Las Vegas to Palm Springs: Crossing the Mojave National Preserve
Odometer (Legend): 531,809
Odometer (ILX): 103,603
Trip Distance: 628 Miles
“Stop the car RIGHT NOW!” I ordered to Justin as my eyes affixed on the quickly passing Roy’s Motel sign on the passenger side of the car. Obediently, he cocked the steering wheel to the right and we skidded to a stop on the gravel shoulder from about 55 miles per hour in a cloud of dust. The lengths that I go to for a photo-op is sometimes extreme!
What had caught my eye was a remnant of old Route 66: A true time capsule of architecture from 1936 in Amboy, Nevada that stood as a reminder of what the Mother Road once was. Justin positioned the ILX for a photo op and I immortalized the moment digitally for you all to enjoy.
Determined to keep the weekend fun going, on the heels of our Zion National Park hike, Justin and I decided to explore some new turf and visit friends in Palm Springs, California. My mom served up some delicious sourdough French toast and we hit the road with a full tank of gas and full stomachs. The 100 mile stretch between St. George, Utah and Las Vegas, Nevada was a repeat for me as I’ve driven it hundreds of times. Still, the Virgin River Gorge through the northwest corner of Arizona always provides amazing views in any direction. In its day, it was one of the most expensive stretches of interstate in the country.
It was the route we took after rolling through Las Vegas that brought some excitement to the adventure. Shortly after crossing into the California state line (and passing the landmark “Buffalo Bill’s” casino & rollercoaster) in Primm, we rolled onward for only about another 10 miles on Interstate 15 southbound before exiting on Nipton Road at mile marker 286. I turned over the ILX reins to Justin for a little while. The next few hours were spent in the desert backcountry – winding our way along two lane highways that combined whoop-de-doos, seemingly endless straightaways, and plenty of roadside scenery to enjoy. Pavement conditions were less than optimal, as Justin frequently had to dodge huge potholes while clipping along at 65 to 75 miles per hour. At least the ILX steering is pretty responsive.
It’s a good thing we had fueled in up Las Vegas because amenities were extremely sparse out there. We rolled around with windows down, moonroof open, and music blaring — the temperatures were perfect for an open-air cruise. We blasted through the town of Cima without even batting an eye, but Kelso was worth a closer look. It got its start in 1905 as a railroad depot for the line between Utah and Los Angeles.
When the mining industry boomed in the 1940s, the population maxed out at around 2,000 residents. The mines, however, were only open for a decade and – you’ve all heard this story before – the town pretty much dried up. Today, the original 1923 depot has been restored and serves as the visitor center. Fun fact: Due to its remote nature, Kelso residents didn’t get access to television until the 1970s. (nice overhead shot here from Scott Haefner)
Further down Kelbaker Road from Kelso, we drove past 45 square miles of sand dunes in the Mojave Desert Preserve. The road crossed over Interstate 40 and eventually led us to our next pit stop in Amboy – home of Roy’s. I wish Roy’s was still open for business, but its doors shut shortly after the interstate bypassed Amboy in 1972. Can you imagine being able to time-travel to the heyday of Route 66 and experience what it must have been like? Amboy’s population is 4, and those residents refer to their town as “The ghost town that ain’t dead yet.”
There’s not a heck of a lot to see or do in Amboy today, but just a bit to the west (and visible from the highway) is a 6,000-year-old cinder cone volcano that looks like it would be fun to hike around in or on. Our destination in Palm Springs awaited – and Justin was anxious to pick up the pace – so we moseyed onward. We breezed through State Route 62 in the town of Twentynine Palms, named by a colonel who surveyed the land in 1852. Palm Springs was just another hour beyond that, and we arrived just in time for a fantastic sunset.
Here are the rest of the pictures from this leg of the journey.
Accident-induced traffic at the NV/CA state line near Primm. All that red!
Justin driving past the Kelso railroad depot.
Distance marker near Kelso.
Kelso sand dunes.
I loved this straightaway with telephone poles running parallel to the road.
Rock formations nearing Amboy.
Arrival at Roy’s in Amboy, California. Look closely for a special message Justin sent me from the moonroof of the car.
And yet again.
Waiting for a freight train to pass by.
Monday morning: heading back to Phoenix from Palm Springs.
Rest area just east of Quartzsite, Arizona.
Love how friendly the interpretive signs are: “Enjoy Arizona.” We sure did!
Thanks for joining!
Hey, on the subject of car longevity:
My friend Scott shared this article with me. It shows just how much butt-kicking Honda does with regard to vehicle reliability when compared to other makes. My favorite part was the section about how the Accord model singlehandedly “beats all of Europe.”
Enjoy! Link here.