Route 66 & Calico Ghost Town

This weekend was a lot of fun. Christine turned … um … 33 … [ahem] this year and to celebrate we decided to take a road trip to Calico Ghost Town via Route 66.

The one bummer about the weekend was that Rece has been screwing up BIG TIME in school, which meant that he had been grounded, thus missing out on this adventure. Hopefully this helps him learn a valuable lesson.

So the three of us (Sam, Christine, & Gabe) hopped in my car and departed for San Bernardino where we’d connect with Route 66 at the original location of McDonald’s. From there we drove up the historic highway, geocaching along the way. Once we got through Victorville, we got back on the I-15 and drove in to Barstow, where we had made plans to stay for the night.

Being winter, it gets dark quite early. We weren’t anywhere near tired yet and were itching for something to do. On our way to the motel from dinner we noticed a drive-in theater, so we hooked up the laptop I brought along and looked up the movie times (love free wireless!). It worked out that we had plenty of time to get there in time to watch Flushed Away, so we made our way there, being sure to check out the (not so) happening main strip of Barstow. The bar at the restaurant connected to our motel was apparently the hot-spot that night.

I parked the car with the back facing the screen and all three of us packed into the cargo area (with the seats folded forward) and wrapped ourselves in bedding borrowed from our motel room. It was quite chilly (I was fine, but the girls were “freezing”) and we laughed at the ridiculousness of the entire ordeal. The movie was entertaining and Sam got to experience her first drive-in movie.

We were up bright and early Sunday morning and enjoyed a tasty (hot) breakfast at the restaurant connected to the motel. After breakfast we set out towards Calico Ghost Town. Along the way we came across the location of the first Del Taco and we stopped to take some pictures. The following 45 minutes were spent driving my Ford Taurus wagon around Dukes of Hazard style in pursuit of a cache. Try as we might, we just couldn’t find the right road to get there and none of these dirt roads showed up in Microsoft Streets & Trips (to no surprise). There were quite a few homes with many (inoperable) vehicles in the yard, our car was chased by a pair of large dogs, and I half expected for somebody to walk out of their front door carrying a shotgun — yes, it was that bad. We never did find the cache, but despite all this laughter was a-plenty within our group; nothing seemed to dampen our spirits this weekend. Having given up on the cache, we drove on to Calico Ghost Town.

Now it had been a good 20 years since I had last visited the place, and it looked quite different than I remember. For a ghost town, it sure looked a lot more lively than before. Seems the place has become more of a tourist trap than an historic landmark. With this in mind, I just went on enjoying it for what it was and had a lot of fun learning about the real history of the place and checking out the mines. It wasn’t too difficult to get a mental image of what it must have been like to have had lived here when it was all a bustle with over 3000 residents in its heyday. Once we’d had our fill of history and cheesy gun-fighting scenes (the one we watched was very bad), we stopped by the Calico Cemetery to seek out information needed for a geocache.

Departing Calico, we picked up a couple more easy caches and pointed the Taurus in the direction of a challenge: the BLACK BOX mystery cache series. This is a cache that requires one to find 3 other caches, each containing a piece to a puzzle that needed to be solved in order to be able to find the 4th, and final cache. I’m horrible with puzzle-style caches, but Christine loves them and seems to have a head for the stuff, so I was happy to join her on this one. The easier way to get to this cache was to find an access road that would get you part-way to the top, but after looking for 30 minutes and not locating it, we opted to park at the closest spot available and just billy goat it up to the top. No problem! It was only .37 miles from the car, yet took us a good 30 minutes to scramble up a loose, rocky, and steep slope to the upper access road. We swore quite a bit, between laughing, cursing the cache owner for clearly mis-labeling the terrain rating on this one. We found the cache, collected our first piece to the puzzle, then made our way back down. Round-trip this cache took over an hour to find once we left the car and it was then beginning to get dark. The other caches of this series, we decided, would have to wait for another day.

Back on the road, we made our way over to Route 66 to drive the portion between Barstow & Victorville (that we had skipped over the night before). We found one more cache along the way. Christine had wanted to go to the Mad Greek in Baker, but after explaining that it was near Death Valley and about an hour in the opposite direction of home, she resigned to skipping it. While driving, my memory sparked, sputtered, caught fire, caused a lot of smoke, and then revealed that it knew of a Mad Greek location in Corona. We pulled off the road so I could consult the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Microsoft Streets & Trips) and was pleased to discover that Alzheimer’s hadn’t begun to settle in and that there was in fact a Mad Greek in Corona, but he’s apparently undergoing psycho-therapy and doing quite well as of late. We dropped in to discover that madness wasn’t too far off: they were out of gyros — a Greek restaurant out of gyros. Yes, we gawked. Yes, we stared incredulously. No, we didn’t go mad … nor did we go Greek; we went Mexican … Miguel’s Mexican restaurant, to be exact.

With full tummies we made our way home, our minds also full with pleasant memories of all the fun we had over the weekend.

We took over 200 pictures, but I managed to prune the total down to 56 of them and put them up on my Flickr account. You can check them out here.

This entry is happy that it doesn’t live in, or anywhere near
Yermo, California — despite the original Del Taco.