Barstow KOA (5)

About as scenic as you can make the Barstow KOA look

Travel to Barstow is always reliably long. Sometimes it is wicked windy, but we lucked out this time around. As we clocked two hundred or so miles to get through the flatness of the Central Valley, we listened to “The Fellowship of the Ring” on audio. That is a fantastic way to traverse great expanses. Our journey was not nearly so exciting as Frodo and Sam’s, but we feel epic about it in our own way.

You can always spot long trains around Tehachapi

Once we started going up the Tehachapi grade, we decided we were making good enough time that Richard could get his ya-yas out by riding up Tehachapi Woodside Road. It is a ten mile climb along a winding, narrow route, more popular with bikers and motorcyclists than with RVs. I opted to jump back on 58 to meet him at the top. I easily found a parking spot with good service and caught up on blogging. Keeping current with this is always something of a challenge on long trips, but using the time while Richard is doing crazy exercise things seems to work pretty well.

Borax Visitor Center parking lot. Not packed. You’ll probably be able to get in, no problem.

We descended out of Tehachapi after getting gas and covered the final hundred miles with an arrival in Barstow around five. That suited us perfectly because we already knew the one and only thing on the agenda that we were really looking forward to was Penny’s Diner. The one side trip we made was a stop at the Borax Visitor Center outside of Boron, CA. We have passed by this many times and there was no compelling reason not to stop. The volunteers there are super happy to chat with you about all things Borax. I gather Borax is an ingredient in just about anything you can name, in addition to laundry powder. Play-Doh, for example, apparently depends on Borax for some reason. So does insulation, fertilizer, electronic devices, the list goes on and on. The museum is well done and worth the trip. 

Someone needs to help them get this case open.

There was one display of a huge Borax crystal, all caked in white powder. A docent, who was sort of following me around, looking for opportunities to enlighten me with Borax lore, told me that the crystal is actually a deep amber color. Apparently, during COVID, the visitor center was closed and the power shut off. The case containing the exhibit, which normally keeps the inside moisture controlled, stopped. The white crusting happened immediately. I asked if it could be fixed and she lamented, “Well, no one knows how to open the case. It has a key I guess, but no one told any of us where it is. It’s made in London I guess, so we don’t really know who to call.” It is an impressive case. I asked if maybe a lock smith could come out and open it up and she thought that was a valid idea. 

Nice Visitor Center for what it is.

Outside the Visitor Center, you can look down and see all the comings and goings of the gigantic mining equipment. “There’s a lot of history there,” as the docents said. For breaking up a Highway 58 slog, it is worth the time. And it seems pretty safe, according the big light up sign at the entrance, announcing it has been a full 63 days since an injury has occurred at the plant. Be prepared for an unpaved hill at the end to get you to the top.

Dory driving the 20 Mule Team

We’re getting into the travel groove now, and just like the hobbits arriving safely in Rivendell, our first order of business was to indulge in a proper feast. After a long and confusing exchange with the Penny’s person, trying to ascertain the availability of fruit flavored syrups, we determined that no, they don’t have that, but yes they do have canned strawberries in heavy syrup that you can just go ahead and put right on top of pancakes. That was amazing.

Total miles: 324.4, 17.8 mpg, 9 hours 15 min with two hour stop in Tehachapi and a stop at the Borax mine. Normal KOA experience except lots more people with ATVs because of Memorial Day Weekend. Dropped Richard in Keene so he could climb 10 miles to Tehachapi.

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