Sunset over the ghost town
This is a real turnaround story. Finding this regional park and campground (thank you Suzanne!) has changed our entire mindset when traveling through the southern California deserts. Instead of: hold your nose, pull in at the Barstow KOA because I can’t drive another hundred miles, pull the curtains, head out early in the morning… It has morphed into: Yay! We’re in Barstow! Let’s go check out the ghost town! Look! There’s the adorable teeny train! Yay for Penny’s breakfast for dinner! Should we get ice cream and see Elvis at Peggy Sue’s? Like we’re honestly excited when we arrive. No, really.
Snow sprinkles in Tehachapi
It’s an easy drive up and over the Tehachapi Pass to get from Bakersfield to Barstow, so we had time to wait out the morning fog. We were originally going to stay in Tehachapi, but the weather reports showed below freezing temperatures for Sunday night. However, even down lower, it was going to be a chilly night. We debated a lot over what to do with our water, given it was almost certainly going to get below freezing. We’d had a tiny bit of experience with this, but not much really, being California weather wimps. In the end, we decided to dump the remainder of our fresh water (which we intentionally let get very low), and leave the valve open. We have no problem staying warm inside, thanks to the Truma. It’s just a question of how much the exposed exterior pipes can handle. Spoiler: it got down to 23º and everything was fine. According to our Safari Condo pal, we could have gotten away with not dumping.
After getting set up, we had time to hang out in the ghost town before sun down. I seriously love this stuff. It is so cheesy and silly, with old timey shops and employees talking fake old timey speak. They put up holiday decorations and there were lots of families strolling around. We even paid for tickets to go through Millie’s Mine. That was so fun. It’s an actual formerly used mine, I guess, but they have diorama displays and canned audio tour narrations. It’s like the Disneyland Railroad dinosaur battle diorama, but way way less, and with no animatronics. It was worth $4 a ticket. Next time, we plan to pay for entry to the House of Mystery! We’re already excited. Given the fun we had with the Picture Spot of Mystery, one can only imagine an entire house full. Maybe some day we’ll take the tiny train, but we want to extend this stopover joy for as long as possible.
Another fun thing about this place is that they seem to consistently have roaming flocks of very interesting looking birds. I’m sure I looked them up before, since they are so striking. A quick bird search told us we were looking at Chukars. These are large, Quail-like birds, who behave kind of like chickens. The original pronunciation was: chook-ar, but apparently it has morphed into: CHUCK-er in the west, and was even the mascot for a minor league baseball team, known as “Chubby Chukar.” So there you go.
Chukar (either Choo-car, or Chuck-er, depending on where you are)
They close down the park at 5, so we headed over to Penny’s Diner for dinner. News in my life is that I’m trying to pay better attention to all things health related. That doesn’t seem like it would jive with diner breakfast for dinner. However, if you plan the day, and don’t eat the entire plate full of pancake and 3 egg omelette, you can make it work. And with enough to spare for a kid size scoop of mint chip afterwards. It was awesome.
I remembered to get a fortune telling Elvis shot this time.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable stop, with only a few hours drive to our first real winter break destination. Y’all take care now, pardners, and just keep a-moseying along.
Total miles: 139.6, 15.6 mpg, 3 hours, 12 min. Site A13, full hookups. Nice dump. LTE service for both except it drops out sometimes when you’re behind the rock wall. If you just go out toward the kiosk, or up the loop a little, you’ll get it back. Part entry is free if you’re staying in the campground, but it closes at 5pm.