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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Brown

Breakfast Joints and Lost Highways

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Leg Six and Seven: Barstow-Salome on to Ajo

We navigated our way to Main St. with hopes of grabbing breakfast. In my mind, I envisioned a diner with dynamic angles, signs flashing, and shiny vinyl booths lining the windows like a museum exhibit. A diner bar with spinning stools. The large glass sugar dispenser with a worn shiny top stuck halfway open from years of toil. I wished our reality matched this, with iconic photos in front of a vintage sign and stacks of silver dollar pancakes. However, we settled for a familiar breakfast under the golden arches, giving in to the convenience of a quick and easy spot for the RV to park.

The Barstow McDonald's turned out to be unlike any other. A small tower resembling a fire lookout, a red-tile roof with angular beams atop a two-story building resembling a mid-century train station. Dining carts from a train, a large brown building with a retro sign advertising Liquor, Quiznos, and Panda Express. The whole scene, with additional train cars in the back, was so captivating that I forgot momentarily where we were dining.

While immersed in the uniqueness of the McDonald's, my trance was abruptly shattered. Two ladies, seemingly oblivious to the surroundings, exited their car in mid-sentence. Their conversation grew louder. The passenger, mid-sentence, stuffed the last bit of her breakfast sandwich into her mouth, did nothing to silence the noise. Tossing the bag on the car roof, and they proceeded to light up a joint, passing it back and forth as if it enhanced the experience. I observed, astonished. They laughed, toppled over each other in merriment, and eventually sped off in their Ford Focus, leaving the McDonald's bag cartwheeling over the trunk and onto the ground.

I returned to my routing and planning, contemplating the oddity of a parking lot party involving breakfast, joints, and laughter. As we sat in the sun in motorcycle gear, devouring breakfast, I couldn't help but wonder if someone, found our behavior equally peculiar.

After breakfast, while Heather tended to the bikes, I delved into the oddity that was the Barstow McDonald's. The interior resembled a market, booths selling hats, sweaters, cell phones, and Route 66 memorabilia. It was odd but fascinating.

Continuing down East Main Street, we inadvertently ended up at a gate to a military installation, realizing we'd strayed from Route 66. Frustration crept into my voice, leading to a pointless argument with my wife. The one and only of the voyage. After resolving the disagreement, we reluctantly took the interstate for two exits before finally finding the turnoff for Route 66. The road led us away from the interstate, immersing us in a time lost. Abandoned buildings, decaying structures, and forgotten towns greeted us as we journeyed through the desert.

Roy's Cafe marked a significant point in our Route 66 adventure. The desert had seemingly consumed forgotten towns, leaving behind remnants of a bygone era. Roys Cafe, with its old gas pumps, abandoned cabins, and a lobby frozen in time, offered a snapshot of a different era. Behind it, a motor inn with an inexplicable pool begged the question of why such places had been left to decay. The retro Roy's Cafe sign cast a narrow shadow on the sandy grounds, providing a perfect backdrop for our photos.

As we left Roys, the thought of preserving such places lingered in my mind. If you ever travel this part of Route 66, make it a point to stop at Roy's, take photos, explore, and purchase trinkets from the store. These places may not endure forever.

Continuing our journey, we encountered a closed section of Route 66, forcing us to briefly rejoin the interstate. Later, we learned that the closure was due to a washout many years ago. It made me ponder the fragility of this part of the world.

Heading south on Hwys 95, then Hwy 62, and Hwy 72, we reached our destination—Salome, AZ. This small town, just past Hope, welcomed us with a carved wood sign reading "Where she danced." Curious about the origin, a quick Google search revealed it was named after a 1945 movie. Salome became a stopover, offering a warm welcome. This also marking the first leg that we be off the bikes. A wonderful pause in our journey to catch up on rest and family.

Over the ensuing days, we dedicated our time to the fine art of tinkering, addressing various tasks concerning both our bikes and the motorhome, with the impending oil change looming on the horizon. The pursuit of the elusive correct oil filter prompted us to embark on a two-hour detour to Scottsdale, a strategic decision woven seamlessly into the fabric of our ongoing journey.

The gracious assistance of our host proved invaluable in navigating these mechanical endeavors. Observing our host effortlessly engage with these tasks was nothing short of a marvel. Renowned within his community for his adept problem-solving prowess, he has played witness to a myriad of challenges presented by fellow members seeking advice and the deft deployment of his arsenal of tools.

Under the Arizona sun, we departed Salome, heading east on 60 East. A detour to a motorcycle dealership in Scottsdale revealed the forgotten presence of two Royal Enfield bikes, seemingly overlooked in a sea of other brands. In the conspicuous absence of any signage proudly bearing the Royal Enfield badge, our enthusiastic inquiry led us to a young man stationed at the parts counter, donned in all things Ducati.

Our journey continued with a stop at an iconic In-N-Out Burger and a meandering route to Ajo, AZ. Ajo, a dusty stop before the border, surprised us with a quaint RV park named Shadow Ridge. Our welcome moments was spent swapping stories with a fellow motorcycle enthusiast. Who admired out bikes and lent us yielding advice to check out square in center of town.

The next morning, armed with a small list and hunt for sporadic internet access, we explored Ajo. The town revealed itself gradually, with a large Spanish square featuring green grass and tall palm trees. The coffee shop in the old theater provided respite, along with a chance encounter with locals who marveled at our journey.

This ended up being a better option for next time: BajaBound Insurance!

Mexican insurance proved to be a challenge in Ajo, with the first attempt at the neighboring Shell station yielding no results. A visit to Sanborn's Insurance in the town center led to an encounter with a seemingly soulless operator. Despite the high cost, we obtained a six-month policy although as we handed over what seemed to be a small fortune I could not help but to invent in my mind that the whole lack of internet and cell coverage was sponsored by Sanborns to keep you from reaching beyond the dusty grasp of the retro relic of office to obtain a policy that didn't make you quill.

The border crossing was a brief affair, involving a quick check of bikes, registration, and a few questions. Idling into Mexico, we waited for the RV and acquired a tourist permit, marking the beginning of our journey into the heart of Baja California.

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