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Roy's Gas Station, Motel and Café is a Route 66 classic icon, and a landmark operation in the Mojave Desert ghost town of Amboy, California, located along what is now referred to as National Trails Highway.

Photo:  Roy's Motel, Café, gas station, landmark sign, and the "flying wedge" office building/motel guest reception area.  The sign and the interesting building were erected in 1959.

During the heyday of Amboy, in the early 1950's, the town had a population that approached the 700 mark, and nearly 70 people worked at Roy's at the time.  It was truly an oasis in the desert for weary Los Angeles-bound travelers, headed west on Route 66, which was, at the time the major highway into Southern California.  But the good times came to an end in 1972 when Interstate 40 was opened, and overnight, traffic into Amboy dried up. Soon thereafter, Amboy was reduced to ghost-town status, as residents left to find employment elsewhere. Today, the entire town is owned by one individual, and sports a population of less than 20 full-time residents, and that estimate probably includes the town's dogs.

For many years, Roy's Café and the gas station remained shuttered.  This article isn't a lesson in the history of Amboy, as it's a restaurant review, well, sort of, but a little background information doesn't hurt...

Photo:  The gas station can be a busy place on a sunny, spring, Sunday afternoon in mid March.  That's the Amboy Crater in the background, the left of the photo.  

During a visit in late December, 2008, we were happy notice that Roy's gas station was open, and pumping gas, and the café seemed to be open as well.  Unfortunately, we didn't have the time to stop by and pay them a visit, and enjoy one of the famous Roy's Route 66 Double Cheeseburgers that we'd heard about.  We put it on our things-to-do-list for our  next visit to Amboy.

Fast forward to Sunday, March 15, 2009, as I was heading north-east after enjoying a couple of wonderful days at Tijuana, Baja California, stuffing myself with delicious tacos and more.  Since I was planning to stay the night in nearby Ludlow, and the road from Tijuana to Ludlow leads through Amboy, I couldn't wait to pay a visit to Roy's Café, so I could sample one of his famous cheeseburgers.

Photo:  These ladies are part of a movie crew painting several of the guest cabins for an upcoming production. They told me they couldn't divulge the title of the movie.

The gas pumps are located in front of the cafe, and when I arrived in the early afternoon, Roy's was a busy place.  I had timed my visit to coincide on a Sunday afternoon in March, as I knew that Roy's was open sporadically, but logic told me that a Sunday afternoon in mid-March would likely find them open.  The gas station was doing a very lively business, and a movie crew was painting some of the motel cabins for an upcoming film, the name of which they wouldn't divulge.  

Photo:  Looking at the 1950's era Formica counter, inside Roy's Café.  The gas station clerk's desk is to the right of the photo.

Sure enough, inside, Roy's Café looks totally 1950's, art deco decor, complete with lots of chrome, stainless steel fixtures, and Formica tables and counter.  Speaking of the counter, it was all there, complete with stools, milkshake mixers, soft drink dispensers, and more... But it had a museum, unused quality to it, and I really noticed the lack of menus, and a guest book on the counter for pilgrims, like me, to sign.  But, the place was opened, and I was determined to have a burger, so I asked the sole person operating the place, a gentleman behind a cash register near the door, if he could summon the kitchen help, and fix me a burger.  It was then I learned the sad fate of attempting to dine at Roy's Café, as the clerk took a few minutes out of his busy day to relate to me the following tale of woe...

Photo:  Looking from behind the counter, to the front of the restaurant.  The only dining options that Roy's Café offers, as of this writing, are contained on the shelves to the right of the Pepsi cooler.

The town of Amboy has one small problem:  Lack of water.  There is none, period.  In the town's heyday, water used to be hauled into town via the Santa Fe Railroad, from Newberry Springs, about 50 miles to the west.  The Santa Fe Railroad is long gone, and today's railroad, Burlington Northern Santa Fe doesn't find it cost effective to haul a tank car or two a week to Amboy, so they cancelled the water contract, which left Amboy, shall we say, in the dust.  Wells are not cost-effective to drill, as the water table is very deep in the vicinity of Amboy.  The clerk pointed me to a stand-up refrigerator box loaded with soft drinks and bottled water, and told me that was all there was to drink.  He told me that you can't run a restaurant without water, so the restaurant is now just a museum, and a reminder of the glory days of Amboy, and Roy's Café.  He did point out that besides gas, Roy's sells Route 66 souvenirs, and if I was hungry, they had a limited selection of candy bars, potato chips, and baked goodies.  I thanked him for his time, but decided to pass, as a bag of potato chips can't compare to a hamburger.

Photo:  Two bikers help themselves to a couple of Route 66 souvenir Tee shirts.  Note the other souvenirs behind the glass counter.  The guy in the black coat is standing in front of the cooler, which contains bottled water, which the clerk claimed was the only water in town.

I wish I could say that Roy's Café offers fine dining, but I can't, as the only food that Roy's offers is the food of fond memories, of the glory days of historic Route 66, and the town of Amboy.

Roy's Café
87520 National Trails Hwy 
Amboy, CA 92304
760 733-1066

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