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Small town is on the road to recovery

April 28, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A once-deserted town along the old Route 66 is springing back to life. A plan is underway to restore Amboy, a historic pit stop, that sits between Barstow and Needles.For a desert town that was on the verge of death five years ago, Amboy is suddenly showing signs of life.

Click in the Eyewitness News story window above to watch Gene Gleeson's report from the Amboy.

Even the volunteer postmaster in Amboy, Danny Kidwell, says things are getting better.

"It is getting better everyday. Every week it picks up so we're looking forward to it. It is like being a teenager when you wake up out here or the 'Twilight Zone,' one or the other," explains Kidwell.

For the first time in years, Amboy's landmark Roy's has gasoline to sell. The prices are a little steep, but it is about 30 miles to the closest freeway and you cannot be choosey.

"We had left Ludlow and they had no diesel down there at all. So where are you going to go?" asks motorist Ivan Sharfman.

Amboy is smack in the middle of the Mojave Desert on old Route 66. It was a thriving weigh station until Interstate 40 bypassed it.

Since then it has been dying. The former owner put it on eBay, but got no offers. Now however things are looking up.

"We like to come through and see Amboy and see what is new. To see what has opened and what has changed," said biker Danny Simmerman.

Nostalgia sells and hundreds of bikers made it a point to stop through Amboy over the weekend going to and from the Laughlin River Run.

Buses filled with European tourists now make Amboy a regular stopover. Europeans love the wide open spaces.

"It reminds me of the films I saw of the West," said Dutch tourist Rita Rietveld.

One man is responsible for Amboy's revival. Albert Okura owns a chain of Juan Pollo fast food restaurants. He is now investing in Amboy, trying to make it the bright spot in the desert it once was.

"It was something I had to do. I knew there would be problems, but it is something that I would do for the rest of my life. It is my destiny," said Okura.

His destiny so far is to spend a lot of money. It cost $70K to upgrade the gasoline pumps. He estimates $100,000 to $200,000 to get potable water so he can open up a cafe and a snack bar.

Albert Okura sees something that no one else does and he hopes that it all pays off.

 

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