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).
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Local businesses did well with their hand-made products. Clothing, soaps, carvings, photos, and food. Lots of food.
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.
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.
And then there was the refreshments.
Meanwhile, at the Cross Eyed Cow Beer Garden.
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.