One Active Ghost Town
I had driven to San Diego to pick up my wife. As a naval reservist, she had completed a one-year tour of active duty in San Diego. While packing our luggage the night before for the return trip to Texas, she said; “Instead of taking our normal route home, why don’t we travel north to Route 66 and follow as much of that road as possible?”
“Great idea!” was my reply.
We had traveled sections of the original Route 66 several times, but driving this northern route to Texas would be the longest stretch of Route 66 to travel. One of my favorite detours while traveling cross-country is visiting the way out places such as ghost towns or areas listed on the “Next Exit History” app or even the “Roadside America” website. Typically we would have driven on I-8 to I-10 for the return, but we had traveled that route several times over the years. The northern way would be a nice change.
To intercept the original Route 66 eastward, we traveled north on I-15 towards Temecula, Victorville, and Yermo. If we had stayed the course on I-15, we would have arrived in Las Vegas. Instead, we took the Daggert-Yermo exit in Yermo, California, to continue our journey to Calico Ghost town. This town is a refurbished and partially rebuilt ghost mining town. Nestled in a region of the Mojave Desert, and founded in 1881 as a silver mining town, it marked the beginning one of the most significant silver strikes in California history. One-third of Calico is original: the remaining structures had been carefully reconstructed to create the spirit of Calico’s Old Western Past. The town was initially purchased in the 1950s by Walter Knott – the same person of Knott’s Berry Farm fame. He was impressed with the town because he had worked there as a young lad.
The Town of Calico
Walter Knott had developed plans for the town to be the original Knott’s Berry Farm and Theme Park. But in the end, he decided not to build the world-famous Knott’s Berry Farm there. Why? Because the water was too hard and during the summers, temperatures could reach north of 100 degrees. Today the town is owned by the San Bernardino County Park system.
We spent about six hours at the town exploring many of the original buildings, We took an eight-minute train ride.
The fun part was being a witness to two gunfights, one over coffee and the other over whiskey.
One of the more colorful characters buried in the graveyard is Tumbleweed Harris. He haunts the town along with Lucy Lane, who, with her husband, Robert, owned and ran the General Store, and Margaret Oliver, the last school teacher of the town.
Tumbleweed’s tombstone reads the following;
Dec 29 1906 – Oct 8 1979
Marshal of Calico 7 Years
TUMBLWEED IS GONE
Lay me down on the Hillside of Calico
Where the desert winds sweep by
Where the row upon row of little brown tents
My former companions lie
With only the sand for a blanket
Instead of a flower strewn sod
My body shall rest from its labors
When my spirit has gone out to God
I tramped these hills in the sunshine
On the desert I’d live and die
Let me rest on the hillside at Calico
Where the desert winds sweep by
If you should ever find yourself traveling the road to Las Vegas via I-15 or driving east or west on I-40 through Yermo, stop in and enjoy a small piece of the authentic American West. Heck, if you are in Las Vegas and wish to take a road trip, head south on I-15 for the 2-hour journey. I don’t think you will be disappointed.