The Scenic Drive to Las Vegas
DELSEY PARIS and THE UNSEASONAL have teamed
up to take a fresh look at travel destinations that go beyond expectations.
There are multiple routes for a road trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, but we picked the most scenic one, which includes two of California’s magnificent desert parks: Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park.
When you leave Los Angeles on the Foothill Freeway, also known as Interstate 210, you’ll drive past the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains and the great biodiversity there. This highway will take you to your first stop: San Bernardino, a city nestled in the foothills of San Bernardino Valley. It is home to the very first McDonald’s — opened by the McDonald brothers in 1940 — and the location is now a museum about the hamburger chain. You will also find the historic Wigwam Motel here, which was built in 1949 and inspired the Cozy Cone Motel in the Disney/Pixar movie Cars.
From here, the route will lead you into the High Desert of San Bernardino County and then to Pioneertown, which was founded in 1946 by Hollywood investors and actors, including Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Visitors can explore an 1880s-style movie set, with facades for filming and interiors. More than 50 films and television shows were filmed here in the 1940s and ’50s. Today, most of the visitors come to dine at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, which hosts live acts and serves classic barbecue. The saloon opened in 1982 and quickly became a local favorite. It also has been named one of the top 20 music venues in America, with performances by Paul McCartney, Eric Burdon of The Animals, Queens of the Stone Age, Beach House, the Pixies, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Belle & Sebastian, Lorde, Peaches, and many other musicians. In nearby Flamingo Heights, you’ll find La Copine, an upscale eatery that serves farm-fresh Southern California fare, contributing to the area’s newfound reputation as a modern getaway. In 2015, East Coast transplants Claire Wadsworth and wife Nikki Hill, who runs the kitchen, renovated an old diner, situated between Joshua Tree and Pioneertown, and transformed it into a sun-drenched oasis. With events such as Coachella, Stagecoach Festival, and Desert X, the area can get crowded, but it is otherwise beautifully remote and quiet.
In Joshua Tree National Park, two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together and are home to a fascinating variety of plants and animals. One of the most notable plants is the Joshua tree, which can live for several hundred years. A group of early Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century named the tree for its role in guiding them through the desert, and its unique shape reminded them of a biblical story in which Joshua raised his arms to the sky in prayer. The area was designated a national monument in 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and became a national park in 1994. With its spectacular rock formations, cacti, and stunning mountain views, the area is one of the main attractions on the way to Las Vegas. Discovery Trail, Boy Scout Trail, and Wall Street Mill are among the best hikes to discover the park and its beauty. Don’t miss Fortynine Palms Oasis, a desert oasis located in the northern part of the park. The trailhead can be found on the outer northern edge of the park in Twentynine Palms, which is one of the gateways to Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave Desert, and the great California Outback. On Amboy Road, which connects Twentynine Palms to the famous Route 66, you’ll find the iconic Palms Bar & Restaurant. The diner and rustic desert roadhouse features Mojave Rain, Wonder Valley’s own homegrown band, for your dining and dancing pleasure. The Palms in Wonder Valley Live Events are also hosted here on a stage under the stars. Try the bar’s bloody mary, and don’t be surprised to meet music lovers from Los Angeles mingling with the locals.
Following Amboy Road, you’ll hit the historic Route 66 in Amboy, an almost-abandoned town. Although covered in the surrounding desert dust, it is still bursting with attractions. Amboy Crater, a National Natural Landmark, is a 6,000-year-old cinder cone volcano that is situated in one of the youngest volcano fields in the U.S. The crater’s most recent eruption was approximately 10,000 years ago. When Route 66 opened, the city of Amboy experienced a boom. In 1938, Roy’s Motel and Cafe opened. It started as a gas station, then became a motel and a popular film location. Many projects were filmed in Amboy and on the endless, remote roads around the town. Today, Amboy has a total of 10 surviving buildings and a population of approximately four people. The historic Roy’s is being restored to preserve its status as a mid-century modern landmark.
Continuing into the Mojave Desert on Kelbaker Road, you’ll reach Kelso, a ghost town with a defunct railroad depot. The Kelso Depot was built to provide services to passengers and railroad employees, and it was a water stop for steam locomotives. The depot is an example of mid-1920s-era Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, with a hotel, restaurant, and oasis-like landscape design in the middle of the desert. In 1994, the Mojave National Preserve was established, and the remote station was transferred to the National Park Service. A historical restoration followed. Today, trains still pass through the area each day, coming from and going to all points in North America. The trains’ steady rattling echoes through the vast nothingness. The historic Kelso Depot now serves as the main visitor center of the Mojave National Preserve and as a gateway to the Kelso Dunes. The migrating dunes rise to 650 feet above the surrounding terrain. Made of light-colored quartz, they represent a part of a large sand transport system, which includes the nearby Devils Playground region. The Kelso Dunes are notable for a phenomenon known as singing sand, or “booming dunes,” which can also be found in Nevada and the Namib Desert of Africa. The singing or booming occurs when an avalanche of sand slides down the dunes. The movement generates a low-frequency rumble that can be both felt and heard in the otherwise quiet surroundings.
At the intersection of two dirt roads in the remote Mojave Desert, a phone booth was set up in 1948 to provide telephone service to local volcanic cinder miners. Surrounded by the desert’s vastness, the hand-cranked magneto phone was replaced with a payphone in the 1960s. The rotary phone was then replaced with a touch-tone model in the 1970s. In 1997, a Los Angeles man visited the telephone and built a website dedicated to the phone booth, including its telephone number. The booth soon became a sensation. More and more people called the number, while others made pilgrimages to the phone booth to answer the calls. Visitors even camped out at the site. Several callers kept recordings of their conversations. The booth was removed by Pacific Bell in 2000, but in 2013 the booth’s telephone number was reactivated for callers to
join a conference call, where strangers could once again connect — just like when the phone booth was active.
At the California-Nevada border lies Primm, a town on Interstate 15, just 40 miles from Las Vegas. The Nevada town is named after its original developer, Earnest Jay Primm. Its three casinos offer a foretaste of Las Vegas’ famous strip and continue to attract visitors since the first casino opened in 1906 at Hotel Nevada. Today, Las Vegas is still a great place to escape from everyday life, where days and nights blend seamlessly.
Images: Ger Ger Words: Tina Ger
The Unseasonal is a purpose-driven special projects magazine and alternative take on the world – a magazine about passion, travel, beauty, the change in seasons, the unusual, and the human condition. It features timeless pictorials, thoughtful stories, and unique collaborations. The Unseasonal embodies the feeling of a getaway, of slowing down, of exotic places, optimism, breathtaking dreams, unique architecture, and a lightness of being, traced with elements
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