Route 66 News

A dream in the desert

The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., posted quite an article about Gus Lizalde, who purchased the Route 66 hamlet of Chambless, Calif., years ago and hopes to eventually businesses in that spot.

He described his vision for a multimillion-dollar makeover.

“It’s going to be a full-blown restoration to the way it was built,” Lizalde said. “I want to bring back that nostalgia.”

The renewed Chambless would feature “totem” gasoline pumps with meters that look like clock faces. Lizalde said he wants to track down original pump bodies and retrofit them with modern gas-delivery and metering systems.

The main building would have a 1950s-style diner, a tavern and a souvenir/convenience store. He intends to fix up the nine concrete cottages behind the main building and build a swimming pool in the shield shape of the Route 66 road sign.

For the trailer park area, Lizalde envisions hauling in about 50 vintage Airstream trailers, refurbishing them and renting them out.

Why Airstreams? “They are so cool,” he answered.

Lizalde remains optimistic because the federal Bureau of Land Management is considering dozens of solar-power applications in the Mojave Desert, including three close to his property. But that development may be threatened by legislation.

Lizalde’s excitement about the solar projects explains why he is worried about a move to create what backers have called a Mother Road National Monument. It would honor Route 66 and its colorful past as a conduit for dust-bowl refugees flooding into California and later as an east-west ribbon of freedom for vacationing Americans.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is drafting federal legislation that would create the monument on public land in eastern San Bernardino County, from the Mojave National Preserve on the north to Joshua Tree National Park on the south. It is expected to prohibit energy development in some areas.

Monument supporters fear development of too many wind and solar projects in territory used by the desert tortoise, a threatened species, and other wildlife.

But Lizalde pointed out railroad tracks and a limestone pit sit near his property, and that the area “is not pristine” environmentally.

I agree the proposed monument may be too much of a good thing, and that the Route 66 Alliance, which supports the monument, needs to advocate a compromise that helps meet America’s future energy needs and supports start-up businesses such as Lizalde’s.

Lizalde has a sporadically updated blog about Chambless here.