Traveling down old Route 66 is all about stopping off at the roadside attractions-- it really can make or break your trip. Stopping at mom and pop stores and retro restaurants really adds to the feeling of old-school Americana. There's tons to see and do along the Route that its easy to pass by some of the real hidden gems, like the must-see Bottle Tree Ranch. It might not be as old as some other offbeat stops along Route 66, since it's only been around for about 10 years or so, but this quirky folk art display has all the charm and flair of a vintage Route 66 attraction.
Elmer Long is the genius behind the glittering forest of treasures. He builds every single one by hand, collecting the glass bottles himself. The coolest part about the Bottle Tree Ranch? Every single one of the 200+ trees is different. They're all shapes and sizes with different bottle arrangements, and they're all topped with various found objects ranging from broken rifles, animal skulls, vintage fans, retro toys, old bells, and more. And when you visit, you can't help but notice that the trees sound like windchimes, gently clinking together when a breeze gusts through.
What posessed Long to make this enchanted forest? As with most things, it all goes back to his childhood-- his father used to take him around Manhattan Beach in the 1950's to pick through garbage to see what treasures people were getting rid of. Both he and his father had a particular fascination with glass bottles, but Long didn't find a real use for them until 2000, when he made his first bottle tree.
So what's the point of all this upcycled art in the middle of the desert? Simple: to make you think. If Long can get you to at least see a glass bottle as potentially something more than just an empty, useless piece of trash, then his work is done. And, if you're lucky, he'll be outside to chat with you when you stop by-- he's almost always around, and he's incredibly kind. Really, there's no reason not to stop by-- it's open from dawn until dusk, it's free (although it's highly suggested by me that you drop a donation in the box!) and it's the perfect way to stretch your legs and get your mind on something other than the drive!