Amboy Travel Blog› entry 2 of 2 › view all entries
Amboy - a gas station, closed restaurant, post office, and a small volcano out back. The black cinder cone rises from an enormous dry salt lake north of Joshua Tree as you approach. The remains of the lava spilled onto the sand extends for miles in all directions. It erupted only 500 years ago!
Crossing the salt lake, the road passes through a huge salt mining operation. Actually not sodium chloride salt, but calcium chloride. Water filled pits extend to the horizon between a gopher field of mounded spoils from past leechings. These operations have been here forever. It must be a lonely place to work, hours from the nearest town, in a bleak salt flat with only a small cluster of company housing and the former town of Amboy.
Amboy was pretty much closed down. Roy's Cafe, a relic of the 1950s, looked inviting with it's gas pump out front and motel behind, but after going in for lunch, the answer was "nope, we don't got a kitchen no more". A guy had bought the whole town a few years back and was in the process of restoring it to it's post-war roadside glory, but it wasn't ready quite yet. We settled for bags of chips and playing with the life size bighorn sheep and stallion out back The Amboy School and post office had closed two, and were in that kind of stasis that things in the desert go into.
The crater, a couple miles out of town, it about 250 feet tall and looks like a cartoon volcano, with steep sides and a big crater on top. It's about a mile walk out from the road to the base, and a series of paths leads up to the rim.
After the climb, we decided to try for food again. Lianne had heard of another diner, the Bagdad Cafe, about 20 miles up the road. We checked the map and headed out.
At about mile 30... we hit an intersection and knew we'd passed it. Impossible! There's no place for the town to hide! It's flat desert. I'd been to Bagdad as a kid, but didn't remember what it looked like. Well, after breaking out the book that we'd picked up at Roy's we read that the whole town was removed completely during the construction of a pipeline in the 1990s, and that nothing remains but a single tamarisk tree. The cafe was now in a different town 80 miles away.
But, it did mention a tiny cemetery across the railroad tracks from the former town site. Chinese workers had been buried along the tracks when they died there during the 1800s. Sure enough, a single tamarisk tree, a flat area, and after skirting around a parked train on a siding, the graves! Then it was time to head home.
Short trip, a few hours in the evening and a morning between 10 hours of commute, but it was a good time.