Oro Grande Days 2016: A Ghost Town Comes Alive

On a rare day of overcast skies and rain in the typically dry Mojave Desert, the sun finally graced us with a visit and a road trip was the order of the day.   We decided to take advantage of the weather break and cruise Route 66 to Oro Grande, between Victorville and Roy Rogers old ranch, just down the road (more on the Double R Bar Ranch later).

 

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Oro Grande as it is today. In days gone by, the cement plant on the left was near the location of the old stamp mill. About a half mile to the right of the photo (area not shown) was the location of the great train robbery of 1898. Not ‘thee’ great train robbery but, still, an old west shoot-em-up nevertheless.

 

 

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Route 66, Oro Grande, California. We were honored last year when our photo was selected by a committee as their anthology book cover for the California Writers Club-High Desert Branch, titled, “For the Love of Writing,” 2015.  Available: Amazon and Barnes & Noble

 

This wasn’t just going to be a casual visit to the many antique shops along the mother road, as we have done so many times before.  Instead, for this near-home adventure, we were headed to the second annual Oro Grande Days.  The word Oro Grande means “Big Gold” and it lives up to its name.

 

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The event was designed to celebrate this little village, once known as Halleck, in the Silver Mining District, and its rich history and heritage that spans more than a century and a half,  from wild west boom town,  to today’s sleepy hamlet in the shadow of a giant cement plant along Route 66.  While there are many old towns that call themselves Wild West, Oro Grande deserves the title more than most.

 

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 Tram buses provided free transportation around town. A perfect example of classic “Americana,” Norman Rockwell style.

 

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   The famous Border Renegades, 1880s Old West Reenactors, out of Riverside, California.
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       Togetherness at the local (staged) shootout.

 

The organizers went to great lengths to make this a memorable event, and it was all of that and more.  Shootouts, old west reeanactors, Oro Grande Pioneer Cemetery tours led by Honorary Mayor Joe Manners, food stands, beer garden, petting zoo, pizza, barbecue, and even camel rides were to be had.  Did we mention the live music?

 

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   Camel rides and camel hugs. Thankfully, not a cactus hug in sight!

 

A camel in the Mojave isn’t really that peculiar.   Way back in the late 1850s, the U.S. Army experimented with the idea of camels in cavalry units .   Lieutenant Edward Beale’s “Camel Corps” was a short-lived adventure.   The relationship between horse cavalry soldiers and camels was not a successful one, and the participants went their separate ways.

 

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A 1976 classic of a kind. “Hawmps” is loosely based on the 1857 experiment in the Mojave Desert that brought camels to the cavalry. Like many good ideas, it looked better on paper.

                                              

 

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                                                                 Marshall Earp in the house!  

While wandering around near the Cross Eyed Cow’s beer garden, we ran into local ranch owner, Jim Heffel.   Dressed in classic period costume,  Jim bears an uncanny resemblance to the famous lawman, Wyatt Earp.  As such, most patrons addressed him as “Wyatt.”   While not related to the famous lawman,  Jim does have a unique connection to the history of the Southwest.  He owns the Roy Rogers “Double Bar R Ranch,” just down the road from here.  

 

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                  Roy Roger’s “Double R Bar Ranch, Oro Grande, California.  

 

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Roy Rogers! Wyatt Earp!  The only famous cowboy who seemed to be missing from Oro  Grande Days event was John Wayne.     That is, until we found him browsing in one of the many antique stores in town.   Don’t worry, Duke, your secret is safe with us.    What happens in ‘Grande, stays in ‘Grande.

 

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A not-so-serious moment with a re-enactor. Their skits were fun and, at the same time, very informative about history, and gun safety.

 

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 Local businesses did well with their hand-made products.  Clothing, soaps, carvings, photos, and food. Lots of food.

 

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Don’t tread on me.

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The better half of The Desert Way page, supporting the local economy. Whenever this lady can shop, she is a happy lady indeed.

Whimsical doll designer, Minerva Groves (left), Jaylyn (center) and Connie Tamayo of “Connie’s Aprons” (right).  Minerva and Connie were doing a brisk business with their hand-crafted items.   Partners Minerva designs and makes very charming dolls, “every one with a heart” using her grandmother’s patterns and Connie designs and sews unique, custom aprons and rock-a-billy headbands.

 

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And in the category of run what ya’ brung . . .     You just have to admire American ingenuity.  The big glass jug is the radiator overflow tank.

 

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This very impressive ride belongs to David O’Dell.  The frame is a ’41 Chevy, with some pieces from just about every other auto maker, past and present, along with a few items from the barn.   The windshield has a history.  It’s from an old Model-T that belonged to David’s uncle, shown below.  Yep!  Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

 

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Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Without a doubt, their trails were happily traveled.   When the going gets tough, we still wonder WWRD  (What Would Roy Do?).

 

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             Cross Eyed Cow Pizza and Topock 66. Can it get any better than that?

 

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From Calico Ghost Town, a man of many talents.   He proudly told us that he’s a snake-oil salesman by trade. We told him we’ve met a few of those in the desert.

 

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             Exhibits of all kinds, and the past comes alive.

 

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Deep concentration, or teen-age boredom? Either way, it looked like everybody had a good time.

 

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Rumor has it that this fine lady is one of the Oro Grande Days organizers. Imagine that, a school marm made this happen.
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Honorary Mayor Joe Manners unlocked the gates of Oro Grande Cemetery and led tours to enthralled tourists. For in-depth info about this historic cemetery, please read our previous article about it on this site.   It’s haunted, you know.
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Visiting the local Steampunk vendor.  With a giant cement plant overlooking the entire town, Oro Grande would make an excellent location for a Steampunk themed movie.  Hey!  Are you listening, Hollywood?
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     Steampunk, the movie.
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         Oro Grande is becoming an antique mecca along Route 66. Well worth a visit.

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                      “Let’s see . . . Bullets? Check. Powder? Check.”

 

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While it looks like I was giving a basic Vulcan greeting, I think we were actually discussing prices.
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         Before motor officers rode Harleys, they rode horses.

 

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 I asked if they sold “man products.” She asked me what I was talking about.  So,  I explained my concept of  axle grease, transmission fluid and WD-40 scented bars of soap. Maybe next year.

 

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The sign read, “Herbs.” We looked all over, but couldn’t find Willie Nelson.

 

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 Happy belly, empty wallet, new friends, full memory card. Perfect day!

 

                                           And then there was the refreshments.

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I swear, these guys had to be right out of the mini-series, “Lonesome Dove.”    Perfectly attired for the event.

 

                                       Meanwhile, at the Cross Eyed Cow Beer Garden. 

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The Beer Garden was on the side patio of Cross Eyed Cow Pizza, near the live band area. Fun place, and fantastic pizza! We had the Hawaiian Pizza, with Canadian Bacon, pineapple and cashews. Out of this world!  The sign in the background advertises, “Leninaide.”  Obviously, lemonade for the proletariat masses.

 

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The designated beer goddess for today’s event was “Weathergrace Preston.”    An interesting name. She told us that her mother was a hippy.  Yep, that’s what she said.    Weather works next door at Cross Eyed Cow when she’s not slinging beer for event patrons.

 

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                                Welcoming committee.

 

 

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            Back when a bathhouse was just a bathhouse.

 

 

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Did somebody say zombies? Get to The Winchester! I mean, the Cross Eyed Cow Pizza! (Shaun of the Dead reference–ha ha)

 

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                            Just look at that sweet little face.

 

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It’s not every day you see a goat sleeping on someone’s lap. This precious one was snoozing away at the Ava and Snow’s Handcrafted Goat Milk Soap booth.

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There was even a classic car show on Sunday! Hot Rod Heaven!

 

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                                               Long may she wave!

 

What a great way to spend the weekend, meeting so many nice people and having so much fun.  Yes, you read that right; we enjoyed ourselves so much we attended BOTH days.  We’re already looking forward to next year’s Oro Grande Days.

 

For more information, contact organizer Tonya Edwards at 760-646-0562.

 

https://www.facebook.com/Oro-Grande-Days

http://orograndeshops.com/

http://theroyrogersranch.com

Jaylyn

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comments
  • I’m sorry I wasn’t able to make it this year but with all your wonderful information, next year we will be there!

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