Kate and Bill's short tour of the California Mojave Desert, 2005

Nov 26 through 29, Kate and I rode out to the Mojave Desert, to see what we could see. It took about 3 hours or so of freeway riding to get from our base in San Pedro to Barstow, and, aside from a section with high cross winds near Victorville, CA, we had an uneventful time. Of course, as the sun set, it also got colder, from a daytime high of about 65F to something approaching 40F after dark.

Sunday Nov 27 we decided to visit Calico Ghost Town. This place was once a silver mining town that became a real ghost town. It was bought by Knott, of Knott's Berry Farm fame, who "restored" it, including bringing in buildings from elsewhere in the area. He turned it into an historical tourist attraction, and eventually turned the property over to the state. We had a wonderfully interesting time talking to the people who lived there now, some of whom dressed in period clothing, others in modern dress.

We had read about another ghost town, this one on the famous Route 66 -- Ludlow, CA -- and decided to ride over there after leaving Calico. We elected to ride for about an hour on a section of old Route 66, instead of taking boring old I-40, which parallels (and sometimes runs on top of) Route 66. I wouldn't recommend this section of 66 (between Barstow and Ludlow) because it is quite bumpy, with cracks in the pavement that I expected to grab the wheel of the motorcycle some times.

Ludlow was a disappointment. It was a functioning rest-stop on I-40, with three or four dilapidated buildings on one end of the "town," and I guess that was the "ghost-town" part. We snapped some photos and returned to Barstow, staying on Route 66 as much as possible. Despite the bumpy road, we preferred going slower on Route 66 to going 65 or 70 on I-40, since it was now getting cold as the sun set.

Monday, we decided to see if we could visit the Amboy volcano crater, and then decided to take Kelbaker road north across the Mojave to Baker, where we lunched at the "Mad Greek" restaurant. The food was good, if a little expensive, but as one (web) review noted "but it's f---ing out in the middle of nowhere and boy are you glad it's there when you are driving that stretch", so I'm not complaining. This day, too, ended with a long cold ride back to Barstow.

We got back while it was still light and walked most of the length of Main St in Barstow, which is when I discovered that Barstow is a "city of murals". Previously, I knew that Philadelphia and Steubenville, Ohio had murals, but I was surprised to see how many Barstow has.

Tuesday, we figured we'd hit a couple of local (to Barstow) attractions and then head back to San Pedro, with the idea that we'd be back in time for dinner. First, we rode up to the Rainbow Basin Natural Area, with the idea that we'd park in some nice paved lot and walk over and see the rock formations. 3 miles of dirt road later, we got to -- more dirt road, leading to the actual attractive part of the "Natural Area". We elected to take a photo using the telephoto lens and just retrace our ride on the dirt road, neither of us being keen on ending up under our bikes (some of the sand that made up the "road" was quite soft.)

After our off-road adventure, we visited the Desert Information Center in downtown Barstow, which is a small museum and educational center -- not great, but worth 30 minutes or so.

Finally it was time to get back to work, and we headed west on Main Street, which is Route 66, and rode most of the way back to Victorville on old Route 66. After Victorville, Route 66 is pretty much underneath I-15, so there's not much to do from there on except lie down on the tank and whack the throttle open til you hit San Pedro.

dancers at the Indian village at Calico Ghost Town
dancers at Indian village
movie of dancers at the Indian village
hilltop view of Calico Ghost Town
silver miner's hillside dwelling
tourists hanging out in a hole in the hillside
original ore car as seen from the tourist mining train ride
some of the re-enactors and tourists
"every third building should be adobe" to stop spread of fire
the more modern Route 66 ghost town of Ludlow, CA
Ludlow, CA
Ludlow, CA
Kate enters the tastefully decorated "Mad Greek" gyro stand in Baker
front of the "Mad Greek" restaurant
The "World's Largest Thermometer" in Baker, CA
A mural along Main St (Route 66) in Barstow, CA
Barstow mural commemorating camels used for exploring the west
Kate and her twin examine a mural in Barstow, CA
Barstow mural commemorating Route 66
Barstow mural commemorating Harvey House "Casa del Desierto"
close-up of Barstow mural commemorating Harvey House
mural in Barstow, CA
road into Rainbow Basin Natural Area
road into Rainbow Basin Natural Area
the rainbow in Rainbow Basin
Route 66 house with bottle and insulator collection out front
abandoned business along Route 66
view of Long Beach Harbor from John's hill in San Pedro