Dust Storms & The Great American Songbook – Route 66 East of Amboy
“On a dark desert highway, Cool wind in my hair, ...Warm smell of colitas... rising up through the air ..Up ahead in the distance.... I saw a shimmering light``
Hotel California (Lyrics by Don Henley)
T he great American songbook forms the backdrop to a photographic journey taking what’s left of the old “Route 66”, East of Bakersfield and through California, where the route is not overgrown by tumbleweed and cactus, or broken into gravel and lumps of denuded tarmac chunks.
“Well if you ever plan to motor west
Just take my way it’s the highway that’s the best
Get your kicks on Route 66
Well it winds from Chicago to L.A.
More than 2000 miles all the way
Get your kicks on Route 66″
Rolling Stones (1964)
“I am the lineman for the county and I drive the main road”
Jimmy Webb / Glen Campbell (1968)
Relentless burning heat sends a shimmer to the arid desert air.
We pass red rusty, neglected, water towers, derelict and abandoned gas stations, rusting old metal café / diner signs, as testament to boom and bust free enterprise America.
Here close to a rough hedge and rustic fence sits a faded, somewhat “pre-loved” ’61 Studebaker Lark III “Cruiser”, its flat white walled tyres clinging sadly to a trench in the sand and thistle.
There, a Chevvy Carrington Montrose Police car sits, straight from the Dukes of Hazard, and forty years ago.
“On the road again.”
Willie Nelson/Johnny Cash (1980)
An abandoned shantytown of half collapsed wood and iron forms almost a street bent against the wind and juxtaposed with a nearby gleaming modern building enduring better times.
A dust squall builds in the distance and moves closer.
The blue purple orange haze overwhelms us, as the desert scrub grows darker.
The dust storm reached as close as I wanted it and I find solace in a roadside diner. Not just any roadside diner, but the infamous Bagdad Cafe, (Newberry Springs CA) ordering coffee and apple pie from the waitress who had seen a history this ramshackle dusty town in a thousand stories and each one etched itself into a sun baked wrinkle.
In my head and thru the dry dust and heat I can hear the 70’s lyrics of Don Henley and distinct guitar chords of The Eagles…
“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night.”
The Eagles (1976)
…..but not here.
We move on to north-east of Twenty Nine Palms and head into Amboy, San Bernadino County, California.
We can reflect here on what our “Photographic Journey” is trying to achieve and ponder on what story our images are telling.
Is it “The Americans” of Robert Frank, for example?
“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”
It’s not a complete story of the Americans, and we see on the Old Route 66 some of the by passed dreams but too little of the new wealth and enterprise. However as Frank says,
“My photographs are not planned or composed in advance, and I do not anticipate that the onlooker will share my viewpoint. However, I feel that if my photograph leaves an image on his mind, something has been accomplished.”
Roadtrip America is a waiting photographers’ portfolio that would put Eggleston, Frank and Ruscha to shame !
This was a big ‘figure8’ road-trip which started in Las Vegas NV. Daily flights American Airlines from London Heathrow to McCarron airport bring you into Blingsville.
Once seen, never forgotten.
On this occasion we flew via LA and took the 0630am flight out of L.A. airport and on to McCarron and can really recommend this…for a spectacular sunrise view as you head North-East over the Mojave National Reserve Park, mist rising as the sun clears the horizon and mile after mile after mile of sand dunes picking up the Eastern sunrise rays, then down over Red Rock Canyon and into Vegas.
Catch some Breakfast in America as your luggage will be delivered to the 5* hotel with private room access after 12 noon.
Time to relax, take a cool swim, eat some wholesome American food and then sleep before the road-trip starts the next day. You’ll escape ‘Blingsville’ and begin something that will remain with you forever.
Something truly iconic that has been in your sub-conscious since teenager years, that has been written about, sung about, featured in and been a part of us all growing up in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
Welcome to America and Historic Highway 40, Route 66.
(to be continued – part 1 of a series of 10 blog posts)
Whatever you do before you die…..
“Take that California trip and
Get your kicks on Route 66”
Ian Terrell for keeping the words poetic, dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.
Katie Scott-Brown for keeping me awake during 3,000 miles of endless road.
Nikon for making cameras that simply always work and lenses that are forever sharp
Nissan for making a car (Pathfinder SUV) that was a joy to drive for 3,000 miles across 4 states
Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Lynard Skynard, Mick Jagger and so many others that made music, wrote lyrics and inspired me to make this bucket list journey across America with a camera
Denny’s Diners – Say no more !