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THE AMBOY SHOE TREE
Located on Route 66 about ¼ mile east of Roy's Café and Motel in Amboy, California
Contributed by Mark Sedenquist of Las Vegas, Nevada
Updates: 4/8/07, 9/5/08 , 2/14/10, 2/22/10, and 2/23/10

The Amboy Shoe Tree

This tamarisk tree provides just about the only natural shade to be found along this section of historic Route 66 as it cuts across the Mojave Desert. Situated alongside a dry wash within sight of Amboy ghost town and the huge cinder cone in the lava field to the west, The tree has been festooned with the shoes and boots of dozens of travelers. When I stopped here on September 28th, 2006, it was a balmy 106 degrees in the shade.

Particularly eye-catching was a pair of bright red cowboy boots near the top of the tree. Unlike the other shoetrees I have admired and documented over the years, this shoetree lacks a safe observation spot. Please exercise caution when you come to visit.

Roy's Motel & Cafe
Close-up of the Amboy Shoe Tree

Route 66 historian Swa Frantzen has researched the town of Amboy and reports that the current owner is Albert Okura, who is also the owner of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain. Mr. Okura has expressed interest in restoring Amboy's appearance to its 1950s heyday, a task that would probably daunt most people.

Update 4/8/07: On April 2, 2007 Angela Paris Bauknecht of Rancho Mirage, California stopped by the Amboy Shoe Tree and captured the images below. In the one on the left, the Amboy Crater is visible in the background.

Roy's Motel & Cafe
Angela Paris Bauknecht
Close-up of the Amboy Shoe Tree
Angela Paris Bauknecht

Update 9/5/08: Check out the recent growth on the Amboy Shoe Tree! Thanks to Christian & Lyn Leyer of Quezon City, Philippines, for snapping this shot on Valentine's Day, 2008. {Apparently, new shoe crops are tough on such trees -- look how 1/2 of the tree is missing from the earlier photographs}

The Amboy Shoe Tree
Christian & Lyn Leyer

Update 2/14/10: In August, 2009, Evan and Joe Salka from Las Vegas, Nevada drove along Route 66 and recorded the first of three "technical observations" of this phase of the Amboy Shoe Tree life cycle.

This first photo shows the tree holding its own with a new crop of shoes:

The Amboy Shoe Tree
Evan & Joe Salka

The stub, nearest the highway, now sports a hat - so a new form of foliage has appeared on the specimen:

The Amboy Shoe Tree
Evan & Joe Salka

In late 2009, Rodrigo Borguetti from Florianópolis, Brazil took a road trip along most of Route 66 and stopped by the Amboy Shoe Tree on November 25th and captured this new photo of the continuing growth of this fine specimen. As you can see, the new "foliage" is putting a real strain on the shoe tree and making it tough for it to stand upright.

We've also been informed that the famous Amboy gas station has reopened and the prospects for the reopening of the motel are getting better. The motel was repainted a year ago, but we haven't heard if they've begun operations yet. We need another field report!

The Amboy Shoe Tree
Rodrigo Borguetti

December 8, 2009
You can see in this newest photo by Aleš Bravnicar of Ljubljana, Slovenia, that the Amboy Shoe Tree is about 1/3 of the size when we first started documenting it in 2006.

The Amboy Shoe Tree
Aleš Bravnicar

Update 2/22/10

Message from Linda Brothwell of Sheffield, England:

"I took this photo of the Amboy Shoe Tree on October 1, 2007 and as you can see it was quite a marvelous specimen in 2007. It's amazing to me how many shoes this tree continues to attract. I've visited the USA twenty-four times and toured all over your fabulous country, and the Amboy Tree was the first of this phenomenon I had seen."

The Amboy Shoe Tree
Linda Brothwell

Update 3/23/10

Message from Mark Albers of Littleton, Colorado:

"We saw the shoe tree on 3/20/10, but I’m sorry to say that it is now on the ground. You have to be really paying attention to see any part visible by the bridge when you drive past. That is probably why we didn’t notice it at all when driving west on the other side of the road on 3/7/10. I saw very little green left on the tree and the trunks are horizontal, barely a few feet off the ground.

The good news is that there is now a “Bra Tree” that is about 1.8 miles farther east away from town, on the other (north) side of the road.
This tree is smaller but so far unaffected by the much lighter crop of about 50 various colored bras."

Links:
Information about the once-thriving community of Amboy, California
History and recipes from Roy's Café and Motel, a nearby Route 66 icon

Other photos of the Amboy Shoe Tree:
Paul & Julie's: Photos from a visit in March, 2006
Swa Frantzen: Image taken in 2005 Shows the Amboy Crater in the background
Tom Schweich: April, 2004
Scott Dommin: March, 2003

[Map]

Photographed by Mark Sedenquist 09/28/06
Posted on RoadTrip America 10/06



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