Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Route 66: Day 3

by Kathy 2. February 2010 20:26

<< Day 2: Leaving Los Angeles Behind | Day 4: London Bridge is (Not) Falling Down >>


Ghost Towns and Wide Open Spaces


When we arrived last night at the Calico Ghost Town camping area, the surrounding darkness had hidden the landscape around us. This morning, Genevieve and Sebastian were thrilled to find a giant hill right outside our door. The hill called, “Come climb me!”, in a voice so strong that the kids were out the door at lightning speed.

The town of Calico was founded in 1881when silver mines were discovered in the surrounding hills. By 1887, the town reached its peak population of 1200 residents, with a current population of 9 people. Over time, the local mines produced $86,000,000 in silver. After the fall of silver prices in the early 1900’s the town’s population declined drastically. Walter Knott, of Knott’s Berry Farm, purchased the town in 1950, and set about restoring and rebuilding the structures on their original sites. A sign near the entrance declared that the town was dedicated to “the memory of the heroic silver miners who lived and toiled here.”

I had found this town while doing research on the Internet and didn’t quite know what to expect—we have learned that the reality of a place doesn’t always live up to the flamboyant written descriptions of it. In this case, however, we were all surprised at how wonderful the town was—there were a lot of things to see, and the presentation of buildings and exhibits wasn’t “cheesy” (although there were definitely some humorous elements).

Here I am with Genevieve near the town entrance:

The Indian trading post:

The fire station:

Genevieve pretended to drive a stagecoach:

Genevieve and Sebastian put their faces on top of all of the character boards. Here is one example:

Then Genevieve insisted on taking a photo of Ben and I:

This cowboy was standing around, posing for photos—he was a man of few words:

The children gravitated toward the old ruins like fireflies to a light. What is more fun than finding a good hiding spot?

Rub a dub dub in the Chinese laundry tub.

We learned that at its peak, the town had about 40 Chinese people living and working here.

A small train made a loop around the mining area.

Of course, we had to buy tickets and take a ride! The kids immediately chose the caboose—asking if they could have the space all to themselves.

As Ben and I settled into the small train car in front of the caboose, I listened to the voices around us. Behind the engine were a woman and young girl, conversing in Spanish. In the next car was a family, speaking Italian. Walking towards us was a couple talking in Dutch. I laughingly told Ben that we were in an international “hot spot.”

The Dutch couple joined us in our car. The woman then asked us (in English) where we were from. When we answered “Santa Cruz” (the nearest big town to our home), she responded, “So are we!” The couple was Froukje Brouwer and Robert Jan/Shariff. Froukje has worked at the University of California in Santa Cruz for the past 6 years, and they live not too far from us. What a surprise!

Both Froukje and Robert are avid photographers, and they started the Digital Photography Society of Santa Cruz ( Robert graciously invited Ben to join the group (Ben does a lot of figure drawings and also enjoys photography).

Here is Froukje:

We chugged our way past several old homes, built of rocks and mud:

Through the tunnel:

These white rocks marked the site where ore was first discovered by the Euro-Americans:

We passed a “real ore car”:

The tunnel entrance for the ore car was very tiny.

Working in such small spaces every day must have been physically (and emotionally) challenging.

This huge pile of dirt holds about $6 million of silver:

However, it remains untouched because the processing cost to extract the silver would be about $10 million.

An ore-crusher:

We ended the train ride by crossing over a renovated train bridge:

After our train ride, we walked to some of the old buildings that were built against the hillsides.

The children are very good about picking up garbage and leaving places cleaner than they found them. Here, Genevieve shows us some garbage that she is removing from one of the old houses:

If there are small spaces, our children must climb into them.



The setting definitely sparked the kids’ imaginations. Here is Sebastian, engrossed in telling me one of his creative ideas:

We climbed to the lookout point above the town:

A replica of the little schoolhouse was across a wood-plank bridge.

Genevieve, on the bridge:

The original schoolhouse had been built on the same spot in 1885. The replica was built in the 1950’s, and is only two-thirds the size of the original. The school records indicate that about 30 children would be enrolled each year, but daily attendance was only about half that amount. Most of the children were from merchant families, as the miners generally did not have their families with them. 

Schoolhouse details:

Genevieve and Sebastian decided to do some role-reversal:

We found these men chatting over coffee inside a shop:

Sebastian was excited to note that the men were using the same type of cups that we have in the RV!

Thank goodness we won’t be needing a coffin anytime soon—Sebastian still has a lot of growing to do:

We took a walking, self-guided tour of the Maggie Mine:

The entrance room had various exhibits with information about Calico town and Maggie Mine. The mine had been purchased in 1916 by John Mulcahy, who worked in the mine for 15 years with his brother Maurice.

Inside the first tunnel was a display of rocks.

When the lights were turned out, some of the minerals glowed brightly:

Genevieve, who loves geology, was fascinated by the sparkling ore (and the rest of us were too!).

Genevieve and Sebastian led the way down the tunnel shaft:

A “miner” was drilling into the rock wall:

There was an area known as “Deadman’s Drift” because the tunnel was unsupported by wooden beams:

The Mulcahy brothers were chillin’ out in a (very dusty) small bedroom area:

This spot was known as the “Glory Hole”, which produced $65,000 in silver between 1882 and 1886.

The Glory Hole was discovered after a boy found a rock with silver in it on the ground above. To excavate the Glory Hole, the miners dug through to Maggie’s Mine and used the existing tunnels.

Genevieve and Sebastian, exiting the mine:

The drama king and queen, in jail:

We were all intrigued by the Bottle House:

It was built in the 1950’s by the workers of Walter Knott, after he purchased Calico town. They used 5,419 bottles. No one knows for certain whether the old town actually had a house made of bottles. However, the miners were very resourceful about making homes from the materials that were available. Wood was scarce, and there would have been plenty of bottles.

Details of the Bottle House:

Walking back to the campground, we saw a line of jeeps crawling along the ridge of a nearby hill:

The land around here has a number of routes that are very popular with off-road vehicles.

We headed out to connect up with Route 66 once again. We were all happy that we had made a diversion to explore Calico Ghost Town.

At the town of Daggett, we learned that a bridge on Route 66 was out, so we needed to take a detour for a short time.

With a high number of boarded-up houses and closed businesses, Daggett looked as if it had fallen on some hard times.

Trains and the desert seem to go hand in hand:

We soon caught the glimmers from a solar thermal electric generating facility operated by Sunray Solar Energy.

This portion of Route 66 followed the railroad tracks. The soft muted tones of the desert stretched out beside us.

A loud train whistle caught our attention. We looked over and saw that we were running neck and neck with a train! The engineer blew his horn again, and we all waved like crazy (laughing and carrying on like silly ninnies who had never seen a train before).

Throughout the day, we passed many buildings that were for sale—here is one example:

Soon we came to Newberry Springs, which was the site where one of my all-time favorite movies was filmed—Bagdad Café. The movie is a quiet charmer. To me, it speaks of the tidal wave of positive transformation that can result from small ripples of action and changed perspective. The setting is a café and motel in a remote part of the Mojave desert. While there was once an actual town named “Bagdad,” the movie was filmed at a café and motel in Newberry Springs.

My guidebook said that the restaurant had changed its name from “Sidewinder” to “Bagdad Café” after the movie was filmed, and that the dilapidated motel was behind the restaurant. Both were supposed to be “in Newberry Springs.”

We entered Newberry Springs full of anticipation.

Here was the market:

And there was a bar called “the Barn.”

A handful of smaller buildings rounded out the town. That was it.

Where was Bagdad Café?

We cruised on past, thinking that we would find it soon. When we reached this abandoned gas station, I had Ben turn the RV around and go back, just in case we had blinked and missed it.

A second look at Newberry Springs did not reveal anything new.

We continued onward. A few miles down the road, we saw a “Motel” sign and a small building with some cars out front. This was it!

Bagdad Café:

Some dirt bikers were enjoying a meal inside.

This trailer was in the back of the parking lot:

The famous motel:

It was for sale.

While Genevieve and I went to explore the motel, Sebastian enticed Ben to lift him high in the air—again and again.

Genevieve and I checked out one of the motel rooms:

This house was on the other side of the café:

After our eyes had soaked everything in, we piled back into the RV and headed down the road.

The old Dry Creek Station was once called Whiting Brothers gas station. It had some old gas pumps out front, with a long chain link fence to deter visitors.

A shop by the side of the road advertised “rocks,” “stuff,” “junk” and “uniquities.”

I was continually drawn to the old houses, many of which were uninhabited:

A tire sculpture?

All that was left of the “real” town of Bagdad were some foundation remnants and a small tree:

The road grew bumpy, and up ahead we could see black rolling lava fields on either side of the road.

The Mojave Desert has a number of cinder cones, lava fields and lava tubes from volcanic activity. Cinder cones are produced by short-lived eruptions, usually a one-time occurrence, that creates a small hill. The lava fields near this portion of Route 66 were from the eruption of the nearby Pisgah Volcano (sometimes called the Pisgah Crater).

The black lava rock contrasted sharply with the soft browns of the desert.

At times, Route 66 was just a stone's throw from Interstate 40, the super-highway that had replaced Route 66 and bypassed all of the towns along the way.

Another cinder cone:

In the distance, we could see one of the most famous cinder cones in this area—Amboy Crater.

Amboy Crater was once a large attraction along Route 66. The number of visitors plummeted drastically after Interstate 40 was built. The Crater is 250 feet high and has a trail that climbs to the top. In 1973, the United States designated Amboy Crater as a National Natural Landmark.

We didn’t see any Route 66 signs on posts in the desert—all of the signs were painted on the road.

We figured that a physical sign out here wouldn’t last too long before it found itself in the trunk of a souvenir hound.

Entering the “town” of Amboy.

On our right was an old church and the post office:

On our left was Roy’s, a famous Route 66 landmark.

Roy’s opened in 1938, and it offered the only food, gas and lodging for miles around during the heyday of Route 66. In 1972, however, the town lost almost all of its customers when Interstate 40 bypassed Amboy to the north. The buildings were recently purchased by a new owner, who renovated and reopened the gas station in 2008. The café and motel are still closed.

The sloped roof on the motel is an example of “Googie” futuristic architecture.

Every Route 66 guidebook or Internet site that I looked at said that Roy’s was a “must see” spot. When we pulled up, another RV was parked in front of the motel, with people taking pictures.

Leaving Amboy, we could see a single tree in the distance—it was the “Shoe Tree.”

As we pulled over to take a closer look, Ben noticed a man bicycling backwards coming in our direction.

He stopped before he reached us, and started walking his bike forwards. I asked for a photo, and he was happy to give a wave:

His name is Curan Wright, and he is a homeless man living with HIV. In 2007, he started bicycling across the U.S. backwards from Los Angeles to raise awareness for HIV, the homeless, and medical marijuana. He also has a fervent belief that God is angry and that the world is coming to an end soon--he is very passionate about spreading that message. His bike has a sign that reads: “Jesus is Coming – Look Busy.”

The Shoe Tree was in very sad shape. A huge branch, covered in shoes, had been torn from the tree and was lying on the ground. Other branches appeared to be broken, and dangled to the ground.

People had left graffiti all over the bark of the tree.

On one hand, people might think that the shoes in the tree branches were colorful and gave off a festive air:

However, in their efforts to “have fun” and leave their mark, people were destroying this beautiful tamarisk tree.

As we continued onward, the moon began emerging:

On the sides of the road, people had arranged rocks to spell out messages. Sometimes they had painted the rocks to make their message stand out.

The hills were so beautiful with their soft brown stripes:

Up ahead was the old Roadrunner’s Retreat Café and Station, which used to provide a bit of sanctuary for travelers crossing the Mojave Desert.

Against the hillside, someone had built a private paradise for themselves:

Cadiz Summit once contained a small tourist complex, with a café, gas station, garage and some cabins for rent. Interstate 40 had diverted essentially all of the traffic that used to creep over the mountain range, and stop for a spell at the top. Now, all that is left are a few remnants, covered in layers of painted graffiti:

The barren chocolate hills reminded me of the Andes Mountains in Peru:

We caught up to a long train and were surprised to discover that it was the same train that had whistled at us earlier today before Newberry Springs.

I wondered if the engineer remembered us, and I waved a big hello when we passed the front engines. (We did not get a whistle in return.)

In the town of Goffs (population 23), we stopped to admire the restored schoolhouse, which was built in 1914.  It served the community until 1937 when Route 66 was diverted south and the number of schoolchildren here dwindled. It was restored in 1998 and is listed on the National History Register.

The sign leading into the schoolyard:

Around the school were various sculptures and other interesting items:

This small building looked out at the world with vacant eyes.

The setting sun turned the distant mountains to a dusty pink.

The sky was black when we reached our final destination today—a campground in Needles, California.

The campground had a painted map of Route 66.

We had started out this morning not too far from Barstow, and were now near the California border. Tomorrow we would cross into Arizona.


<< Day 2: Leaving Los Angeles Behind | Day 4: London Bridge is (Not) Falling Down >>

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Route 66

Comments (2) -

3/20/2010 1:29:56 AM #

john knight

Hi there, I have just been reading your travel journal of route 66.
I did the same journey as you in 2006 and loved every minute of it, thanks for the photos and comments, although I have many of my own pics you bought back many happy memories of a wonderful landscape and some really nice people.
Good luck in your future travels, and I'll be reading more.
Kind regards John aka singman.

john knight United Kingdom | Reply

3/20/2010 9:43:07 PM #


John, I'm so glad that you have enjoyed our story.  Our time on Route 66 was very special, and I'm happy that our story and photos brought back some good memories for you.  Thank you for taking the time to comment, and to follow along on our journey.  Kathy

Kathy United States | Reply

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin