Story by Ray Seidel, Photos by Ray Seidel and Geri Cidot
Part 1: Victorville / Barstow / Victorville
If you’re anything like me, getting there is half the fun, particularly when riding a motorcycle. The Laughlin River Run offers an opportunity to get off the Super-Slab of the Interstate, and to ride and see some sights at the slower pace of the 1950’s.
If traveling east to Laughlin, there are a couple of options, depending on when you head out. For Wednesday, maybe Thursday, you may want to take the Victorville to Barstow leg of Rt. 66. Starting point here is the Victorville Route 66 Museum, but be aware it is open Wednesday by appointment only, and on Thursday at 10am. The museum has undergone a makeover, so even if you’ve seen it before, it’s worth another look. Heading east there’s an old MOHAWK gas station that has seen better days, and several antique stores with period memorabilia. At the 1.9 mile mark on your odometer you’ll find Emma Jean’s HOLLANDBURGER CAFÉ on the left. Breakfast and lunch M-F is from 5:00am to 2:24pm, so most likely it will be open when you ride up. This is NOT Denny’s – this is a counter with 11 bar stools and 4 small tables serving 50’s style stick to your ribs good food. Breakfast is served all day, and order those mile high fresh biscuits! Back on your bike(s) at 2.9 mi. you’ll come to the steel truss bridge that crosses the Mojave River, built in 1930. At 2.9 mi. there’s the Riverside Cement Company and underpass, built because railroad crossings were the site of many car and train accidents. Oddly, there are still accidents today because speeders miss the curve. The cement company has been around since 1907. At 7.1 mi. on the left is the Iron Hog Saloon & McClintocks BBQ. This has been a biker bar since 1931, and might be a stop for you if you return this way. Keep an eye out and you’ll see the bones of several filling stations from back in the day including a rock style building that sold Douglas gasoline. The 11.3 mile mark brings you to The Bottle Ranch on the left. Featured in magazines and motorcycle tours, this is a real, if quirky, attraction. If the gate is closed, it’s always unlocked and you’re welcome in to look around. At 13.9 on the left is the Polly Gas Station sign, and the prices themselves are from the 1950’s. What appears to be a liquor store here in fact has more than that, including cold and hot food. At mile 35.3 turn left on to First Street – this will take you to Casa del Desierto otherwise known as the Harvey House. Here is the Barstow Route 66 Museum, and also the train museum. These are only open Fri-Sun, so possibly you might want to see them on your return trip, but regardless it’s worth a look to see the restored depot and rolling stock on display. With Sunday traffic coming from Las Vegas on the Interstate, I often prefer escaping from the 18 wheelers on I-15 and take the more relaxed pace of Route 66.
Part 2: The Main Course
Just east of Barstow past the military base you can hop on Route 66 again, and if you are ready to eat at this point, stop at the Bagdad Café in Newberry Springs. This is where the movie of the same name was filmed, and the minimal staff and guests never fail to entertain. (One COULD buy gas around here and bypass the countless bikers filling up down the road at Ludlow). Once at Ludlow there is the option to continue on 66 to Amboy. There, every year, it’s a big party of bikers. Gas is available at the 2 pumps, so be aware there could be a line, but it’s the festive atmosphere that makes it a fun side trip. After this, it’s The River Run.
Part 3: Laughlin and beyond.
The high point of every trip to Laughlin is to ride out to Oatman on Route 66. Thursday and Sunday are best to find parking and a reasonable wait for food and drinks. Of course the burros, descendants of those left behind by the miners of yesteryear, are a big attraction. They are also big at chewing up motorcycle seats, fenders, and whatnot, just so you keep an eye out. Wander over to the Oatman Theatre Bldg., go upstairs, and get a great view of the town. In addition you’ll find a collection of nice looking old motorcycles. But you’re not done yet, another 10 miles east (and 20 minutes) on 66 you’ll come to Cool Springs. The original was a filling station – motel, but today has been reconstructed for a place to get a cold drink and a great view. If time permits, keep on going to Old Kingman, then to Seligman, the last part of Route 66 to be decommissioned. Everyone’s Must See is the Snow Cap – a sort of Dairy Queen if run by The Joker.
While Laughlin itself has a ton of things to keep you occupied, Route 66 offers some good saddle time for your ride that you can really enjoy.