Randsburg, California: Mine Blown

Just what keeps the memory of this old town alive more than a century after it was born in the midst of the mining boom of the 19th Century?

Walk down Butte Avenue and, in the middle of the block, you will surely find the answer at the Rand Desert Museum.

Founded in 1943 and given over to Kern County in 1948, the museum is the heart and soul of the old town.

When Kern County couldn’t bear the expense of maintaining the museum, it was given back to Randsburg proper.

To this day it is run by the residents of the Rand Mining District.

Even more that a hundred years later, there remains life in these hallowed hills.

This year, the 16th Annual Old West Day took place right on the main drag thru town, Butte Avenue.

I like big buttes, I cannot lie…

Within two months of Holcomb’s discovery of gold in 1859, a town called Belleville sprang into existence at the entrance into Holcomb Valley, near the upper part of Van Dusen Canyon. It had a collection of stores, saloons, dance halls, and blacksmith shops. In 1860, the Wild West town lost its bid for county seat by a mere two votes.

Charles Wilbur was the first tax assessor in San Bernardino County. He was also a gold placer miner who lived in the area around the mid to late 1800s. He was well liked among his fellow miners who lived in the area and they voted for him to organize the miners and the boundary stones. Before he died he asked to be buried by his favorite pond, Wilbur’s Pond, and they did as he asked…

Minimum-security institutions such as Boron are often referred to as country club prisons or Club Fed; officially they are categorized as Security Level No. 1 institutions, the least guarded in the federal prison system.

There were only seven such facilities in the country, and Boron was the only self-contained Level 1 institution in California.

The prison had no walls, fences, bars, gun towers or guns.

What could go wrong? Surprisingly, very little.

Incarceration at the Federal Prison Camp at Boron was more a state of mind than a state of siege…

There are at least ten Bagdad’s in America. They survive in federal geological surveys and maps of California, Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Virginia, New York and Tennessee. Only three have post offices.

But only one Bagdad holds the distinction of having once thrived in the often inhospitable environs of the Mojave Desert.

Bagdad, California survived 767 consecutive days without precipitation.

Many things changed, but the desolation, searing temperatures, and lack of rain were just some of the things you could count on that wouldn’t.

Bagdad continued to survive the many changes that occurred with mining, railroads and Route 66, but the opening of the new interstate would prove to be its defeat…

For us and countless others, Jevetta Steele’s haunting lyrics from the song, “Calling You,” from the 1987 indie cult classic “Bagdad Cafe” will forever evoke the particularities of a small desert town on Route 66 contrasted with the vastness of the Mojave Desert.

However, Bagdad Cafe was not actually shot in Bagdad. Not Bagdad, California, and not Baghdad, Iraq.

The award-winning German film, directed by Percy Adlon, was filmed in Newberry Springs at the former Sidewinder Cafe, which decided to let the name “Bagdad Cafe” live on, drawing throngs of international tourists.

Desert road de Vegas vers nulle part
Certains placent mieux qu’où vous avez été
Une machine à café qui a besoin de certaines fixation
Dans un petit café “juste dans le virage…

Like so many pioneer towns in the Mojave Desert established by necessity for its connection to the railroads, Ludlow Cemetery is serenaded by the rumble of frequent trains.

The cemetery appears to have approximately 50 visible graves. All but three are marked by wooden crosses with no information. Only seven grave sites have been identified.

Ludlow was founded in 1882, brought about by the establishment of the Southern Pacific Railroad until May 4, 1897 when it became the Santa Fe Railway.

This was the main line and connection with Los Angeles…

Admit it. If you’ve traveled on the I-40 or Route 66, you’ve stopped for ice cream or gasoline. Maybe a corn dog.

The tiny ghost town of Ludlow, California is just off these long stretches of roads. You can’t miss it and if you do, you have miles to go before you can turn around.

We think Ludlow is the perfect little desert spot in the middle of nowhere. Ludlow is home to quite a few abandoned ramshackle houses and countless rusted cannibalized vintage cars. Ludlow even has its own pioneer cemetery. Like many ghost towns, what Ludlow has the most of is a wealth of history.

You could say Ludlow has it all…

The Mojave Desert wears a coat of many colors. Both majestic and mysterious, Rainbow Basin is notable for miles of fantastical and beautiful shapes of rock formations, its fossil beds and geologic wonders.

Don’t expect a Skittles rainbow though. You will enjoy its varied palette of natural hues but it’s subtle and changes throughout the day with shadows.

Surprises await just off the beaten path. Park your vehicle to the side of the road and go for a walkabout. Hiking Owl Canyon offers many discoveries, such as lava tubes, dry water falls and…

Welcome to our second installment in our continuing series.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the Fasten Seat Belt sign.

We hope you enjoy your flight with us as we return to the magical, majestic and oftentimes mysterious past.

We’ve added a few surprises along the way. It’s a short flight so don’t expect candied peanuts.

Buckle up, buttercup. It’s going to be a heck of a ride…

Remember, while exploring remote parts of the desert, the true test of character is doing the right thing, even if nobody else is watching.

Rustic cemeteries dot the outskirts of Old West ghost towns where the early inhabitants lay in eternal rest. We thank you for being mindful and respectful of the departed. Their lives touched many and in retrospect added to the complex tapestry of history known as the Mojave Desert.

Modern unsung heroes continue to pay homage to their legacies…

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