Homer's Travels: Off Roading In The Honda Searching For Mary

Monday, October 15, 2007

Off Roading In The Honda Searching For Mary

On Saturday we awoke to the ring of the telephone. The "J" was calling us to warn us about the terrible truck accident on the I-5. We were planning to drive with the "J" and a friend of the wife whom we will refer to as the "C" as his first name also starts with J, to the California City region to visit the Mary apparitions known as Our Lady Of The Rock. I got up and fired up the computer and plotted out a new route that bypassed the I-5 - Route 14 interchange.

We got in our car (the "C" drove up the night before and spent the night with us), picked up the "J" and headed out. We took the 126 to the I-5 North to the SR138 east to the 14. This route bypassed all the mess further south. We reached Mojave and, since my lead foot had gotten us there ahead of schedule, we stopped at Mike's Roadside Cafe for some breakfast. The food is pretty good there but the service is a little slow. The cafe is decorated with dozens of
Pedal Cars.

We got back in the car and drove into California City. We located the Randsburg-Mojave road (R-M) and headed out. After a short distance we saw a red arrow pointing off road but I noticed that we were now on Twenty Mule Team road instead of R-M. We turned around and found where the R-M split of from the Twenty Mule Team. The R-M turned to a dirt road immediately. This seemed right because the Mary apparitions were supposed to be off a dirt road. After driving a while without seeing any signs and seeing only RVs and dirt bikes, we turned around and went back to where we had seen the red arrow. We drove off road for a while following the arrow but it soon became clear that the ol' Honda Accord wasn't going to make it very far.
We called the library and they described where we were supposed to go and insisted that it was on the R-M road. I should have known better - the descriptions being given were of things - Galileo Park, the Prison, the Silver Saddle Spa and Resort - that were on the Twenty Mule Team Road but instead we went back to the R-M road and continued on the dirt road. It eventually became clear that it wasn't on this road.

The road eventually met up with SR395. We visited three semi-ghost towns - Red Mountain, Johannesburg, and Randsburg (Photos here). All three towns were related to the gold mines in the area. Randsburg had some interesting atmosphere - somewhat geared to the visitor unlike the other towns that were just run down and depressing - but not enough to save this trip.

We went back south on SR395 figuring that we could take Twenty Mule Team road back to California City. We nearly missed the dirt road that was this end of Twenty Mule Team road. The "J" groaned about another dirt road and I decided the ol' Honda might not survive another off road trip. We stayed on SR395 promising to try again on the next 13th that falls on a weekend - 13 January. At the urging of the passengers, I pulled over and let them take Polaroids of the sun to see if Mary was on the SR395. She wasn't ... we think ... The pictures are open to interpretation.
We made our way to SR58 and headed back to Mojave. The wife, the "J", and the "C" all took naps as I headed back. As we approached Rosemond, the wife asked me about another ghost town nearby. We took the Rosamond Blvd. exit and drove to the ghost town of Willow Creek. There isn't much there except for a plaque marking California Historic Landmark #130 and some stone building. As we were reading the plaque from our open car window, a young boy dressed like an Amish with black dress pants, a white shirt, and a wide brimmed hat, came over and asked "Who that?" The "J" ask him who he meant and he just repeated the odd question before walking away. We aren't sure if he had it all going on upstairs.

We left Willow Creek and it's odd little boy and headed south. My plan was to pick up SR138 and head back to I-5. Turns out that in this part of the desert, SR138 is called Avenue D. We had no idea and drove on south until we ran out of road and had to turn left. We drove back to the 14, turned north until we saw SR138 and headed back west to the I-5. If you are following what I am describing, you may realize that we drove a large square in the desert west of Lancaster. Sigh. We made in back home at a reasonable hour of 5:00 pm.

This was a little disappointing. We missed Mary entirely. The four ghost towns were very disappointing. We consoled ourselves with the fact that this was our first failure of a roadtrip and that we would have another chance in January. To top it off, my body was sore from my Cathedral Peak hike and, as I sat in the car for nearly nine hours, I could feel muscles stiffen up. Several muscles was killing me by the time I got home. I guess they all can't be winners.


  1. Glad to read you will try again. Yes, go on Twenty Mule Team (TMT), pass the prison (right), pass a water tower (left), pass Borax Bill "park" (left), and if you pass another water tower (right), turn back, as you just missed the turn off.

    Actually, when you get to Lincoln (turn left, north), you will see a sign (not a supernatural one!)announcing Our Lady of the Rock. If you are fortunate to go in January, you will be among a multitude of thousands, as the 13th will be on a Sunday. You may slowly wind your way among vehicles parked as far down as TMT (some people like to walk up, as a pilgrim); there are side roads on which to park.

    You missed the blue and white flags lining Lincoln for about a mile, but they should be back for January. The main event happens around noon to one o'clock. If you witness the procession from TMT to the site, you will be reminded of such a religious procession in southern Mexico or South America.

    You could buy your lunch from a taco truck.

    You will witness great faith and devotion. As far as photos, well, I would think that if one points a camera westward at that time of day anyway, one would certainly capture something of a natural glare from the sun. It's up to the faithful to decode what shows up.

    Enjoy your second attempt. The desert should be greener then, after more rain.

    The Mojave is quite interesting, in place and mind.

    Oh, if you hang around for days/nights, you might see some truly awesome sights skyward, as that area is between Edwards Air Force Base and China Lake.


  2. donasonora,

    Thank you for the directions. I looked all over the place online but couldn't find directions. I wish I had yours last Saturday but they will come in handy in January.

    Thanks again

    Homer-Dog, The Wife, the "J" and the "C"

  3. Sorry the first journey was such a bummer for you, hopefully the second one will be better.

    Just to add to the list of things to see: Red Rock Canyon State Park is an interesting place in the winter. You can stay overnight in Mojave, but I usually go up to the mountain town of Tehachapi...

  4. GH: I noticed Red Rock Canyon when I was scoping out the area last week. I originally was going to head that way on the way back from Randsburg but decided to head south instead. Maybe in January.