Wednesday 4 May 2016

Road Trip Diary: Big Bear Lake and Calico

Today marks one year since we jetted off to America for three months and can you believe we still haven't written all of our blog posts about it?! Efficient we are not. 
We're coming to my favourite part now though, the desert and our first stop on the way there: Big Bear.

Day 64
Santa Barbara to Big Bear Lake
Monday 6th July 2015

Moving inland from the Californian coast over the San Bernardino Mountains felt like a new stage of our journey. Looking back now, after having nine months to contemplate, it definitely felt like we were moving into the last part of the trip, the beginning of the end and a return back to routine and normality.
It sounds melancholy but as our trip headed from the sea to the mountains in the south east of California and skirted the eastern fringes of Los Angeles, it slowly dawned on us that we only had 16 days left.
We climbed the 2,000 metres above sea level up the winding Highway 18, aptly named the Rim of the World Highway. Throughout the journey we received emergency alerts on our phones from the local authorities warning us of flash floods but apart from a few puddles we didn’t encounter anything. Big Bear and its corresponding lake are big players during the winter season when it becomes the ski destination for Southern California. During the summer though, it was quiet and had the air of an out of season holiday village. We parked up at our motel, a sort of ski chalet with motel rooms called Honey Bear Lodge, and walked down the street into the centre of town. 
We ate ice cream by the lake and took in the view and the sunshine and decided to drive to the local Ralphs for a couple of microwave meals for dinner. Not all travel is glamorous, especially when you're on a budget!

Day 65
Big Bear Lake to Desert Hot Springs
Tuesday 7th July 2015

We left Big Bear early as we knew it was going to be a scorcher, somewhere in the 90's Fahrenheit wise and we wanted to visit Calico, a tourist trap mining 'Ghost Town, just outside Barstow on Interstate 15. For $8/adult, you'll gain entry to a once-prosperous town that was abandoned after the silver they were mining lost its value. It was bought up in the 1950's by theme-park mogul Water Knott (him of Knott's Berry Farm fame) and restored to some of it's former glory.

It feels quite authentic, even though some of the signage is a little bit too theme park-esque and the attention to detail in some of the buildings- the dresses hanging in one of the stores look like Edwardian originals- is impressive. All in all, definitely worth the entry fee but be warned: if it's a hot day, the climb up to the top of the hill is a killer!

For lunch we headed to the famous pastel Peggy Sue's diner, a few minutes away from Calico on the aptly named Ghost Town Road. Firstly, look at it. It's bloody amazing and just as kitsch and weird inside as it is on the outside. It's typical diner food but decent prices, portions, the epic surroundings, dinosaur park and revolving cake cabinet make it a memorable stop if you love any of those things!

We headed off to find our next stop and that's where we'll pick up from in our next post...


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