Roy’s Motel and Cafe, Amboy, California

Roy’s Motel and Cafe, Amboy, California

This was the second time I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the historic Roy’s Motel and Cafe, in Amboy, California. The first was in the middle of the night in 2012 when my husband Richard and I were lost in the middle of the Mohave Desert and almost out of gas. A beacon of light pierced the darkness that we faintly made out as a gas station, relieved that we weren’t going to be eaten by a band of wild coyotes! The second was on the cross country Route 66 road trip with the Ride for the Relay on a sweltering hot 122 degree day! Although it’s mostly an abandoned property at this point, the sign is so iconic that this image is destined to be a large painting in my studio one of these days.

To visit here today, you have to get off of I-40 and make a detour that will only take you here (unless you want to continue south to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs). But it’s well worth the visit to see an important part of Route 66 history. Roy Crowl opened this place in 1938 as a gas station and in 1940 expanded the business to include a cafe and “auto court” of small cabins. Roy and his son-in-law Herman “Buster” Burris are responsible for helping develop a small town around their business which at one point had 700 residents.

In 1959 they erected the mid-century modern boomerang-themed sign which was their towering glory. Drivers from all directions were now drawn to them by this beacon in the night. Same sad Route 66 story however that the 1972 opening of I-40 sounded their death knoll. The whole town collapsed and all that remained was their business. Multiple attempts were made to keep it alive but it wasn’t until May 2005 that Albert Okura, a preservationist bought the place and so far has been able to preserve the coffee shop and gas station. He has long range plans to reopen the motel, but the challenges due to lack of potable water have been daunting. Bravo Mr. Okura. All us roadside enthusiasts thank you from the bottoms of our hearts!

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