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Eccentric Travel: A California Desert Road Trip Leads Us to Randsburg

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Randsburg, California Desert Road Trip, Eccentric Travel, Desert USA

 

A road trip through the California desert tends to yield some amazing (and often eccentric) things. The views can span miles when the weather is cool and clear. The colors of the shifting sands are shockingly vibrant, particularly during sunset and sunrise. And then there are the ghost towns and near ghost towns – those surprising remnants of days gone by – that draw the curious and the wanderers. Randsburg, California is one of those places.

It was Andy who discovered Randsburg years ago, and his tales always intrigued me. So, when we planned a trip out to Death Valley to go wildflower hunting, he suggested a slight detour. I have to admit, I’m now completely intrigued, and I hope that we get a chance to go back and spend the night.

Map, Randsburg, California Desert Road Trip, Eccentric Travel, Desert USA

 

Back in the late 1800s, gold was discovered in the nearby Rand Mine, and like most discoveries of the time, it spurred the immediate development of a mining camp. The town of Rand Camp (now Randsburg) was born. As the story often went, when the boom mining stopped, the town slowly shrank. According to the most recent census in 2010, Randsburg had a population of 69 (but only around 38 of them are full-time residents).

A fair number of the original structures are standing, and there are probably more tourists who pass through here in a month than residents. Still, it’s a wild experience to be able to grab ice cream at the old general store or contemplate the famous banana split from a soda fountain that is well over 100 years old. There’s a hotel, a saloon that looks like a “must” and numerous small shops and galleries. There is even a museum here should you have some time to linger. But you should probably visit on the weekends because many of the points of interest are closed during the week.

Randsburg, California Desert Road Trip, Eccentric Travel, Desert USA

Randsburg, California Desert Road Trip, Eccentric Travel, Desert USA

Randsburg, California Desert Road Trip, Eccentric Travel, Desert USA

Randsburg, California Desert Road Trip, Eccentric Travel, Desert USA

Randsburg, California Desert Road Trip, Eccentric Travel, Desert USA
Every September sees the return of the Randsburg Old West Days. As the name implies, you can see some “Old West” gun fights, re-enactments and enjoy some great live music. There are car shows and elements like crafts, antiques, and loads of other vendors that make this street fair a much anticipated annual event. This year, the event is scheduled to be held on September 16, 2017. It’s technically free, but the event is held in support of the museum.

Randsburg, California Desert Road Trip, Eccentric Travel, Desert USA, old car

Randsburg, California Desert Road Trip, Eccentric Travel, Desert USA

 

I’m fascinated by these living ghost towns. It’s not only the history that they represent (though those links always grab my attention), but the people who choose to continue to be part of them that intrigue. Do they stay because it has always been home? How does day-to-day life work in a town that is not only short of residents and services but set in a desert? I suppose the general store and the saloon stay fairly lively, but I’m so curious about other aspects of life here. Or am I assuming a difference in lifestyle when it’s possible that the Internet means that life in a living desert ghost town isn’t all that much different than life in any small town? These are questions I hope to answer on our next trip to Randsburg.

Do you love visiting ghost towns?

 

Randsburg, California Desert Road Trip, Eccentric Travel, Desert USA, ghost towns, old car

32 Comments on Eccentric Travel: A California Desert Road Trip Leads Us to Randsburg

  1. I would love to visit Randsburg. I haven’t really been to any ghost towns, I would love to check it out when I go to the US. Even though my country Norway has towns where no residents basically it is not like this at all, where stuff are just left there from the old days. Seems so fascinating 😀

    • PatriciaSteffy // August 9, 2017 at 1:33 pm // Reply

      We love them! There are so many mining towns in California that were abandoned after the mines went bust. It’s always a surprise at how much was left behind.

  2. Wow! I have never heard of this place and really want to go now! I am a huge fan of towns that have a Western theme and this one certainly does 🙂 I can’t believe the population is only 69. I went on a Cali road trip last year and stopped by a Western town called Lone Pine. Have you been to that one?
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    • PatriciaSteffy // August 9, 2017 at 4:15 pm // Reply

      Yes! We had lunch in Lone Pine on the way back to LA from Benton Hot Springs (another one of these ghost towns). Definitely had that western charm!

  3. Megan Indoe // August 9, 2017 at 4:59 pm // Reply

    We have only ever been to the Calico Ghost Town on our way back from Vegas, I had no idea this one existed not to far from Los Angeles. We should totally check it out. I love how you described it and it really does seem like such a fun place to photograph.

    • PatriciaSteffy // August 9, 2017 at 5:30 pm // Reply

      Now I want to see the Calico Ghost Town! I’m so fascinated with these places. They are such an intriguing link to the past. So many lives were once tied to these places, and then they seemed to have disappeared, almost overnight.

  4. Ghost towns are one of the coolest things about taking adventures out west! I’ve never heard of this one but it sounds like a great visit! This would definitely be a fun place to shoot some kitschy old-style portraits! I’ll have to check this out the next time I’m in the LA area! The old Saloon looks darling!
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  5. This is so cool! I’ve never visited a legit ghost town, but would love to. I love a good road trip that ends up having a spontaneous detour.

    • PatriciaSteffy // August 10, 2017 at 1:59 am // Reply

      I think that is one of the reasons I love road trips in California so much. The chances of detouring into one of these fascinating towns are high! So many boom and bust towns that remain on the fringe.

  6. Sandy N Vyjay // August 10, 2017 at 2:01 am // Reply

    Randsburg sounds fascinating. Always charmed by these towns which were the centre of the Gold Rush. Immediately Mckennas Gold came to mind. The beauty of road trips is that they enable you to discover these treasures, though not neccessarily Gold!

  7. As a fan of the American narrative and the westward migration, I love the idea of Ghost Towns. The general store facade is so retro, wish that things in our era had as much character as hand painted store fronts and rusting post offices!

    • PatriciaSteffy // August 10, 2017 at 2:53 am // Reply

      It really does feel like we step into a different world in these towns — so many stories, so many lives that were part of something that is vanishing.

  8. Wow, what a great road trip that you guys owned here. I love the fact that there are car shows and elements like crafts, antiques, and loads of other vendors on the street during September. It seems that it is lively and full of life. I love that you have included the interesting stuff about this place. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    • PatriciaSteffy // August 10, 2017 at 3:13 pm // Reply

      Randsburg Days must be so wild compared to every day life there. Just the volume of people alone must make the place feel so different.

  9. A road trip is my thing and travelling through California will be an enhanced experience. Nice post!!

  10. I love road trips but I always wanted to visit a town like this. I love Wild Wild West towns. SO I am defo ticking this place off when I get round to my Cali road trip 🙂
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  11. We do photography and these ghost towns look perfect for a photo shoot! Especially at sunset time! I am heading to Cali in October so maybe we can take advantage then 😉

    • PatriciaSteffy // August 12, 2017 at 6:47 pm // Reply

      There are so many great ghost towns out in the desert. You’ll find some amazing spots for photo shoots!

  12. GHost towns are one of the interesting places to visit. I love exploring areas like this.
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  13. I am going on a road trip to California in september so this will be very useful 🙂

  14. That seems to be great road trip. Would love to know more about ghost towns. Is it possible to stay there for tourist. In India too, we have some ghost towns but only day trip is allowed there.

    • PatriciaSteffy // August 13, 2017 at 9:02 pm // Reply

      You can stay in Randsburg as a tourist. There is an old hotel right in the middle of town. I’m hoping we get a chance to check it out soon. 🙂

  15. Love a good ghost town! Randsburg looks like a great Cali example. The Randsburg Old West Days must be quite fun too, especially with kids.

    • PatriciaSteffy // August 14, 2017 at 7:03 pm // Reply

      Randsburg Old West Days must be quite a shock to the locals — having so many people in town all of a sudden must be crazy!

  16. I have been to a few ghost towns, but nothing as picturesque as Randsburg. It looks like it could be a movie set from Cars – my kids would love it! I’m curious about the accommodation options – thanks for sharing.
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    • PatriciaSteffy // August 16, 2017 at 3:49 am // Reply

      Lodgings in that area are very limited. From what I can tell, there is only one hotel-ish place in town. You can stay further out and there is camping near there. I’m very curious what they do for the big festival in September. With so many people coming, they must have places set up for them to stay, unless they are coming in from Death Valley.

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