Bottle Cactus Ranch – Elmer Long
24266 National Old Trails Highway
Even though Elmer’s teeming forest of bottle trees stands alongside one of those desolate stretches of old Route 66 between Barstow and San Bernadino, he says it doesn’t have much to do with the famous roadway. It just happens to be where this kid who grew up surfing in the Pacific landed back in the early 70s.
The proximity to Miles Mahan’s late, great Hulaville site isn’t too important either, although Elmer says he did visit Miles once before he put up that first tree.
Really, it’s got more to do with the scavenging he and his dad used to do out here in the Mojave Desert. His father really loved old bottles, and Elmer ended up with the bulk of his collection. But instead of just letting them sit around, one morning he rigged some to a pole, and noticed right away the light-catching structure made people stop.
Also made a good way for him to display other odds and ends that he’s salvaged–from old traffic lights and jackhammers to airplane gas tanks and parking meters. More poles, more people taking a look, and that’s how a Bottle Cactus Ranch comes to be.
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(Photos courtesy of Mike Murphy and Randy Mason, Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations, text © copyright 2006-2014 Kelly Ludwig, all rights reserved)