Calico Ghost Town

Did not expect a nice sunset.

Ugh. This was a slog of a day with a surprisingly happy ending. But the slog, omg. It made us question whether we ever want to do that stretch again. It’s a tough area though, with miles of nothing, then Las Vegas, then nothing until Barstow. And it adds days to trips when you cut up the slog into bite sized pieces. Still. Yuck.

Going through Las Vegas, we hit road construction, which is a mixed blessing. I mean, at least people had to slow the hell down. But it took a long time to get through. We looked at future options for staying at casinos or RV parks just so it’s not a 300 mile day. We found a couple of recommended places, so who knows. Maybe we are Vegas people now.

Oh come on.

Then with that past us, we eventually hit a wall of rain again. Over the Mojave Desert, of all places. Again we were heading straight into lightning and a deluge up ahead, so rather than get stuck in it, I pulled off at the huge solar farm just past the state line. We were thinking maybe there would be a visitor center or information kiosk or something to pass the time. There wasn’t, but there was a nice security guard who came around making sure we were “ok” (probably actually making sure we weren’t causing trouble, but it was a nice cover story). He told us there are over four hundred thousand mirrors on that facility, each costing upwards of five thousand dollars to produce and ship. When the weather is not windy, the mirrors all tilt to reflect the sun’s rays into the giant space ray looking towers. The collected solar energy heats up water which powers turbines, thus producing electricity. Pretty wild. It was an informative chat and helped distract us while the storm dissipated.

At least now we know all about the solar array.

We made it to Yermo, the town just next to Barstow, in the late afternoon. It was a hundred degrees there. This time, instead of defaulting to the KOA, we got a tip to try Calico Ghost Town, where there is a campground with hookups. Already this was more interesting than the Barstow KOA by a lot. The loop we were in was past the entrance into the park, but everything closes at 5, so they just post a security guard who sits in her car making sure anyone coming in or out is camping and not going into the ghost town. We left to let the AC get started and found a diner that serves breakfast 24/7.

Campground road looking back toward town.

When you approach Barstow, you will see signs telling you about two things: Calico Ghost Town, and Peggy Sue’s 50s Diner. We would have gone to Peggy Sue’s but they are lame and only serve breakfast for breakfast. Penny’s Diner on the other hand, is the real deal and is housed in a train car shaped building, sitting next to a TravelLodge. I mean. What could actually be better?

Classic diner

Richard has gone to his fair share of 24/7 diners when he’s been on crazy multi-day bike trips. So he has learned that the real ones are there for the express purpose of serving railway conductors. Conductors come and go at all hours of the day and need periodic places to sleep and eat. So the railroad companies contract with hotel and diner chains. Penny’s is one of the major diner chains that still contracts to stay open for them. They are usually located next to a hotel, where a certain number of rooms are always set aside and paid for so they can get their ten hours of mandated sleep time. The diners are required to be open all the time and typically serve breakfast all day. Because if you are a train conductor, you just never know what hour of the day breakfast will be. It was actually really fun to talk to the owner and learn all this. Plus, we had the absolute best french toast and pancakes for dinner.

Just out of frame is an Elvis fortune telling booth. I’m sorry, I don’t know how that escaped a photo.

We did swing over and check out Peggy Sue’s, but this is more of a commercial, tchotchke selling operation than functional diner. They sell food, but also Elvis paraphernalia. They had good ice cream though, and I got some silly gifts. When we returned, I was treated to a very nice sunset show indeed. All of this was way more than I expected for Barstow and we hadn’t even seen the ghost town yet!

There’s even a little train you can ride around in a tiny circle!

We had to wait until 8am the next day to get in and we figured it would be best to be fully hitched and ready because it was only gonna get hotter after 8. There is actually a lot to see there and we spent about two hours going into historically recreated dwellings and shops. Apparently, this used to be a huge boom town when they struck silver. For a while, it was the place to be in Southern California, until silver prices plummeted. People moved on, except for a few dedicated settler families, and eventually the town became abandoned. Much later, the town was restored to its functional mid 1800s appearance and got county park status. For ten bucks, you can spend an hour or two checking out the old timey buildings. You can even get lunch, souvenirs, and yes, ice cream. We did all of those.

Restored school house. So fun!

I feel pretty confident in saying our Barstow KOA days are done. If we are passing through this area again, which we likely will, we will stay at the ghost town. We honestly had so much fun! And maybe next time I’ll let Elvis tell me my fortune.

Total miles: 316.5, 19.2 mpg. Site A11 hookups. Gravel pads but pretty level. There is a loop around the bathroom as well as a spur farther back into a mini canyon. There is also a loop outside the kiosk that is a bit more slotty and close to others. This loop felt more spaced but that is probably because it was all but empty. Decent bathrooms, good dump. Not great cell service for either, but it was out there if you walked toward the entrance more. Penny’s has excellent wifi, like so fast.

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