I wish, the unfortunate reality of monstrous student loan debt has wedged a chasm between my passion and me. I had stopped taking photos for almost a year because of it, but this trip would re-ignite the fires of my photographic passion and creativity I had been missing for far too long. I was also happy to share this awesome experience in the company of my great friend and fellow photographer, Miss Julia Starr (a.k.a. NightFate).
The Mojave was a six hour drive for us from the Bay Area. Our travels took us beyond the San Joaquin Valley and through the beautiful Tehachapi Mountains (Gateway to the Mojave Desert). We spent most of it stopping at every photo opportunity we could get. The next day, Julia and I started our drive west of Barstow along Interstate 40 until we reached Ludlow, CA where we hit the junction point for the National Trails Highway a.k.a. Route 66.
Before we continued eastbound along Route 66, we pulled over at Ludlow to check out some of the run down buildings that remain standing there even after decades of neglect. They did make for some seriously photogenic subjects. For the exception of some spray painted “No Trespassing” on some boarded windows, there wasn’t any sort of perimeter fence implying that we weren’t allowed to get near, so we got a little closer for some photography.
“This tiny little shack of a house has definitely seen better days.”
“Julia spotted a Chuckwalla in a bush nearby.”
“The next building seemed to be built a little sturdier, but still reflects the wear of years gone by.”
“Here’s a look at the back of the building.”
After we got our fill of the run down buildings in Ludlow, we started our trip eastbound along Route 66 toward Amboy, CA. There is a lot of train activity along the tracks passing through this region of the desert and the views of the Mojave here are vast and beautiful. The eccentrically detailed mountains that extend across the areas south of Route 66 are a natural border that separate this part of the Mojave from the city of 29 Palms to the south.
“A stretch of Route 66 just west of Siberia, CA.”
Just as we passed the famous Bagdad Cafe, I spotted what appeared to be train wreckage on the north side of Route 66 by the railroad tracks. I had to get in closer for a better investigation of the scene. There didn’t seem to be any fencing or “Private Property” signs so we proceeded to drive the dirt road near the train wreckage. As we got closer it was clear that something happened here on a colossal scale, an entire quarter mile stretch of train cars and axles lay on their sides next to the tracks. It would not be until much later that I learned these derailed Auto Haulers were blown off the tracks by some extremely powerful desert winds a month prior to our visit. Apparently there were no cars being transported in these train cars at the time of the derailment. These are high profile train cars and when you combine that height with lack of cargo and very strong winds, you get a recipe for derailment.
“We didn’t count them all, but my guess is that there were at least 14 to 16 derailed train cars here, this was just half the scene.”
“A look inside, this was the upper deck of the Auto Hauler where the cars would have been stored, Some axles and debris littered the ground nearby.”
“Julia stands near an axle for scale.”
“It must have been a hell of a sight to see something like this go down, but I don’t believe any witnesses were around to catch this one.”
We approached Amboy and were a bit taken buy the cost of fuel at Roy’s Gasoline Station, so glad that I topped off back home. There isn’t a whole lot to Amboy, just a few house scattered about the area and Roy’s Gasoline which is also home to Roy’s Motel and Cafe, but what it lacks in terms of a town, it more then makes up for in it’s pop culture history.
Actors Harrison Ford and Anthony Hopkins, with autographed photos on the restaurant’s wall, visited when schedules allowed. Ford frequently flew in, landing his plane on a nearby landing strip, one of the first in California. Part of the 1986 motion picture The Hitcher with Rutger Hauer was filmed in Amboy. Both the reception area and neon sign helped establish the setting for a 1999 television commercial for Qwest Communications. It was also used in the Enrique Iglesias music video for his hit single, Hero. In September 1993, Kalifornia was released, starring Brad Pitt, which was filmed in Amboy.
In 1978, Buster Burris married Bessie Van deVeer, a local artist, who brought her love of the desert and her charm to Amboy. Roses were painted on side of the prep table in the kitchen and can be seen in the movie The Hitcher. They continued to run the town together until 1995. Roy’s was described fondly as a place which Neil Peart, Rush’s drummer, would stay on his motorcycle journey in his book Ghost Rider. In 2013, Armin Van Buuren, filmed portions of his music video for his song, “This Is What It Feels Like” in Amboy. (source: wikipedia)
“An old Dodge Highway Patrol Cruiser sits out front by Roy’s Motel & Cafe.”
“We crossed a big set of tracks to get to a place that I had explored in the past.”
“The road sign posted at the ‘T’ Junction where Route 66 and Amboy Rd. intersect.”
Breaking away momentarily from Route 66, Julia and I headed south on Amboy Rd. passing the Amboy Crater along the way. This was the second time we were in this area together since October 2010 when we first met in person and hiked the trail to the inside of the Amboy Crater, “Good Times.”
“Amboy Crater sits out in the distance.”
Salt Evaporation Plant
Seven miles (11.2km) south of the tiny town of Amboy is a place where the landscape becomes surreal and the separation between dream and reality appear to be blurred. Tetra Technologies is a company has been in operation at Bristol Dry Lake Bed for years and has created many trenches for mining salt that uses mineral infused water from the aquifer located underneath the dry lakebed itself. As the water evaporates under the heat of the desert sun, the heavy minerals that were in the water get left behind as Calcium Chloride and Sodium Chloride deposits which line the trenches in a bright white crust of salt crystals, which are eventually collected and processed into a variety of industrial and commercial products from water hardeners to food processing additives.
This method is different from the mines that line the northern foothills of the San Bernardino mountains in Lucerne Valley, but produce products that have similar purpose. One of the Lucerene Valley mines, Omya, produces Calcium Carbonate from limestone deposits which are also used to create anything from antacids, inert filler for tablets made by the pharmaceutical industry, and even toothpaste.
“Julia snaps a shot of me smiling like a kid at a candy store.”
The day was all blue skies and not a single cloud in sight. I would love to come back here during cloudy weather and even when there are storm like clouds minus the lightning though. If there is one thing I have learned about hanging out near salty water during storms is that lightning has a very high tendency to be more attracted to those bodies of water that contain higher concentrations of salt and the water in these trenches is no different.
“Like something out of a dream, I never expected to see anything this beautiful in the Mojave Desert.”
“Julia taking her turn at capturing the beautifully colored water in the chloride trench, then we took photos of the dry salt fields.”
“The vast fields of rough terrain seem endless here.”
“Playing with photo props on an empty desert highway is a favorite past time.”
“Amboy Rd. facing north toward the town of Amboy.”
“My photo partner waits for me to get beck in the rig so we can head out for some dinner and the long drive home.”
Besides making a photo venture through historic route 66, we also visited my parents and their pups, hiked to the summit of Mt. Baden Powell (9,406ft/2,867 m), visited the gardens at the Huntington Library and experienced a spectacular drive back home through the cities of Mojave, Tehachapi, and Arvin. Although this was a much needed break, it unfortunately was not enough… A month long road trip is on the horizon and I can feel it getting closer =D
Until the next travel blog, remember to get out there and “Shoot the Planet!”
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