Cultural Mirages 2003: The Old Route 66 and the Mojave Desert

On this trip we explored the old Route 66 through the eastern Mojave Desert. This famous strip of highway is home to a disappearing culture that featured the best of post WWII americana, as well as the natural beauty of the desert. With the opening of I-40 and I-15, the towns along the old Rt 66 faded into history, or near history. Our photo subjects included closeup detail of weathered artifacts, panoramic vistas, 50's pop culture remnants, to sunrises, salt mines, volcanos, and a lunar grazing occultation. Enjoy, and also check out the links and photos from Image Quest's "Cultural Mirages" site.

All pictures here were taken with a Minolta Dimage 5 digital camera, with the quality set to 'fine'. Most used an ISO setting of 100 but in the night-time diner scenes at Roy's I used ISO 400. Pictures were imported to Photoshop where they were sized to 600 pixels wide, 72 pixels/inch, in .html format and 'saved for web'. Some pictures were additionally adjusted using the LEVELS command. A couple were cropped a bit and one was rotated. A couple were also given a bit of extra color saturation. One was rendered black and white. I'm happy with the quality of the images delivered by this camera; even when stored in these coarser, compressed formats. When the picture is focused, they are amazingly sharp. This camera has now taken over for my classic Olympus OM-1 for daylight shooting. Good astrophotography, however, is still best done on film, then transferred to digital.

At the Route 66 Motel in Barstow.


Double reflection in an old windshield.

Dawn, from the front seat of a 70 year old Ford.

They don't make artistic touches like this...

...and this, not on today's cars.

Or gas pumps as colorful as this.

At the 130 year old Daggett Cemetary.

On Bristol Dry Lake, the National Chloride salt mines boneyard.

Tractor treads lit by the setting sun

A scary-looking steam roller...

and alien silhouettes.

70 year old orange and yellow trucks...

...and pink and yellow cranes.

Ancient bottles of...?

This old car took a .22 in the fender.

Macro of a shearing curl of iron.

An arctic landscape of salt below the water table.


In the 30's, cars had wood beam roofs.

A pile of old valves, rendered in black & white.

Reflections of an old salt dredging crane.

The harsh desert is reclaiming this famous logo.

Our crew waits for dinner at Roy's Cafe in Amboy...

where iconic ads stir childhood memories...

...and the walls are covered with celebrities on their way to Vegas.

I point out a faint star gliding behind the mountains on the edge of the moon on the video monitor.

Sunrise from Amboy...

...backlights this beautiful stained glass window in the decaying Amboy church.

The boarded-up Amboy Schoolhouse.

Our group. Amboy volcanic crater is in the background, left.

At Pisgah Crater's central vent. I admit I copied this idea from the Master (who's legs you're looking at)


Farewell Sunday lunch at the famous Bagdad Cafe, of cult movie fame.

Jack Palance's abandoned movie trailer out back?