San Bernardino Co., CA




Gary B. Speck



AMBOY sits deep in the heart of California’s Mojave Desert.  This badly faded community is the remains of what was once a stereotypical road town on Route 66, the great Mother Road stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles from 1926 until the 1970s.   It marks the days when cruising speeds were lower, gas was way cheaper; and weary travelers stopped at roadside cafés decorated with red and white checkered table cloths, mom & pop motels and SERVICE stations where full serve included cleaning the bugs off windshields and an oil check. 


Amboy was established in 1883 as a railroad station and siding on the main Atlantic & Pacific (Southern Pacific) Railroad line across the Mojave Desert and by the early 1900s, had become a boom town.  In 1926, when the transcontinental highway (National Trails Highway) that became Route 66 was built and dedicated, Amboy became a major stopping point.


In 1938, Roy and Velma Crowl bought the opening a service station and café.  Roy’s quickly became THE place to stop, a 24-hour a day, seven day a week operation with a tourist court (motel cottages) added to the growing list of businesses the Crowls owned.  In 1940, Amboy tallied 65 folks, and bustled due its isolated location on the major transcontinental highway into Southern California.  As such, the Depression of the 1930s did not hurt Amboy as bad as other communities in the state, because even the poorest travelers required food, gasoline, water and a place to stay.


As the Depression faded into WWII, wartime efforts nearly killed the tourist trade, but Amboy stayed alive.  During the late 1940s-1960s, Amboy and its cluster of businesses remained a busy Mojave Desert road town. It was a 24-hour town, until 1972/73 when Interstate 40 opened across the Mojave, bypassing Amboy and a string of other smaller road towns.  Boom turned to bust, and Amboy faded rapidly, only visited by a few folks looking to relive the nostalgia of cruising Route 66.


In 1975 Amboy was put up for sale.  There were no serious takers, and by 1990 the population had sagged to about 20 people. In 2005, Albert Okura, the founder and owner of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain purchased it, with a promise to restore Amboy to its 1950s era glory days. 


Okura is abiding by his promise and is slowly repairing the existing buildings, restoring them to the glory days of the 1950s. Due to vandalism of the standing, unoccupied buildings, a caretaker has been hired to live on site and “house sit” while restoration is underway.  If this all works as planned, the nearly forgotten ambiance of 1950s and 1960s roadtrippin’ will come alive for a new generation of travelers.  


So, what remains?  On the north side of the highway, from the east are: the Amboy School (closed in 1999),  Roy’s café, gas station and motel, several unidentified structures behind the gas station, convenience store/town market, three-bay garage, gravel airstrip, an unidentified building and three unoccupied homes.  Coming back on the south side of the highway from the west are: the Hill Brothers Chemical Company plant (south of the tracks), several houses, the post office and the Amboy Church, with two unidentified outbuildings.


If you visit Amboy, please abide by the Ghost Towner's Code of Ethics.  Be friendly, and above all please say hi to the folks in process of renovating this ghostly gem. Also please abide by any signage and fenced off areas.  We don’t need to resurrect the days of being driven off the town site at gunpoint! 


Click here for outside links to Amboy and Roy’s Motel at Amboy.



This was our Ghost Town of the Month for August 2007.




·        N½ Sec 5, T5N, R12E, San Bernardino Meridian

·        SE¼ Sec 32, T6N, R12E, SBM

·        Latitude: 34.5577721 / 34° 33’ 28” N

·        Longitude: -115.7444411  / 115° 44’ 40” W





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FIRST POSTED:  August 05, 2007

LAST UPDATED: September 21, 2009





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