Amboy Crater & Route 66

Our first day-trip from Needles was west to Amboy, an old Route 66 rest stop in a desolate area of the Mojave Desert. It comprises little more than a motel, a restaurant , a gas station, and a population of 4. But it has some interesting attractions: a unique volcanic crater with several concentric cinder cones, two Chinese guardian lions in the middle of the desert, a funky Route 66 motel and diner circa 1950s, and an international art exhibit!

The art exhibit, housed in the Roy Motel cabins, is a part of a larger art project originating in Switzerland: Matza Amboy explores in rather esoteric ways the issue of water scarcity and how its unequal distribution “becomes an instrument of power and profit”. The dry Mojave is contrasted with the abundance of water in the Swiss Alps, and makes reference to the Aletsch Glacier. I took a photograph of it on a trip to Switzerland in 2006, which I’ve included here.

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Oatman

Now settled for a month in Needles, California. Our first excursion was to Oatman, Arizona, a one-street, one-time mining town on the famous Route 66, with a hotel where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard made a honeymoon stop. Wild burros, descended from miners’ pack animals, wander freely. Clearly the burro in the second image can’t read the “No Parking” sign, but these burros sure know their rights! They’re protected and don’t hesitate to panhandle, pick-pocket, purse-snatch, kick and bite. The worst sanction they get is a scolding! We also saw fields of cacti on the way, and some very photogenic junk vehicles on the edge of town. The Sitgreaves Pass above Oatman was a major obstacle on the main route to California for migrants during the Great Depression.

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Hoover Dam

On our way to Needles, California, we stopped for a tour of Hoover Dam. It’s a very impressive Art Deco monument glorifying American ingenuity, but raises a whole raft of issues related to our relationship with nature. Lake Mead is drying up and the Colorado River is drained of its water before it reaches the sea. A cautionary tale!

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Moapa Valley

We stayed in the Moapa Valley, Nevada, while day-tripping into the Valley of Fire (see my previous post), but we also explored and photographed other features in the area. One was the ghost town of St Thomas, flooded when Lake Mead rose behind Hoover Dam, and since exposed as the lake receded. Another was “Double Negative”, a piece of art (a trench actually) carved out of two facing sides of Mormon Mesa.

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Valley of Fire

Nevada’s Valley of Fire is a place of extraordinary, colourful rock formations – A beautiful place to hike and reflect upon the powerful and relentless forces that build up and erode the geological landscape.

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