Roy’s Motel & Cafe, on Old Route 66


Just a couple of miles past the Amboy Crater, you’ll come across a true relic of Route 66’s heyday: Roy’s Motel and Cafe.  The bold, red (and once upon a time, neon-lit) sign demands your attention from a mile away.  Once you get closer, you can’t help but follow the arrow into the parking lot.

Note: This visit took place in 2005.  Further down the page, you can read about a visit that took place in 2007.  I visited Roy’s again in 2016 — if you’d like to see this most recent visit, click here.

Roy’s is pretty much the only thing in Amboy, and Amboy is pretty much a ghost town.  During my visit, I saw only a few passing cars, but no other signs of life. The cafe was closed, the gas pumps shut off, the motel long abandoned.

But, things may be about to change.  On May 5, 2005, less than a month after my stop here, Roy’s got a new owner.  Albert Okura, the owner of a southern California restaurant chain Juan Pollo, paid $425,000 for the entire 690 acre city.  The Burris family, who had owned Amboy for decades, chose to sell to him, because he has promised to slowly restore the town.  You can read all about the deal in the Press Enterprise, which is where I found this information.

For the moment at least, all of Amboy’s buildings stand frozen in time.

It appears that the former owners moved the café into the old gas station.  The pumps outside were locked.

A few hardy desert plants still grow, even bloom, in a flowerbed in the parking lot.

It’s hard to tell just how fast things will change at Roy’s, now that the entire town has been sold.  During my visit, the motel cottages looked to be in fairly good condition, considering they haven’t been maintained in years.  Only junk remained inside the old motel office.

Back when Interstate 40 didn’t exist, and cars raced non-stop down old 66, hundreds of people lived in Amboy.  So, the town had everything you’d expect, including a school.

Across the street, next to the post office, a boarded-up church still stands, although the steeple is a bit slanted.  Look closely and you’ll see a train passing over the tracks that parallel much of old route 66.

While California hasn’t done a great job of maintaining Route 66 in some places, it has found a great way of marking the old highway.  These stencil-painted signs can be found every few miles, including one on the outskirts of Amboy.

After you’re done experiencing Amboy, drive back over the railroad tracks, and turn south, headed for Twentynine Palms, and Joshua Tree National Park.  If you’ve timed your day just right, you should make it into the park before sunset.

Amboy Update: November 2007

I’m thrilled to report that in November ’07 I was able to return to Amboy, and the place is looking much better!


The new owner (mentioned above) has done some general tidying up and painting.  The cafe is sort-of open: there were a couple of folks running the place, and selling t-shirts and bottled water (but no food yet).  The restrooms (behind and to the left of the cafe) are open.  All the junk that was piled in the motel office has been removed, although that building still isn’t being used.

The cottages look as if they’ve received a fresh coat of paint on the outside…

 …but they’re still run-down on the inside (some of the windows are either open or broken so you can see inside).

The big “Roy’s” sign is still in great condition…

…although the plastic Cafe sign (which was already broken in ’05) is almost completely gone.

It was great to step inside and talk to the folks who are keeping the doors open.  It looks like Amboy might just rise again.

Note: Many people commented on this page when it was originally published, back in 2005. Some of those comments are included below.  If you’d like to leave a comment, please use the form at the bottom of the page.

This is to alert you that the Amboy post office is on the chopping block. The Essex post office closed a few years ago, and now Amboy!  We need to try to save it, got any ideas ???

— Terry F.

(From Daniel: It would indeed be a shame to lose the post office.  I know many people who visit this page have great ideas and a powerful sentimental connection to Amboy, so let’s hear those ideas!)

I took a motorcycle ride to Amboy on Saturday, 5 August 2006. I hadn’t been there since the 1940’s and early 1950’s. I was greeted by Larry….and asked if I needed a cold water. I accepted……and 2 1/2 hours later rode home to Palm Springs. It rates on “one of my best rides” list. The nostalgia……and the vision of the the new owners as shared by Larry, made me feel lucky to have lived during “Roys” time. The hope for the future of Roy’s and Amboy will be in my best wishes. Larry was a great ambassador. My plans are to visit again. I can’t recall meeting a stranger on a whim ride and covering so many topics in a 2 1/2 hour talk……which included many meetings with other travelers. Hard to describe but great to remember.
If you will, please pass my note to the new owner…….in hopes it will encourage him to fulfill the restoration.

— Don

(From Daniel: Don, I certainly hope the new owner reads this.  A great story, thanks.)

If people would like to help save the Amboy Post Office, they can write to John Platt, c/o San Diego Customer Service, 11251 Rancho Carmel Drive, San Diego, CA 92199.  And it seems they are taking complaints by mail at: Postmaster, Julian, CA 92036-9998.  The more mail the better.  Please help stop the further demise of small town America.  Thank you and God bless America.

— Terry F.

My folks went to fort ord in June 1963 I was 13. i remember it was like 85 degrees at 10pm at night when we stopped in Amboy and stayed over night. I have post cards and pictures from 1963 in the attic. I realize how neat it is to see all this on the internet now. I plan on retiring soon and plan on a route 66 trip. haven’t seen any of this for 45 yrs. it was a different world then…”

Ron Aaroen

I was stationed at 29 palms from 1956 until 1958.    I live in Indiana and 3 times I came to Amboy to catch the greyhound bus to come home on old route 66.   I have great memories of those trips.    Glad Amboy is still on the map.”

— Anonymous

“I have good news! Just past Amboy… in the tiny spot called
Chambless…there IS a trailer park! With FULL HOOKUPS! It is run by Walt
and he has a really nice set up out there. Check him out! A really nice guy!”

— Deborah

We went on a trip in Sept. (2007) & on the way home through Amboy our trailer broke down. We were stranded there for hours waiting for the repair man to come. We met Larry and he was the most. He went all out to help us & every one that came by. We had to stay the night & Larry plugged our electric into his home. All the people that live around there were so nice to us. And I couldn’t believe all the tourist that stopped by just to see Amboy. Please keep the post office going. Those people there need it & we would like to see the town thrive again. Thanks again Larry for all you did for us, & every one that stopped by.

—Jo Crawford

In ’96 on my first motorcycle ride along the ‘Mother Road’ I happened onto Roy’s on my way to Santa Monica from Virginia. Thirsty, Hungry, and overheated on that mid-afternoon in early September ride from Needles, Roy’s was a surprise and a more than welcome sight. After a few iced teas, and probably the best Cheeseburger ever, I continued on way refreshed, refueled, and smiling. Since then, I’ve made five more rides from east coast to west coast over that same stretch of desert ’66’ and each time I have been hopeful, but disappointed to find that oasis in the desert still closed up.
With the re-awareness and increasing interest in travel on the Mother Road, there are more than a few of us that would love to see Roy’s revived and reopened for business. Since I first stopped there years ago, I have wanted to spend at least one night at the motel followed by breakfast in the diner.
I hope it’s there for all of us on my next trip west from Needles.

— Bob

Amboy is an awesome little town. My parents live in California, and I live in Nevada. So when I come to visit them I take the back roads from Cima, California then thru Kelso, California and into Amboy. It is a beautiful ride along Route 66. The Shoe Tree gets larger every years and I take a picture everytime. It is awesome to look at and I hope it is never removed. Amboy is looking awesome to, new paint, and little rooms to stay at. They look like they are open but cannot be sure. As for the Post Office it would be a shame to close such an historic landmark. It needs to stay open for those in the area who still live close by. Those people do not need to drive 25 to 50 miles to get there mail. Amboy is a great little town with wonderful people. Thank you for wonderful memories each and every time I visit, which is at least 2 or 3 times a year. Thanks,

— Luwana Faulkenburg

I used to live and work in Amboy. The people there were wonderful, and I wish I’d never left. Life was simple. We would have monthly potlucks at the school and everyone came. I worked in the diner and a woman who lived with her family at the salt plant, and made lunches for the kids at the school would watch my daughter everyday for me. I really miss the closeness we all shared. 

— Jeri

My mom and dad grew up in Amboy when it was booming town before the 40 Freeway was built, my grandma’s and grandpa’s house was by Hills brothers no longer there but its wonderful memories for my mom when she goes out there. I’ve been through there a couple of times on my way to Las Vegas.  I stopped there to get a cold drink and have used the post office there, it would be a shame to close it.

— Rebecca

March 07, 2008: My wife and I have been by Amboy many times, on this trip out to Amboy Crater we saw that the gas station was open and servicing gas and diesel.

— Alex

In 1978-1981 I was assigned to the Needles Desert Substation with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Dept. When things were really slow we would take the road from the cut-off at Mountain Pass and head off to Goffs and Essex. A couple of times we would meet with the 29 Palms Deputies for a mail or prisoner run exchange. Knowing that we could refuel on water and a great sandwich or burger we would leave a little early in order to beat the 29 Stumps (our namesake for the Palms) Deputy in order to enjoy the company and food at Roy’s. The last time I passed through Amboy was in 2005 and a plethora of emotions and memories surged up, reminding me of the greatest days of my career in law enforcement, and the people whom I chose to serve and protect in that short time period in my 26 year career. I now am a teacher and I regale the history of Amboy and places like it to my students as what America, and California specifically, were made of in the early days. I plan to revisit Roy’s
sometime in the spring (my wife doesn’t fare well in the heat) and to actually slow down and walk the grounds and visit an old friend.

— Curtis Ward

As a boy in the 50s and growing up in calif , I saw Amboy at its best, and have seen it deserted. a few weeks ago i was through it and now see much improvement. Forget the interstate,with its trucker bombs”bottles of urine” and drive route 66 ,take the highway thats the best, it keeps getting better out there.

— Michael D. Haskins

I also remember this place. Looks like cousin Ron was reminiscing, like myself.
It’s quite the place. My understanding is that it’s still there, time truly has stood still. 1963 was a great year, I remember them visiting us in Fort Ord, California.

— Roy Aaroen

I have been to Amboy a hundred or so times since 1982. It is a special place on the road for me and my family. It would be great if the motel could open again. With the right marketing this place could become profitable again.

— Tim Allison

I remember this town from when I was a little guy. My mother Gail Borba’s family were the original owners of this small town. My mothers family were Uncle Buster & Aunt Besie Burris Grandpa Roy (Mamas dad) , Uncle Harry & Albert VanDeVeer. Aunt Besie had a famous oil painting Art gallery in her hotel office. The only cafe located in the town was named after my Grandfather Roy!…..I loved this place since I was a boy! Many many memories and lots of history! My Aunt Besie is still alive and living in BullHead city. I remember the time in 1982 when we were headed on vacation to TN, we stoped to see my Aunt and Uncle to get a bite to eat and she gave me a personal tour of her art gallery…I will always remember that! My mother Gail loves to go there just to look around and bring back her child hood memories!

— Randy Borba

I love 66,I have been over most passable parts over the years,I was at a big biker party at Amboy about 5 years ago,there were a lot of movie business people there,can you tell me why? Also did Rob Zombie have any interest in Roys? I have an original Roys gas pump logo that blew off a pump,saw Rob there at ROYS??? I am VERY much interested to know if any movies were filmed around Amboy especially THE DEVILS REJECTS by Zombie,once I think he was there with Hippy looking bikers,like they owned the place P S I’m a biker,thats just real curious,have ridden Santa Monica to Tulsa on Route 66-love 66 thanks for responding if you can.

— Jeff Stewart

I decided to spend the morning in the Crater but had to get Gas in Roy’s Diner. When I pulled up the Sherif or cop came up holding his gun demanding to know what I wanted. I was with my family and looked at him asking him what he meant. He was angry and told me I was not allowed to touch anything and people like me coming from LA are dangerous. I thought the Racism from the 1960 was over but I guess not here in Amboy in roy’s diner, Be careful. I am planning on contacting Juan Pollo who purchased this site and let the Corporation know that this Cop, who is also a gas attendet and cashier with a huge attitude is telling US citizens who I served in Desert Storm and I am a Radioloist that my people are Dangerous. Wow! I will follow up but think people should know whats going on out there.

— Mr. Vera

The cafe was open with cold pop and limited food on a drive through in September 09. Nice people, brings back memories in the early 80’s- a welcome stop in the desert. Just west of town on 66,beyond Amboy crater access road (very rough), look to the south of the highway. There are fields of volcanic dikes (?) 2-3 meters high 5-10 meters wide-many chuckwalla lizards! Interesting hike and biology- very extreme environs!

— Ray Larson

Hello TMT:
I’m doing research on the Amboy School and school community including former teachers, students, and residents. Read with interest your web site and some of the comments. Have interviewed Mary Bartel and Mary Howard, two of the last teachers at Amboy School, and perhaps a half-dozen others who were connected with the school, also attended one of the Amboy School reunions, in 2009. Would love to have other’s experiences and input as part of the historical record.
Any way you can pass along this message would be greatly appreciated. I’m making a self-published book and will present it to Mr. Okura, half-complete at this time, but it gives him an idea what my vision is for the next edition.
Sincerely yours,

— Paula G. Raymond

my mom lived her and graduated 8th grade in about 1963 or so. If anyone maybe has an old yearbook or anything from amboy school i would love to hear from them.

— Sam

Note: This trip was first published in 2005.  I spent more time in this area during the Superbloom Trip of 2016.

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