(The Other Side of) Amboy, California

Photo: Hamish Reid.

Nearly everyone who goes to or through Amboy, California, takes a photo of Roy’s (see one of mine below…). And why not? It’s justifiably famous, very scenic, it’s on the old Route 66, and it’s just so, well, recognisably, iconically, American.

I’ve actually been in to Roy’s — back when it was still a real place, not a movie prop or out-of-the-way hipster tourist bucket list item — and bought a soda on my way through the shimmering heat to Needles (it’s a long story from a long time ago now). That was back when Buster Burris still owned it, and when it was a convenient place on the shortcut from the Twenty-Nine Palms area through Amboy to Interstate 40. Roy’s hasn’t really been “Roy’s” for a long while now (you can’t really get food there any more), and the last time I stopped there (a year or two ago), there was even an earnest little art show in the (otherwise-closed) motel, which seemed kinda diagnostic.

But if you look away from Roy’s, the view’s both a lot less inviting and a lot less brightly self-promoting — and a lot more scenic (in its own way). That Roy’s sign is a bit of a distraction from the harsh realities of living in a place like Amboy. So I think photos like the one above, which I took looking the other way a few hundred yards down the road from Roy’s, says “Amboy” in a way that many photos of Roy’s don’t; I think it says a bit more about life in the harsher bits of the Mojave (are there any soft bits?) than the bright, omnipresent, familiar and very likable Roy’s. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m just overreacting to the Hipsterisation and rampant self-conscious spectacle of places like Roy’s nowadays….

Roy’s, Amboy, 2007. Is there anyone who’s been through Amboy who hasn’t taken some version of this shot?!