Though by population it’s under half the size of Victorville, the burly railroad and transportation center of Barstow (pop. 21, 495) seems a much bigger place. Located midway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, at the point where I-15 veers north and I-40 takes the place of old east–west Route 66, Barstow was the first large watering hole west of the Arizona border, a role it still plays, judging by the numerous truck depots arrayed around town. It’s scruffy and a little scary in the way railroad towns can be, and along Main Street, the old Route 66 corridor, many of the old cafés and motels are now closed and boarded up.
At the center of town, just north of old Route 66, the circa-1911 Harvey House Casa del Desierto hotel next to the train station looks like the Doge’s Palace in Venice, its gothic-style arcades a substantial reminder of a time when travel meant more than just getting somewhere. The long-abandoned building was recently brought back to use as a Route 66 museum (Fri.–Sun. 11 am–4 pm; 760/255-1890).