Bagdad Cafe: Calling You

For us and countless others, Jevetta Steele’s haunting lyrics from the song, “Calling You,” from the 1987 indie cult classic “Bagdad Cafe” will forever evoke the particularities of a small desert town on Route 66 contrasted with the vastness of the Mojave Desert.

However, Bagdad Cafe was not actually shot in Bagdad. Not Bagdad, California, and not Baghdad, Iraq.

The award-winning German film, directed by Percy Adlon, was filmed in Newberry Springs at the former Sidewinder Cafe, which decided to let the name “Bagdad Cafe” live on, drawing throngs of international tourists.

Desert road de Vegas vers nulle part
Certains placent mieux qu’où vous avez été
Une machine à café qui a besoin de certaines fixation
Dans un petit café “juste dans le virage…

Like so many pioneer towns in the Mojave Desert established by necessity for its connection to the railroads, Ludlow Cemetery is serenaded by the rumble of frequent trains.

The cemetery appears to have approximately 50 visible graves. All but three are marked by wooden crosses with no information. Only seven grave sites have been identified.

Ludlow was founded in 1882, brought about by the establishment of the Southern Pacific Railroad until May 4, 1897 when it became the Santa Fe Railway.

This was the main line and connection with Los Angeles…

Admit it. If you’ve traveled on the I-40 or Route 66, you’ve stopped for ice cream or gasoline. Maybe a corn dog.

The tiny ghost town of Ludlow, California is just off these long stretches of roads. You can’t miss it and if you do, you have miles to go before you can turn around.

We think Ludlow is the perfect little desert spot in the middle of nowhere. Ludlow is home to quite a few abandoned ramshackle houses and countless rusted cannibalized vintage cars. Ludlow even has its own pioneer cemetery. Like many ghost towns, what Ludlow has the most of is a wealth of history.

You could say Ludlow has it all…

Harper Dry Lake bed in the Mojave Desert was the site of secret flight test programs conducted by the Hughes & Northrop aircraft companies during the 1940s, including the first flight by an American rocket-propelled aircraft. Howard Hughes tested aircraft and built a hangar here. Years later, it was decided Harper Dry Lake was the best place to launch the space shuttle’s heir apparent, the Lockheed Martin Venture Star.

Harper Dry Lake Marsh, near the tiny community of Lockhart, California, is practically a stone’s throw away from the world’s second largest solar farm facilities.

Despite environmental challenges, peaceful Harper Dry Lake Marsh remains an enduring host to a wide variety of migratory waterfowl…

The Mojave Desert wears a coat of many colors. Both majestic and mysterious, Rainbow Basin is notable for miles of fantastical and beautiful shapes of rock formations, its fossil beds and geologic wonders.

Don’t expect a Skittles rainbow though. You will enjoy its varied palette of natural hues but it’s subtle and changes throughout the day with shadows.

Surprises await just off the beaten path. Park your vehicle to the side of the road and go for a walkabout. Hiking Owl Canyon offers many discoveries, such as lava tubes, dry water falls and…

Remember, while exploring remote parts of the desert, the true test of character is doing the right thing, even if nobody else is watching.

Rustic cemeteries dot the outskirts of Old West ghost towns where the early inhabitants lay in eternal rest. We thank you for being mindful and respectful of the departed. Their lives touched many and in retrospect added to the complex tapestry of history known as the Mojave Desert.

Modern unsung heroes continue to pay homage to their legacies…

Driving along Pearblossom Highway (Hwy 138), it’s just you and maybe a few hundred cars and trucks passing by in both directions. Perhaps lost in thought, or just concentrating on surviving the drive, you look ahead and the roadway becomes a beacon to place unknown to most people, even though they may pass it every day. You’re approaching the ruins. Soon, you will know what others don’t. The history of a failed dream. Welcome to the Socialist community of Llano Del Rio…

We’re not saying Apple Valley, California, is in the middle of nowhere, although Los Angelinos may argue differently. This 62 foot labyrinth is great place to go to clear your head and get back in touch with nature. To listen to the wind and not much else. Despite its popularity, of all the times we’ve visited here we’ve never come across anyone else at this spot. We hope you enjoy the same pleasure…

We were lucky enough to follow along some of Union Pacific steam locomotive Big Boy 4014’s historic journey as it passed through the Mojave Desert from Colton, California to Cheyenne, Wyoming for restoration. Much to the delight of railfans like us, Big Boy’s first scheduled stop was at scenic Mormon Rocks in the Cajon Pass.

Big Boy’s next stop was The Harvey House Railroad Depot in Barstow, originally known as the Casa del Desierto. It was Big Boy’s first visit in 50 years. Would the bittersweet reunion be its last?

Times have changed since my first trip through Amboy at about 90 miles an hour. It was 1970 and I was 16, traveling with friends to camp out at Hole in the Wall rustic site in the Providence Mountains…

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