Travelogue: Golden Valley, Needles, Amboy, Bagdad

As I noted back in January, the weekend of February 2-3 featured several destinations for us and The Blue Spirit, and we were happy to get out on the road to support Route 66 communities.

Car Show, Golden Valley
We got going from Las Vegas pretty early in the morning in order to make it to our first stop, a benefit car show at Great American Pizza in Golden Valley, AZ. We were not able to stay for the whole thing due to the event in Needles, but we had a good time while we were there and the turnout was good, even though it was rainy and cold!

Just a few of the classics at the car show.

There was good turnout, especially from Mustangs!

I washed the car the day before, but the weather on the way was not cooperative so we arrived just as dirty as before I had washed it! It was great to hang out at our first car show, and also meet up with friends who live nearby. There were some amazing rat rods and classic cars, and a good representation of modern cars, such as a whole row of nice Mustangs. The Blue Spirit was the only electric car in attendance, and we were happy to chat up numerous folks who asked about it. The only other whiff of EVs was when a recent transplant from Canada came over to take a look at the Tesla and chatted with us about her Chevy Bolt.

It's not tailgating. Would this be called Frunking?
We were assured that if we attended Chillin' on Beale, the monthly car show in nearby Kingman, that there would be plenty of folks interested in the Tesla. We do plan to attend this year when we are able. Last year, we had received the car just in time for the final CoB of 2018, but a family illness prevented us from attending as planned.

The Main Event: Needles, California
The biggest event of the weekend was an information fair put on by the California Historic Route 66 Association (CHR66A). It was located at the historic El Garces, a Harvey House railroad depot dating to 1908. Long closed, this huge building has been partially reopened as an intermodal transportation facility.

Trackside at El Garces.

Parkside at El Garces.

After a great lunch with fellow roadies at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant, we headed over to El Garces, where the main room was filled with folks giving and receiving information about Route 66, and attractions that the Needles area has to offer. Once again we seemed to be the only EV in the area, a situation that I think will become a thing of the past before very long. I have been told that attendance at this fair exceeded the association's expectations, with around 300 visitors. This bodes well for Route 66, when so many people come out in a small town for a low-key affair that did not feature a car show, performance or any other type of festival-style event. A hearty congratulations is warranted to the CHR66A for a great info fair!

I attended the grand-reopening of El Garces back in 2014, and this was the first time since then that I had been inside. This time was especially great, as guided tours were being given of the entire facility, including areas that are still closed and un-restored. Much of El Garces is still stripped down to its bones, having been essentially gutted by the railroad many years ago. The tour took us to large empty rooms with a few artifacts of the building's past, and also to the second floor which I had never visited before. Even though there were a lot of bare walls, it was still fascinating.

Route 66 from the second floor of El Garces.

Inside, there is still much space unused.

A tour group on the second floor.

The newly-reconstructed fountain.

After the info fair, it was time for a relaxing evening with other roadies at Fender's River Road Resort. As an RV park as well as a motel, Fender's is set up well to allow charging for electric vehicles. So although Needles has a Tesla Supercharger, we didn't need to use it. We plugged in The Blue Spirit at the end of a very long evening and it was fully charged before we were ready to leave the next morning. Thanks to manager Rosie for another nice stay!

Outside our room at Fender's. Charging was available just a few feet away!

Also just a few feet away: the Colorado River!

Sunday Funday: Amboy and Bagdad
After a quick fast food breakfast, we high-tailed it west out of Needles along I-40. I had intended to stop at Goffs but unfortunately that must wait for a later trip. There wasn't enough time for a detour, as we needed to get straight to Amboy Crater for a hike with Scott Piotrowski, president of the CHR66A. Amboy Crater is part of the recently-created Mojave Trails National Monument, a vast area which includes much of Route 66 in the Mojave Desert. The parking area for the crater trail is improved with restrooms and covered picnic areas. Covered areas are a welcome relief from the sun and while picnicking by the parking area is fine all year round, it is not recommended to take the hike in the warmer months as the heat is extreme. But in February it's no problem! We were a few minutes late but Scott was graciously waiting for us. Along with a few other visitors, we headed off to the crater, a round trip of about 3 miles. The weather was wonderful and we walked the rim of Amboy Crater for a great view of the area.

Amboy Crater doesn't look so big.

OK, I guess it's pretty big.

Larger than one might think, actually.

The view from the rim. That smattering of buildings in the distance is the town of Amboy.

After the hike, there was one more major stop on the schedule. A few miles west of Amboy Crater lies the ghost town of Bagdad. I say 'ghost town' but in reality there are no standing structures remaining so it's really just a cleared area next to the road. The only remaining landmark is a single tree. Recently, persons unknown have begun to hang things from the tree, which can be quite dangerous for the tree's survival. There are many 'shoe trees' along American highways - trees which for whatever reason attract the attention of travelers who hang pairs of shoes from them. Eventually the shoes can become so numerous that the tree dies from the stress or collapses under the weight. As a point of historical interest, Route 66 enthusiasts were keen not to let this happen to the Bagdad tree, standing all alone as the last reminder of a town which no longer exists.

First electric car in Bagdad? Maybe, but maybe not!
We drove The Blue Spirit, accompanied by Scott Piotrowski, to Bagdad in order to place a sign asking visitors to leave the tree undisturbed. Many thanks go to KC Keefer for bringing the situation to the attention of the Route 66 community via Facebook, and to Delvin Harbour of the CHR66A for removal of items from the tree before our arrival. Financial support to pay for the sign was generously provided by Route 66 Navigation, which markets a smartphone app to help travelers from around the world to follow the route and explore the hundreds of sites that make it so amazing. Please visit to learn about their wonderful app, which is available for both iPhone and Android. We here at Electric Route 66 covered the remaining cost, for graffiti protection sign coating, post, and mounting hardware. Having Scott's help to install the sign was instrumental and greatly appreciated.

I've been working on a fence post, all the live long day.

Scott's been working on a fence post, just to pass the time away.

Can't you hear the whistle blowing, back there behind the tree and sign?
For anyone who wishes to visit Bagdad soon, I offer the following treat: I wrote something on the back of the sign. For the first three respondents to send me a photo of the back via email, to post a photo on Facebook in the Route 66 Electric Car Club, or to simply tell me via email exactly what is written, I will send to each of you a pair of Electric Route 66 stickers!

With the hard part finished, we headed east towards home, stopping for a wonderful but too-short conversation with former CHR66A president Kevin Hansel in Amboy, whom we had met at Fender's in Needles the day before. We also made a brief stop at Kelso Depot, visitor center for the Mojave National Preserve. The route through Kelso is a great alternative drive to the interstate if you are traveling between southern California and Las Vegas, which takes a bit longer but rewards with wonderful views and a beautiful restored railroad depot. With no charging since we left Needles that morning, we were getting a bit low, but thankfully there is a Tesla Supercharger at the CA-NV state line in Primm, so we stopped for just a few minutes to make sure we had enough charge to get home to Las Vegas.

Kelso Depot Visitor Center, always a great stop.

That's it for this trip! Soon, I hope to take The Blue Spirit back into Arizona and California, for a short Route 66 trip visiting Cool Springs, Oatman, and Goffs, including one of the most twisty sections of the route that is still driveable.


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