California — This drive is only supposed to last four hours, but when confronted with so much wide-open space, Joshua trees awaiting to be photographed, crazy billboards and the world’s largest thermometer, well, the car is going to stop. A lot.
Like 10 hours’ worth. And that only scratched the surface.
I’ve been making the Los Angeles to Las Vegas trek for several years now, and it never gets old. I share some of my favorite scenes in the photo gallery above. Here are some highlights along the route:
Hesperia: This is the first glimpse of the open desert after leaving Ontario, California, and merging onto Route 15, the highway that will continue north all the way through Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho. Hesperia is where I shot this Joshua tree on the side of the road.
Victorville: Another 8 miles up the road, and you’re in the last city you will see on this drive, a town that once touted a gateway to historic Route 66. The town itself has a terrific Route 66 museum but downtown has many shuttered stores and homes – so if you enjoy seeing abandonment, this is a great place for that. Tip: Continue on old 66 north, towards Barstow, and get to Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, a roadside attraction of one man’s eccentric collection of bottles, signs and such.
Barstow: The near-midway point of the drive, with an outlet mall, electric charging stations for Teslas and other cars, a remade railroad station that’s now home to McDonald’s, Subway and other fast food restaurants and gift shops. The Barstow Station is a major stop for tour buses. I prefer to keep on driving.
Yermo: Now you’re really in the desert, with no cities in sight. There’s both a ghost town (Calico Ghost Town) attraction along with abandoned buildings, working diners (Peggy Sue’s and Penny’s) accessible Joshua trees and electric charging. Tip: Peggy Sue’s is our favorite LA2Vegas pit stop, with typical ’50s diner food – everything from grilled cheese and burgers to pizza and ice cream.
Zzyzx Road: A fun stop, just because the name is so funny; there’s not much out here beyond taking photos of the iconic sign.
Baker: Or the town time forgot. It’s home to the world’s largest thermometer, a 134-foot attraction that can be seen for miles. Note: The temps are over 95 degrees for five months of the year, so it’s not like the thermometer will be that useful. It’s hot outside. Baker once attracted a lot of roadside visitors who now speed through after gassing up and getting something to eat at the Mad Greek. On our last visit, we counted three shuttered motels (of the three in town), several closed gas stations and restaurants. For photographers looking to get up close and personal with buildings that have been left to rot, this is the place. (Tesla owners, Baker has the largest collection of charging stations on this trip, 40 stalls.)