Route 66 may officially exist no longer, but as the well-known song of the same name advises - don't forget desert city, Barstow. At the cross roads of two major interstates and the half-way point between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, this small urban center services through traffic and off road enthusiasts headed for rugged trails in the surrounding desert. While most travelers bound for Barstow don't linger long, there is a handful of cultural sights to consider if you do decide to stick around.
Locally, look for attractions like the Route 66 "Mother Road" Museum (with the historic highway as its focus), the Western American Railroad Museum and the Desert Discovery Center, which offers a hands-on introduction to regional flora and fauna. For what it's worth, Barstow is also home to the U.S. Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, a Marine Corps Logistics Base and NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Network.
However, for the average tourist, what makes Barstow more than just a historical pit stop is its setting. The Mojave Desert spreads out in every direction and while it may appear barren and desolate at first blush, the visitor who ventures beyond the pavement will find hanging gardens, multi-hued hills and surreal geological formations for reward. The colorful rocks and ancient fossils of Rainbow Basin are a brief drive away, as is the playa Coyote Dry Lake, popular with birdwatchers. Calico, a dusty ghost town, is preserved as California's official Silver Rush Ghost Town and the Calico Early Man Archaeological Site, a controversial historic site is also nearby.
Travel a little farther out to Mojave National Preserve for more desert-style history and recreation, or to Stoddard Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area if you're an off-roader.
Located 115 miles east of Los Angeles and 150 miles southwest of Las Vegas, Barstow is hard to miss: Interstates 15 and 40, and Highways 58 and 247 all converge in town.