Route 66, Amboy

After a quiet night and a spectacular sunrise at the Amboy Crater, I returned to Roy’s Café in Amboy on Rte 66.  The report that this was a ghost town was premature.  There were healthy vital signs if not many people.

The 150-year-old town was established as a railroad station.  Two years after Rte 66 opened in 1938 , the population of Amboy boomed to 65 and thrived until 1973, when I-40 passed her by.

Amboy has been privately owned since 1938.  Buster Burris had owned it for many years when in 1989 he put it put for sale asking $2,500,000.00.  Six years later he managed to sell.  But the buyers defaulted and it was left to Buster’s widow to foreclose.  In 2003 the town was put on eBay and had some bidders but the reserve price was not met.  Soon after the failed auction, buyers approached Mrs. Burris and struck a deal—again involving seller financing—and the town was sold.  The Burris’ jinx persisted and again the deal did not stay in place and the estate of Buster’s widow took back the town.

Albert Okura, one of the unsuccessful bidders from the eBay auction, was not going to let the town get away from him again. He stepped in and made a cash offer.  And he owns Amboy today.  Okura, owner of a chain of fast-food chicken restaurants in San Bernadino is something of a collector of real estate memorabilia–his corporate office is in the original McDonald’s.  I have heard two different figures both of which are less than I paid for my 2-bedroom Alameda condo.

Okura’s intention was to restore the town.  The local post office is open, although operating privately, and the landmark Roy’s Café and gas station is open 7 days a week, 12 hours a day.

Note Gas Prices March 2011

Air strip

Church across highway from Roy's Cafe


I found Farrell, the manager, sitting at a computer at the end of the lunch counter.  A handwritten sign on the side of the computer announced.  “For weather only.”

Farrell looked up when I sat near him.  He lifted his baseball cap and ran his hand back over his brush cut hair.  “What can I do for ya?”

He is a 60-something man, no taller than I but he had the solid frame–an athlete.  His Roy’s Café tee shirt and baseball cap may have been the duty uniform.

“I am curious about Amboy,” I said.  “How may people live here?”

“Eight.  No, wait.  Seven.  I haven’t seen one person for a while.  He may have moved away.”

“But I see 20 or so houses around.”

“All vacant,” he said.  “He jabbed a finger over my shoulder. “Two people live over in that building with the van next to it.”  And with a series of quick jabs.  “Someone in that trailer over there, and over there.  And there and there.  And me.  Seven.”

“You seem like you might be the mayor.”

“I am just an employee.  The town is privately owned by Albert Okura.”

“So what is Okura’s plan for the town?”  I asked.

“He wants to restore it.  I don’t know any more than that.  It is his business and I don’t ask.  I am just an employee.”

“Is the café very busy?”

“It’s been very slow.  We usually have people coming all day long–couple of tour buses, a lot of motorcycles and RVs.  Usually it is steady.”

“Why did you choose Amboy?”

“I wanted to get away from people.  I like the quiet.  I am not really a people person.”

“You are working in a roadside café and gas station. And you seem like a people person to me.”

“When I am here, I do what I gotta.  When I am home, I have my privacy.  If you come around, I’ll run you off. “

“What kind of work did you do before Amboy?”

“I was a bodyguard for a while.  I taught long-range shooting and tactical shooting for the military.  I wasn’t military.  I was a government employee.  But I did do two tours in Viet Nam.”

“What is tactical shooting?”

“When you have to go into a house full of people. “

“Are you the town’s law enforcement?”

“No I am just an employee of the café.  I sell gas and snacks and tee shirts.”

“What kind of gun is that on your belt.”

“A Ruger 45.”

“Why do you wear it?”

“The law is an hour away.  I wear it as a deterrent.”

“That is all there is to know about me,” he said.  It was not said in an unfriendly way.  Rather a simple fact.

With that he got up and walked outside to pump some gas.

11 Responses to Route 66, Amboy

  1. cavenoid says:

    fascinating! Thanks for the glimpse into the wide, wide, w i d e west!

  2. Great descriptions and Loved the Pictures AL. Care to visit Newberry Springs? I know Billy Decker there and he is a priceless character and he has great stories? It is just East of Barstow on I-40. I wrote Devil and the Gold Engine because of him.

    • allevenson says:

      I remember passing by Newberry Springs. I think it is an authentic ghost town. Not heading west for a while. When I do. I will get in touch. Thanks for the tip.


  3. karen wittgraf says:

    He scares me. Amboy scares me. It reminds me of a made for TV horror story. Are you comfortable there? That gun and the “privacy factor” freaks me out. There has to be another, more people friendly town out there. Pack your bags.

    • allevenson says:

      I am long gone. I just took a while to get the notes together and submit some posts that were more important to me. I dont think he is a threat. People came and went all day long. I think he may not have acquired an average number of social skills but I dont read anything into the fact he was packin’. The military and his gunnery skills are a big defining part of him and he is in cowboy state where, I understand, wearing a sidearm is not illegal.

      I wrote about him because he was out of my experience and probably so for the majority of the blog readers.


  4. Anne Fox says:

    Perhaps I missed the sign post. Where is Amboy in relation to any place I might know?

    • allevenson says:


      Thanks for the question, reminding me as it does, that each post needs to stand alone.

      I mentioned Amboy a few days ago as a town on that section of route 66 which veers south from I-40 at Ludlow rejoining the interstate some 70 miles down the road. Ludlow is 50 miles east of Barstow which is 130 miles east of Bakersfield.


  5. My kind of place. I think we should all be able to carry a weapon with us everywhere we go such as the Ruger 45.

    Although, on second thought, I want a .45 ACP Glock 21. The magazine holds 13 rounds.

  6. David Bauer says:

    Having recently completed several autobiographical accounts of what it meant to those who complete even one Tour of Duty in Vietnam, the fact that Farrell completed two tours as a civilian teaching “long range and tactical shooting,” may explain a lot about him. Don’t get caught in the cross-hairs of his scope! Hm?

  7. Dave L says:

    The appealing part of this entry, for me, is the realization that in a country full of computers, high rise, interstates, cable TV, and all the rest of the shoulder to shoulder living, such a place as Amboy exists. “There is a frontier, Jody, and it’s in our head.”

  8. April Edsberg says:

    I like this entry.
    I used to live in Wyoming and almost everyone had a pickup with a gun rack, Our rifles were there. I still enjoy shooting, target practice that is.

    When I back packed around the world in 1997-98, it was nice to hear that when New Zealand had a gold rush in the 1800s only three people were shot. I haven’ t verified that yet. I’ll have too.


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