Usually the drive to Vegas is a straight shot in excitement to begin the vacation and the drive home is just as fast, usually because it's late at night with work coming in the morning. On this most recent trip to Vegas, we had the luxury of a leisurely drive home and decided to make some I-15 detours.
Zzyzx Road. If you haven't taken the off ramp, you know that you're curious. It's impossible to drive to Vegas and not make note of this funny named street. I looked it up and it was named by Curtis Howe Springer. Springer was the proprietor of the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa that opened in 1944. He named it, because he claimed that it would be the last word in the English Dictionary. I think that it was a ploy to drum up business. In 1974, Springer was arrested on a litany of charges and the government reclaimed the land. It's now a the Desert Studies Center.
If you turn left off of the freeway and follow Zzyzx to where the pavement ends, this is what you will find.
Here I am on the salt flats.
It's vast and beautiful. The pictures do not do it justice. The next time that you are driving to/from Vegas, take an extra fifteen minutes and check it out.
The other place that I have always wanted to check out is Calico Ghost Town in Yermo.
We arrived late in the day, within the last two hours of closing. When we pulled up to the gate, the employee waves us in for free. I'm not sure exactly why, but my guess is that they might let everyone in for free late in the day, after the shows and other activities have ended. We didn't care about these, so it was a good savings for us. After having visited, I'm not sure that the extras would have been worth the fee.
Here is a picture of the entrance to the town.
Calico was a Silver Mine boom town in the 1880's with a population of over a thousand. The price of silver dropped in the mid-1890's and the town dried up. Walter Knotts bought the town in the 1950's and restored the buildings creating the current tourist attraction. Here is an information sign.
We went on a train ride that showed parts of the mine and camp that are only accessible by the train. There was a small charge for the ride that lasted approximately ten minutes. It's worth it, as the narration on the train provided a lot of interesting facts about the town and about silver mining. Here is a structure that was a house for one of the miners.
We also paid a small entrance fee to go inside part of the Maggie Mine. It takes about ten minutes to walk through and was also filled with interesting facts and provided us a chance to cool off from the hot desert temperatures.
Inside the mine.
Here are some creepy dummies that are supposed to be the Mulcahy Brothers, who lived in the mine for twenty years.
The exit to the mine is a steep set of stairs. We got a workout walking around Calico.
At the top of the stairs, the exit to the mine, there is a sign reminding everyone about the real dangers still present.
Here I am at the look out point above the mine.
Calico was a nice little stop, but it is very much a tourist trap. It's filled with stores like this..
All very cutesy and very Knott's Berry Farm. There is some real History here, but it's often buried beneath the tourist bits.
I was gleeful to discover The Mystery Shack, which used to be at Knott's Berry Farm, is alive and well in Calico. We didn't have a chance to go inside of it, but I asked and employee and he told me that only a few things have been modified and it's mostly the original show. I love the Mystery Shack!
Overall, I am glad that we stopped and even more glad that we didn't have an entrance fee. I think that it would have felt like a rip off if we had paid the fee. They definitely made some money off of us with the mine entrance and train ride. I wish that it had been less commercial. It's even more of a turn off to hear that they have ghost hunts and Halloween events. It feels like the Historical significance of the place is cheapened to cater to people who want the cheesy version of the old west. Meh. It's fun, but doesn't feel very authentic.