Wednesday, December 30, 2009
So it's getting close to Christmas and I'm wondering what I'm going to do, there isn't much really to keep me anchored here at home and having a bit of wanderlust I thought about what or where I'd like to do something.
It can be that way sometimes during the holiday's if you don't have family gatherings or someone close to your heart to spend the time with, and it's this time of year when much of that comes into the fore.
All of this was in my mind when I got a phone call from my friend Pat telling me I was invited to spend the Christmas weekend out at our mutual friend Bernie's place in Pioneertown, I had to smile at the perfect timing of the invite because a little road trip was just what the doctor ordered.
I packed a few things and headed out to the high desert in Yucca Valley on Christmas morning which is about a two and a half hour drive from Los Angeles
Arriving in Yucca Valley there are always a couple of old motel landmarks I look for to tell me I'm getting close to Pioneertown
The Yucca Inn
And the Sands, (love that old Vegas style script)
Making a left turn onto Pioneertown road from route 62 it's a short fifteen minute drive to the old Pioneertown movie set.
I hadn't seen Bernie for about three or so years now, he had sold his business in LA and bought a unfinished house on some acreage in Pipes Canyon near Pioneertown in Yucca Valley. All of this high desert area is quite close to
Joshua Tree National Park
Which is some of the most beautiful and scenic desert in the world, the topography in and around Pioneertown is much of the same type of terrain that one would find in the national park except that it's sparsely inhabited with homes and ranches.
When Bernie first moved out to his place he had a small collection of vintage trailers and we'd all get together and ride quads during the day and hang out by the campfire at night till it was time to retire unless of course we were all at Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace getting tanked.
Driving in I could still see the effects from a 2006 wildfire that devastated much of the area, I had heard that the fire crews had managed to save Pioneertown and I was curious to see how things still looked around there.
Pioneertown started as a live-in Old West motion picture set, built in the 1940s. The movie set was designed to provide a place for the actors to live, and at the same time to have their homes used as part of the movie set.
A number of Westerns and early television shows were filmed in Pioneertown, including The Cisco Kid and Edgar Buchanan's Judge Roy Bean. Roy Rogers, Dick Curtis, and Russell Hayden were among the original developers and investors, and Gene Autry frequently taped his show at the six-lane Pioneer Bowl bowling alley
(the bowling alley is one of the oldest in continuous use in California)
Pioneertown's facade has an exceptionally realistic look, right down to actual bullet holes in the signage and functional hitching posts for horses used in filming and you can see mock gunfights staged from April through October along Pioneertown's Main Street.
I met Pat in Pioneertown and followed him the rest of the way to Bernie's
It was really good to see Bernie again and check out the amazing job he did completing the house and the various other things around the property.
One of the vintage trailers on the property
The three of us settled in on the porch with our drinks and caught up with what's been going on the last few years.
Here's the last of dusk in the western skyline with a myriad of stars in the sky
Yes, it was a great way to spend a Christmas day..........
One thing I can tell you about the high desert this time of year is that as soon as the sun goes down it get's cold......freezing cold !
So it was nice to stay inside by the fire as the temperature dropped and enjoy the company and time spent with friends.
Everyplace in the world has a sunrise and sunset and of course they all have their moments. California is the western most end of the American Southwest and like I said before the beauty of our deserts are as profound and beautiful as anywhere in the world. With this in mind I decided to get up at the crack of dawn and capture the desert sunrise.
Normally I hate getting up early but I was excited to hopefully take a nice photo so when I naturally woke at the right time I looked out the window and wasn't disappointed
Despite the the 27 degree temperature I stood outside with my camera and tripod catching the beauty that only lingers for a few moments with the dawn of a new day
The three of us headed to the Hitching Post for breakfast and because Bernie had to meet someone later in the day and our other friend Scott wasn't arriving until the afternoon Pat and I decide to take a drive over to old Route 66 and some of the small towns that dot the old east west route that was once the main highway for much of America
It was perfect weather with hardly anyone on the road, just you and the great expanse of blue sky and desert to view as the road before us stretched out it's long line of tarmac into the eastern horizon
It's the sparseness of the desert terrain that keeps you keen on the subtle changes you pass through, the valleys that used to be the bottom of a great sea or the rocks that were pushed to the surface by the shifting fault's and tectonic plates
Or the black remnants of a volcano's cone
Continuing on 66 we headed toward the nearly empty ghost town of Amboy
Amboy was once a major stop along the old Route 66 but has seen much lower visitation since the opening of Interstate 40 to the north, it is also the home of the famous Roy's Motel and Cafe, a Route 66 landmark
Going further east we continued to Kelso which is a another ghost town and defunct railroad depot in the Mojave National Preserve
Starting off as what was a simple train depot in the 1920s, the town of Kelso boomed briefly to as many as 2000 residents in the 1940s, when borax and iron mines opened nearby. Gold and silver were also discovered in the nearby hills of what became known as the Kelso district. The town shrank again when the mines closed after about a decade
The depot has been restored and has a cafe and local history museum inside while also serving as the Mojave National Preserve's visitor center
Here is the old defunct Post Office
And as usual in the desert you find the deserted ramshackle remnants of someones home
this one has a rather unique shaped roof
All along the old Route 66 you find the rusting and dilapidated remains of roadside motels, gas stations, cafe's and homes........ it adds an air of mystery and sadness to what once was and will never be again as the desert elements slowly break down these edifices built by man
Pat and I decided to turn around and head back when we got to hwy 40
stopping along the way at the great Kelso Dunes one of only twenty sand dunes in the world that are also notable for the phenomenon known as singing sand
Just before Amboy we stopped at this oddity of the road
A tree of shoes........
After doing well over a hundred miles we stopped for fuel,
As the skies darkened the road ahead looked like one long blue highway
It was about this time that Scott called and said he was in Yucca Valley and would meet us at Pappy & Harriet's
Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace has a rich history as a honky tonk and it is truly one of the coolest joints you're likely to experience in the desert.......It's pretty much the center piece of Pioneertown, the hub of the wheel as they say and it's where everyone comes for a good meal(amazing bbq),live music and a good time
Here's a couple of murals on the outside of the building
Scott followed us back to Bernie's where we got right back to having a few drinks on the porch while watching the beauty of the changing light and colors of the desert and setting sun
For those of you interested and would like to experience this part of the desert a short walk and right across from Pappy & Harriet's is the Pioneertown Motel built in 1946 and it still retains that old funky western feel
Dinner at Pappy & Harriet's was amazing and so were the great bands that played that evening
It was a good finish to fun filled day........
There are certain desert scenes that seem natural to me, like this one I had looking out the window as I got up the next morning
one of Bernie's old trailers........
Bernie made breakfast and Pat and I hung out for awhile, (I guess Scott was still crashed out in the other house) Pat had to get going and I wanted to hit the road again to take some more pictures so we said our goodbyes and thanks to our gracious host and went our separate ways
My first stop was Pioneertown to take a few more photos
Heading back towards hwy 62, some of the desert rock formations
Back on interstate 10 my first stop was to get some fuel at Cabazon
and check out their roadside attractions
As many of you know I like to take photo's of old neon signs, so the first place I went through was the town of Banning
(now out of business)
Opened in 1928 the Fox Banning Theatre is still in business and running films
Of course as you roll down the old roads that used to constitute the highway before the freeway was built you find a lot of old motels
The next place I stopped was Redlands a city formed during the 1880's as several railroad lines converged there
The old Redlands train depot
I like any bar with a pink Flamingo
From Redlands the next big city is San Bernardino which is one of the oldest communities in the State of California
The San Bernardino train station and depot
The one place I really wanted to find though was the old California Theatre
Originally built as a 1928 Vaudeville and Movie Palace this amazing theater is where Will Rogers made his final stage appearance, superbly maintained it serves as the main performance arts center for the City of San Bernardino
Feeling a bit hungry it was time for me to find some tacos and hit the road again
All in all a great weekend......with moments that leave memories in your mind like a painted desert sky
The end to another short road adventure with that old Gene Autry song playing in my head as I'm homeward bound and happy