| |

Roy’s Motel & Cafe in Amboy

As you travel across the Mojave Desert on old Route 66 in Southern California, is worth stopping in Roy’s Motel & Cafe. It’s located in the abandoned town of Amboy, where glory times passed while opening Interstate I-40. Check our tips and photos from visiting Roy’s Motel.

This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
Roy's Motel & Cafe in Amboy: drone view

What is Roy’s Motel & Cafe?

Established by Roy Crowl in 1938, Roy’s Motel and Cafe in Amboy is a motel, cafe, gas station, and automotive repair shop maintained and refurbished as a historic site along Route 66. Amboy is located in the middle of nowhere in the Mojave Desert.

Its location adds mystery and a little atmosphere of thriller to the abandoned town. When visiting Roy’s Motel and Cafe in Amboy, you can feel like in a movie. Retro-style impressive buildings and neons of Roy’s Motel and Cafe are worth visiting during your road trip in California.

We had a wonderful time during our trip as we decided to use a charming abandoned motel for a photo session. I dressed up in a cowboy hat, leather cowboy boots, and a brown coat for the shoot while Chris took some captivating photographs of me. We are excited to share our photos, insights, and tips with you.

Roy's Motel & Cafe in Amboy

The short history of Amboy

Amboy was first settled in 1858 as a mining camp. In the 1880s, the Southern Pacific Railroad laid tracks across the desert to connect Southern California with the eastern United States.

The town was officially established in 1883. Lewis Kingman, an engineer for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, established it as the first of a series of alphabetically arranged stations to be built in the Mojave Desert.

In 1926, Amboy became a boom town after the opening of U.S. Route 66. The famous Route 66, an interstate highway from Chicago to Los Angeles, passed through Amboy.

amandoned buildlings in Amboy

Amboy began to grow with the increased traffic brought by the new highway. Even during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Amboy flourished as existing traffic needed a stopping point in the middle of the desert. After the Great Depression and World War II, tourism declined nationwide. However, the needs of the remaining travelers for lodging, meals, and gasoline kept the city going.

By the 1950s, Amboy’s population had grown to 700, 10% of whom worked at Roy’s Motel and Cafe. The town remained that way until the opening of Interstate 40 in 1973, which bypassed Amboy.

Agnes Stabinska, the author, in cowboy hat and boots next to the entrance to Roy's Motel

The brief history of Roy’s Motel & Cafe

The beginnings of Roy’s Motel

Roy’s Motel and Cafe is an iconic location on Route 66. The beginnings of this business date back to 1938. Roy Crawl and his wife Velma recognized the need for a gas station and repair store to handle the increasing traffic. So they opened Roy’s Garage in 1938. By 1940, Amboy’s population had grown to 65.

The growth was due not only to tourism, but also to the Santa Fe Railroad, on which freight trains still run between Kingman, Arizona, and the BNSF station at Barstow, California. They added gas pumps next, and in 1940 and later opened a café for travelers.

As travel increased, the Roys decided to open a Roy’s Motel, and the business became Roy’s Motel and Café. In the 1950s, the large, fabulous retro Roy’s sign was added to attract travelers.

Agnes Stabinska, the author, with cowboy hat and boots inside the abandoned Roy's Motel in Amboy

Closing the Roy’s Motel and Cafe

Buster Burris became the owner of Roy’s when the Crowls retired in ’59, as well as the owner of Amboy itself. Roy’s Motel flourished for several years, and the company became an icon of Route 66.

In 1973, California opened I-40, which bypassed Amboy a few miles to the north. Amboy was a ghost town. Roy’s Motel and Café also closed.

Roy’s Motel and Cafe was sold a few times and used mainly as a movie set. Vandals began to damage the facility. In 2005, the town of Amboy, including the Roy’s Motel & Café buildings, was purchased by Albert Okura, who owns the Juan Pollo Chicken restaurants in California.

white buildlings of Roy's Motel & Cafe

Okura was aware of efforts to revitalize Route 66 and wanted to bring Roy’s back to life. In 2008, the gas station reopened after remodeling and restoration. The gas station and convenience store are still in operation today. But don’t expect to find gasoline or groceries there.

Even when the gas station is open, it’s extremely expensive. In 2019, the owner restored an iconic 50-foot Roy’s sign. There are plans to remodel the Roy’s Motel & Cafe for reopening. The owner would like to return Roy’s Motel & Cafe to a destination as it once was.

Pro Tip: More about the Amboy, its history, and Roy’s Motel & Cafe restorations you can read on the official website.

Agnes Stabinska, the author, next to Roy's Gasoline

How to get to Amboy?

  • Visiting Roy’s Motel and Cafe in Amboy might be a perfect idea as a day trip from Las Vegas. From Las Vegas, it’s only 2 hours and 15 minutes of driving via I-15 S and Kelbaker Rd. It’s 134 miles. If you plan to drive from LV, check our Las Vegas Itinerary.
  • If you are traveling the famous old Route 66, you are probably going from east to west. From Flagstaff, Arizona, to Amboy, Cali, you have 4 hours and 20 minutes of driving (289 miles) via I-40 W. But on the way, you have terrific Route 66 towns, such as Williams, Seligman, and Kingman. So plan all day for this drive, as each of those towns is worth your stop. Check our photos and tips from the Best Route 66 Towns in Arizona.
  • Visiting Amboy might also be a perfect idea if you are in Joshua Tree National Park, as it’s only 52 miles from the park. If you would like to combine it with visiting Death Valey National Park – it’s a more extended trip – at least 180 miles.
  • You only have an hour’s drive from Amboy to the iconic Bagdad Cafe. This place is also a must-see on Route 66, so make sure to add it to your itinerary. Bagdad Cafe is only 57 miles toward Barstow via the I-40 E and National Trails Hwy.
Roy's Motel & Cafe on Route 66 in Amboy

Roy’s Motel & Cafe as a Route 66 Stop

If you plan to drive all of Mother Road – Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, or some part of this route, visiting Amboy is a must. Roy’s Motel & Cafe is one of the best stops on Route 66 on the Southwest. From Amboy to Route 66 End of the Trail, on Santa Monica Pier, is 210 miles and about 3 hours and 30 minutes of driving.

If you drive to Los Angeles be sure to choose I-40 E and National Trails Hwy and don’t miss the famous Bagdad Cafe on the way.

How much cost visiting Roy’s Motel & Cafe, Amboy?

There is no admission fee to this abandoned Amboy town which is a reminder of the great glory of Route 66 Highway. You can stop and take some photos. During our visit, some motels room were open, so we could enter them and see the relics of the past. Most of the rooms were completely empty. One had an old mattress and a dusty armchair.

Cafe in Amboy
Roy's Motel & Cafe in Amboy

Can you stay at Roy’s Motel in Amboy?

No. You can’t stay in Roy’s Motel but can look through the windows. Most of it is fairly run down, but we had lucky to enter some of the motel’s rooms as they were opened. There are plans to restore the motel to its former glory, but it takes money, time, and determination.

room with old green chairs in Amboy
abandoned, empty room in Amboy with old damaged mattress

Roy’s Motel & Cafe Movies

In the 1980s and 1990s, Roy’s Motel & Cafe in Amboy became a popular movie destination. Roy’s Motel appeared in several movies. One of the most famous was “The Hitcher” from 1986, directed by Robert Harmon, with Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Jeffrey DeMunnand.

The second one was “Kalifornia” from 1993, which is a great thriller. It was directed by Dominic Sena with stars Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, Kathy Larson, and David Milford. We highly recommended to watch them before visiting Roy’s Motel.

What’s more, Roy’s Motel also served as a backdrop in music videos such as Enrіquе Iglesias’ 2001 hit “Hero” and Queens of the Stone Age’s “Thе Lоѕt Art оf Keeping A Sесrеt.”

Agnes Stabinska, the author, in Roy's Motel & Cafe in Amboy
Roy's Motel & Cafe in Amboy

Do you like it? Pin it!


  1. The fact that it is still operational today despite multiple restoration and refurbishment efforts astonished me. I realized that setting up a business in a desolate town can be profitable as long as you cater to and meet the demands of travelers. I’m hoping to visit this historic location sometime and snap some photos.

    1. Yes 🙂 It was a movie and series location. In the last chapter of this article, we mentioned some of the most popular.

  2. This is such a cool landmark! It looks like time stands still here at Roy’s Motel and Cafe. I love that it started as a gas station and then progressed to a cafe and then a motel. It would be a worthwhile visit if the owner is able to renovate and reopen, but even if not, it’s an awesome retro step back in time. So fun!

  3. What a cool photography spot! I love how it has this history and is now a ghost town with some cool architecture and a backdrop of the Mojave desert. I can see why there have been movies that have chosen this as their location.

  4. We are often drawn to roadside eateries like Roy’s Motel & Cafe when we are on road trips. So fun that this was refurbished as a historic site on Route 66. I love that people will make the investment to bring a spot like this back to life. But I won’t plan on buying gasoline here. Visiting Amboy sounds like a perfect idea when we finally get to Death Valley National Park.

  5. Oh wow! We must have driven right past here when we were on Route 66. I wish I’d read this article beforehand because we absolutely would have stopped! Such a cool history and so iconically “Route 66” looking (if that makes sense). Definitely next time!

  6. I love the look of this place! In many of our road trips, we love stand-alone and low-profile places like this. I am sure it must be fun to stop here for an overnight trip when and if the motel part of it re-opens. It’s impressive that this motel cum cafe has been renovated as part of a historic route 66. 🙂

  7. Happy to know that they were able to bring Roy’s back to life. We would love to visit and explore the area. This place is rich with wonderful memories. By the way, I am just curious — is this the same route/ place in the Cars movie?

  8. Wow, you got some great pics! I love exploring old abandoned places (if they’re not too creepy). And I’m fascinated with the old historic Route 66 buildings. I recently found a few near San Dimas, CA, too. But I didn’t know about Amboy. I drive between San Diego and Las Vegas all the time. I’ll have to check it out!

  9. This place looks so cool to visit and it’s great that someone wants to restore it, despite it being off the main road. I would love to visit as it’s great to visit little places like this and hear about what it was like in the past, just sad that some places become like ghosts towns when they flourished in the past. I hope one day the motel gets restored and I can stay there.

  10. That looks familiar. I am pretty sure I’ve seen it in a movie. I love weird old places like that with lots of history. I’m glad they were able to fix it up and reopen it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *