We have driven through Barstow many times over the years. This is a place I have never given much thought to. We are usually rushing by on our way to Las Vegas or headed to Death Valley for our annual Thanksgiving camping trip. Oh sure, we have stopped for a quick break but have never gotten off the road to see what was there. Thanks to my blogging buddy masgautsen at The thoughts of life and me, we decided to see what interesting sights we could find in our own backyard. She recently posted about sight-seeing in her own town. Isn’t that a great idea?
Sooo…off we went!
Barstow is about 85 miles from where we live. The only thing I actually knew about Barstow was that there is a decent outlet mall there and it is where the cutoff from the Interstate 10 and the Interstate 40 hook up. As it turns out, this little town is full of history and played a large part of the California railroad history too. With the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad and the silver mine in Calico during the 1880’s, Barstow began to evolve. Calico still exists today as Calico Ghost Town and is a popular attraction and camping place in the area.
Barstow grew and because of the railroad and its central location in the midst of the Mojave Desert, became a jumping off place on Route 66. This highway became quite famous when John Steinbeck published his book, The Grapes of Wrath in 1939. Eventually major highways/interstates became the main transportation corridors through the area and Route 66 began its decline.
The Route 66 Mother Road Museum was really fun!
Not only did it give a great history of the famous Route 66, but it offered a collection of remembrances of days gone by.
Route 66 runs nearby to where we live so…
…we are used to all the hype of the historical road with a variety of available collectables and scheduled events nearby. When visiting Chicago a few years back I got a kick out of seeing a sign showing the start of Route 66…
…since we are so near to the end!
These posters are just a sampling of the unique collections found there.
We then made a visit to the Harvey House .
These establishments were built to provide good food and clean facilities in the Southwest beginning in 1870’s. They were found along Route 66 in railway stations.
The first Harvey House open in Topeka, Kansas in 1876. By the late 1880’s, there was a Harvey restaurant about very 100 miles along the Santa Fe tracks. This beautiful Harvey House is located at the Barstow Depot. The Amtrack still comes through
but is no longer open to passengers. It is open to view, for receptions, and weddings. Barstow is still a major thoroughfare for rail cars and is a fun place to watch trains coming and going.
There are old railroad cars (although not open) to climb on and view up close.
The Western American Railroad Museum, offers an interesting collection of railroad memorabilia…
…like this old safe.
…and even a simulator if you really want to get the full experience. A group of Boy Scouts were visiting while we were so we decided to pass (but it really looked fun especially if you have kids).
A collection of nail heads was quite amazing!
These dated nails were used in the railroad ties and became a sort of timeline.
You really have to see it to believe it!
Off we headed off to The Desert Discovery Center.
What a great place for kids for a very hands on experience. One of the most interesting things about this museum is the Old Woman Meteorite. This is the second largest meteorite found in the United States. It weighed 6070 pounds when discovered in 1975. My favorite thing, however, was the turtles. They were so cute and active. If not swimming around in their pond, they were fighting with each other to climb out. The interaction between them was hysterical!
Desert plants are diverse and interesting…
and I tried to capture a sampling of what they had to offer at the museum.
People often don’t realize the real beauty of the desert if only you take the time to look up close.
Well, maybe not that close!
After a picnic lunch in one of the local parks,
we ended our trip with a stop at the Mojave River Valley Museum.
With free admission to this unique little place ( to the others also!) they had many interesting items, books, and displays to appreciate.
(They also have a group of local men eager to greet you at the door)
If hiking or desert camping is your thing, the Rainbow Basin Natural Area would be worth the drive. Rainbow is noted for the beautiful shapes and colors of rock beds and of the fossil beds. It is 8 miles on a dirt road. We had the wrong vehicle for that trip, I am sorry to say, so will save for another day. Another interesting mention in Barstow, is the Skyline Drive In Theater which is the only one of its kind in the entire county -and San Bernardino County is a big county!.
We had so much fun with this sight-seeing adventure that I can’t wait until the next one! We will try to do one or two excursions each month. For now, this will be our vacation!