We were somewhere outside of Barstow …

In case you were wondering, there are no open wi-fi signals in Ludlow, Calif. There is, however, a signal at the immaculately restored Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, where I am listening to the tantalizing sound of an ice-cream truck trolling the neighborhood behind the motel … so here’s an update on our latest adventures:

We cruised across the strangely beautiful desolation of the Mojave Desert from Needles to Ludlow yesterday. We stopped between Needles and Goffs to examine an antelope gourd next to the road, but a skittering noise attracted our attention to a nearby creosote bush, where a tiny rodent — later identified as a desert ground squirrel — was taking shelter from the intense sun. He didn’t like us much; he voiced his displeasure through a series of high-pitched squeaks. He was awfully cute.

We took a tour of the Goffs Schoolhouse and a stroll around the nature trail behind the school. When the volunteer docent found out I was a teacher, he gave me a piece of Route 66 pavement to pass around in class.

When we reached Amboy, we stopped for Mexican Cokes (made with real sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup) at Roy’s, which is undergoing restoration. A mile or so west, we took a short side trip to Amboy Crater. All the guidebooks advised against hiking up to the crater in the summer, and all of them said we’d need hiking boots to protect our feet, but Ron wanted to walk down the smooth concrete sidewalk to an observation pavilion near the parking lot, just to see if there were any interpretive materials out there.

To eliminate any temptation to attempt a potentially dangerous hike, I left my cameras and my running shoes in the car and just walked to the pavilion in Crocs, but once we got there, I decided I wanted a closer look. We’d somehow overlooked the trailhead, which was near the other end of the parking lot, so I just set out walking across the rugged lava, assuring myself — and Ron — that we would just walk a few feet to see what it was like.

We found the trail about a quarter-mile later. One thing led to another, and a half-hour later (give or take), we found ourselves taking cell-phone pictures inside the long-dormant volcano.

For the record, my Crocs were perfectly suited to the task, although my socks got awfully dirty, and while I wouldn’t advocate traipsing out across a lava bed in the middle of the Mojave Desert with no food, water, or preparation, we survived unscathed and had an awesome hike. Desert wildlife is amazing. We saw a baby horned toad and dozens of zebra-tailed lizards. Signs along the way described tarantulas and snakes we might encounter, but we didn’t see any.

We ended the day with ice cream at the Dairy Queen in Ludlow before calling it a night at the Ludlow Motel, which I highly recommend. Our motel receipt got us 10 percent off breakfast at the Ludlow Cafe, which is — as Douglas Coupland would put it — “Marge.” I love places that look exactly like they are supposed to look. If someone said, “Southern California coffee shop,” your mind would immediately conjure up a picture of the Ludlow Cafe. This may be the coolest diner west of the Rock Cafe.

The big highlights for today — aside from the cafe — included chatting wirh Elmer Long and photographing his incredible Bottle Tree Forest; eating the Trucker Special at Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe in Victorville; and checking into the Wigwam Motel, where I am delighted to report that the owners have cleverly preserved the “Do It In A Tee Pee” sign (a leftover of the motel’s less family-friendly days) by posting it on the side of a storage building at the back of the property.

What a day. I’ll post photos when I get home and have a chance to Photoshop them all….