Roy's Motel & Cafe, perhaps the most ionic and isolated of all Route 66 roadside spots, in the tiny ghost town of Amboy, California. While the gas station and cafe were reopened on a limited basis in 2008, the motel remains closed, as restoration would present a fairly major challenge at this point, both physically and economically.
By James Nye
The great American road trip has long been seen as a rite of passage, immortalized in novel's such as 'On The Road' and the movie 'Easy Rider'.
The image of the dusty highway tapering off into the sweltering horizon is as much a trope as a reality of American life, but one photographer has decided to alter that perception slightly and take his photographs at night.
Interested in the abandoned and the yesteryear of the road-trip, Noel Kerns photographs gas stations, diners, motels and toll booths and using a light-painting technique highlights the available colors visible as the sun sets on the freeway.
Abandoned gas station on the edge of Mineral Wells, Texas. With a half-moon in the sky, ambient light of all kinds from several directions, Noel used a CTO-gelled NEBO Redline flashlight to light up the pumps, as a mercury-vapor lamp behind the building lights up the trees
Set across the nation, but also along the Texan section of the iconic Route 66, Kern's pictures express the classic hold the road has on traveler's imaginations.
The enduring fascination is to see the 'real' America and to date Rutgers University have estimated that people spend $132 million annually along old Route 66, which crosses eight states and is marked in some places by ceremonial signs.
Another part of the old Fort Dallas that wasn't consumed by the fire in November of 2010; the post office, a haberdashery, and on the end, 'W.H. McCool's Farm & Ranch Supplies.'
Apocalypse Diner: What's left of an abandoned diner on a densely overcast and rainy night in Readington, New Jersey. The vast majority of the lighting in this shot comes from the bank parking lot on the other side of the highway, severely limiting the possibility of more creative lighting
The Mayor Mobile: Northeast elevation of the now abandoned former mayor's mansion in Paris, Texas, complete with a 1963 Chevy Malibu sinking into the dirt out back
Rattle Snake Bunker: This is an old munitions bunker on the WW-II-era US Army-Air Force Base, set off in the desert of far West Texas
The long-abandoned Road Runner's Retreat Restaurant, with its classic, oft-photographed sign, lies dark and still on a silent night in the most remote stretch of Route 66 in the Mojave Desert, east of Amboy, California (above), and (below) another classic diner sign, this time on I-15, between Barstow, California and Las Vegas, NV
The heyday of the freeway was in the 1930s and Route 66 in particular became emblematic of the increased car ownership and usage, despite the Great Depression that raged.
Route 66 was described in the John Steinbeck novel 'The Grapes of Wrath' as the 'mother road' from the Dust Bowl to the promise of California. It later became the family vacation route to the Southwest and was romanticized in movies, music and on television.
'It wasn't the only highway, or the first or the longest, but through the quirks of pop culture it became famous,' said Mark Spangler, curator of the Route 66 Museum in Lebanon, Missouri.
The biggest challenge to modern-day Route 66 travelers is staying on the original route, said David Knudson, founder and executive director of the non-profit National Historic Route 66 Federation. Signs are inconsistent along the long route and many are stolen for souvenirs, he said.
'It's hard to follow without a good map,' said Knudson, whose group publishes a Route 66 map and guides. 'Some parts of the road have deteriorated, some are in good shape and some parts were removed years ago and replaced with cornfields. About 80 percent of the original route is still drivable.'
Abandoned Martin 404 passenger plane, parked in a field off state highway 82 near Paris, Texas. Built in 1952, this particular aircraft (tail number N255S) flew under at least three different airline names that I've found, including Air South, which was acquired by Florida Airlines in 1975. Florida Airlines was a victim of Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, no longer able to compete with the majors. In 1982, Florida Airlines ceased operations. Her history from 1982 to 1997 is a bit of a mystery as far as I can tell, but in 1997, N255S was purchased and put into service by Pro-Air, an American budget airline. The FAA grounded Pro-Air in 2000, citing multiple regulatory violations, ending this 404's flying career. Today she still sports her Pro-Air colors...along with the all the usual signs of decay the years have heaped on her, along with a few bullet holes, no doubt from some daft local youths
Sign for the old D&D Drive-In (above), on the main drag in Picher, Oklahoma. Like every place else in Picher, the D&D is now closed, a victim of the lead and zinc mining contamination in the area, which lead to the creation of the Tar Creek Superfund Site. Below, this old Café sign near Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert has seen better days
While shooting this abandoned farmhouse near Sanger, Texas, Noel and his shooting partner kept hearing cattle in the back part of the property, vocalizing in response to their presence. As the night wore on, the sound began to increase in volume as one particular bovine began to edge closer…until it was right on them and they discovered it was a bull! The shoot ended shortly thereafter…
An abandoned 'Christian Church' in Picher, Oklahoma, with a handy sign above the door in case you couldn't tell from the architecture. In 1926, Picher had a population over 14,000. By 1930, it was half that. In 2008, about 150 remained. This past weekend, I only saw maybe two or three places that were still clearly occupied as residences
In the Mojave Desert of southern California, this old gas station watches over the older, seldom-used Route 66 roadbed, as traffic races past along Interstate 40 in the background. Below, an abandoned theatre in Paris, Texas
Graffiti inside a long-abandoned trash incinerator in Fort Worth, Texas
The federal government no longer maintains any of the route, so repairs are done by various cities, counties and states that took over each section, Knudson said. His federation has a program that recruits people to monitor the condition of 100-mile stretches of the road.
But federal funds are available to owners of Route 66 businesses. The National Park Service's Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program has paid an average of $150,000 annually since 2001 for business renovations along the road that are matched privately, according to the Rutgers study.
The survey found that the most popular sights along Route 66 are the old roadside diners, motels, gas stations, souvenir shops, theaters and other businesses. According to the study, 230 buildings along the route are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The route includes quirky sights like the Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, Texas, which features a series of half-buried Cadillacs with their fins up. In Catoosa, Oklahoma, there is a giant open-mouthed whale built over a popular Route 66 swimming hole.
People also travel Route 66 for the scenery of plains, mountains and rivers, Knudson said. It is still the American definition of the open road, especially as it passes through the remote southwestern states, he said.
'It's the adventure that draws many people,' Knudson said. 'There is certainly a lot to be said about that.'