Home » 2018 Mojave Road & Indian Wells

Quirky attractions in Yerma, CA

Saturday, October 20, 2018 - 8:45pm by Lolo
40 miles and 1 hour from our last stop


Peggy Sue's 50s DinerPeggy Sue's 50s DinerHerb and I didn’t just re-enter civilization. We flung ourselves in with gusto, stopping for breakfast at Peggy Sue’s 50s Diner and visiting Calico Ghost Town during its Halloween Festival. There couldn’t possibly have been a greater contrast between the solitude and barrenness of the Mojave Road and these two tourist attractions. I think Herb was trying to get me to appreciate the desert more.

Everytime we pass through on I15, we talk about stopping at Peggy’s Sue’s, but the time was never right as we always seemed to be rushing to get somewhere. This morning we were in no particular rush. We had to get to our friends’ house in Indian Wells later that afternoon, but that still gave us several hours to kill.

Lolo enjoying something other than a granola bar for breakfastLolo enjoying something other than a granola bar for breakfastPeggy Sue’s is part diner, part roadside attraction. When it first opened in 1947, it had 3 booths and 9 counter stools. Today it is huge, with half a dozen rooms to accommodate their large clientele. In 1987, Peggy Sue and her husband Champ restored the diner to its original state. Prior to that, Peggy Sue worked in the movies and Champ worked for Knott’s Berry Farm. During that time they accumulated an extensive collection of movie and TV memorabilia, which is now displayed throughout their diner.

I was only born in the 50s, so most of the stuff reminded me of my parents. There were posters and statues of Betty Boop, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and so many more icons of the 50s.

Since we’re from New Jersey, the diner capital of the world, this place probably wasn’t as much of a novelty to us as to many of our other fellow travelers. That 6-page menu didn’t scare us.

However, after being in the desert for 3 days, we were experiencing a bit of culture shock - so many people, so much food, so much neon. Still it was fun and the food was great, both in terms of quality and quantity.

Lolo hits Calico Ghost TownLolo hits Calico Ghost TownAnother place I always wanted to visit when near Barstow is the Rainbow Basin Natural Area, a geological formation in the Calico Peaks range with a 8.2-mile hike I wanted to do. However, although we had some time to kill, we didn’t have that much time, so Herb suggested that instead we visit the nearby Calico Ghost Town.

Now that I look back on it, I guess this could be considered a gradual transition from 3 days of feeling like an 1860s traveler on the Mojave Road to now feeling like an 1880s silver miner; and then tonight, we would be in Palm Springs, whose heyday was in the 1940s. It was kind of like a time machine.

I had never heard of Calico before today, but Herb had seen it featured on several YouTube travel videos. What we didn’t realize is that not only would we be hitting it on a weekend, but it was also their Halloween Ghost Haunt, meaning admission was now $20 instead of $8, plus $5 for parking and the shuttle.

All aboard the Calico trainAll aboard the Calico trainBodie Ghost Town in Bridgeport has pretty much jaded us in terms of ghost towns. Bodie is the real deal, preserved in a state of “arrested decay,” where the buildings are left the way they were, still furnished and stocked with goods. Calico was much more touristy and most of the old buildings are now gift shops.

Still, it did have an interesting history and a very pretty natural setting. During the 1880s, the largest silver strike in California took place here. Over a 12-year period, Calico produced over $20 million in silver ore. Things were going great for the town until the mid-1890s, when the silver lost its value, and consequently the town lost its population, becoming a “ghost town” - the typical boom and bust so common in mining towns of the day.

In the 1950s, Walter Knott purchased Calico and architecturally restored all but the five original buildings to look as they did in the 1880s. Today Calico is a State Historical Landmark.

Halloween in Calico Ghost TownHalloween in Calico Ghost TownIn addition to wandering along Main Street and dipping into a few gift shops, we decided to splurge on two additional attractions, the first of which was taking a ride on the Calico Odessa Railroad. This was very uncharacteristic for Herb, so I was a bit suspicious of his motives. Pretty sure it was trying to make me like the remoteness of Mojave better than the kitchiness of more popular attractions. It was working.

For $4.50 each, we boarded the train and spent 8 minutes chugging up and around a hill past historical sites, old mining equipment, and lots of scary skeletons with cowboy hats. It was pretty informative and made me wish I had taken the time, when I still could, to learn about my maternal grandfather’s time as a silver miner in Colorado.

Next stop, the Maggie Mine, the only silver mine that visitors can enter. We took the 1,000-foot self-guided tour through the mine and did learn more about the minerals in the local rocks and what the life of an 1880s miner was like.

Continuing our journey through time, we took the shuttle back to our car and headed south towards Indian Wells, right outside Palm Springs.

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