I spent two days in Barstow, California, in late July 2018. The population was 22,639 in the 2010 census, and the city covered 33 square miles. I’m pretty sure I drove all 33 square miles in the two days I was there.
Barstow is a major transportation hub. Five major highways converge in the city, including Interstate 15 and Interstate 40. Two major railroad systems, the Union Pacific and BNSF, have major classification yards in and around Barstow. The city is the midway point for car traffic between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Before the Interstate highway system was built, Barstow was a major city on Route 66, “America’s Road” stretching from Santa Monica, west of Los Angeles, to Chicago. The Interstate highway system, particularly Interstate 40, replaced Route 66, bypassing many cities and their downtowns that originally serviced Route 66 traffic. You could get your kicks on Route 66.
There are many once-vibrant towns and cities on Route 66 that are now ghost towns. They didn’t survive construction of the Interstate highways. Even some major cities, such as Barstow, were affected significantly by the Interstates. Throughout Barstow, on every street, I found abandoned buildings—hotels, restaurants, businesses, houses. Sure, those exist in every city, but not to the extent that I found them in Barstow. Unfortunately, I believe this type of abandonment is ramping up again because of the Internet sales through the likes of Amazon, killing many small businesses. Note that Interstate and Internet are very similar words, and I believe their effects are similar, as well.
Following is a slide show of just some of the abandonment I found in Barstow. I found similar conditions in many other cities on my journey that had been circumvented by Interstate highways.