Traveling, Cooking, Reading, and Trains

April 30, 2015

Our Route 66 trail through Los Angeles was interrupted and done in segments. As you may recall from my earlier post we only got as far as downtown Los Angeles on Route 66 before we got all tangled up and just took the Santa Monica Freeway out to the beach. We went around in a circle three times trying to find where Figueroa met Sunset Blvd. We were successful managing the old road yesterday (April 30 – previous post) as we headed east from Santa Monica to Pasadena. So, although it took three separate days of driving in LA we figured we had covered Route 66, so we highballed out of Pasadena on a freeway up to I15 and over to Victorville where we had arrived at the end of our second day of driving.

Our first order of business was to stop by Emma Jean’s Hollandburger in Victorville. Because they are closed on Sunday we missed them when we arrived. Although it was early for lunch we wanted to stop by and chat with this lovely family and enjoy their hospitality and great food. Emma Jean’s is a must stop on the route. The name has been the same for many years but neither of the owners is named Emma Jean. The husband is Brian, while the wife doesn’t like to give out her name.

The scene at Emma Jeans Hollandburger in Victorville, CA

The scene at Emma Jeans Hollandburger in Victorville, CA

Brian (left in top picture) is the cook/owner. Very nice. The wife/owner is in the purple top on the right in the top picture. She told us she has gone through eight guest books and has had visitors from all over the world – with good reason. We are in there twice: 2007 and 2015. Our waitress lives in the next town over and has known the owner family for years. Her dad and Brian are buddies. Look at that milkshake she made! Old school with the metal mix container holding more shake yet! And that whipped cream! Oh!

I couldn’t resist getting a picture with the owner.

Howard with one of the owners of Emma Jean's Hollandburger

Howard with one of the owners of Emma Jean’s Hollandburger

Seriously – go there and eat and enjoy the food and the ambiance of an old school diner. Back in the day when we were hunting breakfast places in Portland this would have been the gold standard.

Then it was time to head out across the desert.  To some driving through the desert is boring because everything looks the same – brown. But the colors are out there: purple, red, green, and white rocks and mountains interspersed with wide flat alkaline lakes. And driving in spring is a special treat as there are wildflowers blooming along the way providing a gold and purple carpet spread out into the distance.

This drive is also special to me because it’s the way my dad would drive us from Palmdale to Winslow when we’d go visit my mom’s family. The names always seemed so evocative  to me: Victorville, Barstow, Dagget, Essex, Amboy, Needles.

This area is a favorite for tourists; we saw many tour busses out in the big nowhere. They’d all stop at various watering holes along the way. Three of the big ones are Roy’s Cafe in Amboy, the Baghdad Cafe (relocated from it’s original location further out in the desert) and the Ludlow Cafe.

Desert Cafes Roys, Baghdad, and Ludlow

Desert Cafes Roys, Baghdad, and Ludlow

Not all businesses thrived out here after the interstate took over. There are many old, broken signs marking the spots of businesses that didn’t make it.

Signs for non existent businesses in the desert

Signs for non existent businesses in the desert

We waited at a railroad crossing near Amboy for about 20 minutes hoping for a train to come by; however, track maintenance was underway out in the desert and trains were slow. Oh well.

This stretch of Route 66 runs many miles south of I40. Unfortunately for travellers this year we had to take a detour just east of Amboy. Winter floods had washed out many bridges; although San Bernardino County is working on replacing them, it will take another year to repair them all. So we had to head up back to I40 for part of our drive.

Needles is the last California town when headed east. Just beyond is the Colorado River and Arizona. When we arrived in Needles we went to a nice Mexican restaurant for dinner. We noticed we were just across the street from the Needles Amtrak depot. Of course we wondered over for a peek.

BNSF at Needles

BNSF at Needles

It turns out that Needles is a crew change point and there were many engineers and conductors waiting for their trains. Apparently all the day’s slow down resulted in a rush of trains arriving in town during the evening. As we were trying to keep out of the way a nice BNSF engineer named Tony dropped by to chat with us. He said he’s seen plenty of “foamers” (the word the railroad workers use for rail fans – because we foam at the mouth when we see a train).  But he was super nice and talked about the railroad life and his visits to Portland which he loves. I gave him one of my 2For66 cards and asked him to pose for a picture.

Friendly engineer Tony in Needles.

Friendly engineer Tony in Needles.

He is photographer as well and told us where we could go to get some good pictures of trains crossing the Colorado River. Nice! You’ll see some pictures of that tomorrow!

On the way back to the hotel we passed by a refurbished Texaco station much like that Richfield station back in Rancho Cucamonga.

Texaco station in Needles

Texaco station in Needles

I nice end to a nice day of desert driving. More desert tomorrow as we head up to Williams, Arizona and then the Grand Canyon. Stay tuned

7 thoughts on “Route 66 Day 7 – Pasadena to Needles

  1. Tony says:

    Howard and Carla , I’m so glad that we met at the depot in Needles ! I hope you were able to get some good pictures of trains crossing the Colorado River . Thank you so much for your card as it affords me the opportunity , in a way , to accompany you guys on your journey across the Mother Road ! Wishing you two safe travels and pleasant experiences !


    1. Thanks Tony! We are having a blast and I’m so gratified to have you following our adventures
      We did get some good photos from the location you told us about. I hope to have them posted soon though we may be delayed since we are busy today hiking around the Grand Canyon

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