A road trip from southeast Georgia to Cocoa Beach in the early 80s (watched the third shuttle launch from the beach) was instructive. The town we were living in had been bypassed by the Interstate a few years before we came. Previous to that, it had been thick with cars driving to Florida from the Northeast every summer, and when we got there, it was a study in deterioration.
For a while, we followed the old highway, and there were old motels being repurposed in any way an owner could think of. Studios, flea markets, farmers' markets… most of these, I may add, were wishful thinking. Most of them had hopeful signs stating that they were available, or else they were on their way to demolition.
When we switched to the newer interstate, we left all those behind, and that emphasized how interesting all those motels were to look at. The new road was a gash through groves of orange trees and nothing else. Billboards were perishingly rare, and anything with writing on it was a target for me to peer intently at until it was lost to sight. Even water tanks.
We finally got into more interesting territory with the pink kitsch of tourist traps. It was like driving up to Estes Park (CO), except that where the mountains had western kitsch, Florida had seashell kitsch.
Barstow looks interesting. It's like they're still trying. They must get some business from Route 66 fans, but that demographic is probably fading out. I hope they can hang on. As airline travel gets less tolerable, maybe they can pick up more cross-country drivers.