Ever since I was a young boy I dreamt of going to America.
Somehow the country had an enormous draw on me, I loved the 50-60’s, R&R, the muscle cars (even owned a 1970 Pontiac Firebird Formule 400 for a few years) and of course the legendary Route66. Every chance I get I will try to see documentaries about this amazing travel from one side of the states to the other, the mother road.
The first time we visited Los Angeles we tried to find some of this road, but we were not that lucky, due to time stress and simply put lack of information we had to do with just a few landmarks but nothing spectacular, and the second time we visited LA it was also not doable due to again time stress, but I still wanted to do some of the route… so when we booked our flight to PhotoshopWorld Las Vegas this time we decided to fly into LAX and drive to Vegas. And I mean not the 3-4 hour drive… no we planned on doing the 7-9 hour drive (including stops etc.) In this blogpost some images from that drive and some behind the scenes stories.
Driving from LA to Vegas can be done the quick way, and yes I hear the Dutch people asking “4 hours quick?”, well for the US that is quick, somehow when we are there I don’t mind 3-4 hour drives, maybe it’s the feeling of being somewhere else, or the amazing californian landscape. So anyway, you can go for the highway, but what you can also do is go off the highway and drive the old Route66, this is without a doubt something I would very much advise.
During the drive you will pass several small towns, we would almost call them ghosttowns, some with only 7 people living there, and some with 19 (it stated 23 but 4 left that week). Talking to the local police officer gave me a great insight in how a small community works, when I asked “isn’t it hard to keep the peace when the community is this small?” I got an answer from one of the locals before the officer could answer “Not really, when he doesn’t like what’s going on he just locks up the whole town and parties himself”…. well that could be a solution.
One of the must see towns is Amboy, with the world-famous Roy’s Motel cafe.
But to be totally honest…. this was a bit of a disappointment, it did not give me the goosebumps I got on our way back when we visited some real ghost towns and left “housings”.
What I did like is the “sneaker-tree” that you pass when leaving Amboy.
During the trip these Joshua trees are a common sight, although they are not seen everywhere you can find a lot of them (made famous by the U2 album cover). If you have the time make sure to also visit the Joshua tree national park. We did this the last time but skipped it this time in favor of taking a bit more time to drive to Vegas.
The area you pass through is dessert and long long long roads with no-one there. In fact on our way back we drove behind a car and stopped to make a picture, within 2 minutes the car that was in front of us turned around and drove back to ask if we were alright. Now that’s what I call nice, but also points out the dangers when you drive through that terrain, and let’s be honest, we drove several hours with only us on the road, and with temperatures as high as 46 degrees Celsius I would not like to be stranded there.
We were already very impressed by the drive to Vegas, however nothing could have prepared us for the way back…..
I don’t know exactly what we did different but the way back we somehow ended up on a totally different road which was much more clearly labeled Route66, and also in a much worse condition. Next time we are without a doubt driving that piece again because there simply was not enough time to shoot everything I wanted. The route was literally scattered with old houses, caravans, trailers etc. And they made some amazing shooting opportunities. However at that time I was already “fighting the dying sun”, that’s one of the disadvantages from California, in the Netherlands it’s light till 22:00 (10PM) but over there at 7:30 it’s done which in fact gave me an image I could only dream off.
The image I opened the blogpost with is without a doubt one of my favorite shots from this trip.
I was shooting the road with a beautiful sundown and said “I just wished there was a Route66 sign on the road here”, after the shots we drove for maybe 2 minutes and I had to brake because there it was, on the road the Route66 sign…. I got out of the car and started shooting the sunset and the sign, next to the road was a railroadtrack and I just thought “wow, wow, wow, now what would happen if a train would pass…. nah that’s too perfect” walking to the car I heard Annewiek shouting from the car “LOOK BEHIND YOU!!!!” and indeed there was the train…. a dream shot in the making. Luckily the trains are VERY long so I had time to took several shots again, and I ended up with the image you see at the top of the blog post, for me the perfect shot (but hey, that’s personal).
During the way back (just before this shot) we passed several abandoned places and I just had to stop to make some images. Somehow we don’t see this kind of stuff in Europe 😀 or at least not where I’m located.
Oh and one more thing (well actually I could keep writing for ever about this drive) when you drive from Vegas to LA make sure to visit Baker, not just for the worlds largest thermometer, but to visit the Alien Jerky store, it’s awesome (if you like that kind of thing).
Next time we’re in Vegas we will drive the other way to Rachel and the whole Area51 region (also high on my list), but for now here is a small album with some of my favorite shots from the Route66 drive. And trust me there are A LOT more 😀 (Click on the images to open the gallery)