Slippery When Wet
The story of Calico Canyon 1994
By Montego Bay, field reporter
It was a dark Friday night in March of ’94. when the Roughwheelers headed out from the usual place at the usual time. 11 vehicles,16 people; Fearless & Rhonda, Keith, Victor, Rooster, Patti & Paul, Gagetman, Ed & Mary, Hotshot & Stephanie, Dan, Montego, and guests Steve & Carol in their new Toyota truck (Although they hadn’t been out with us before, it seemed like we’d known them for a long time already).
Rooster had the first mechanical breakdown when his CB speaker went out. Through a series of daring maneuvers (daring to the drivers in the lanes next to him?) Rooster managed to get his speaker reconnected without having to stop. It’s always good to have a tail-end-Charlie that can hear. Keith brought Sandy’s CB, so we didn’t have to use channel 9 this time. Thanks Sandy.
After a gas stop in Barstow, we headed out to the “campground” at Calico. After a few false turns, we settled down on a semi-flat spot in a canyon perfect for flash flooding. It sort of looked like the road, but we knew the difference. I woke up in the night many times because the rain was raining so loud and the wind kept rattling my tent zipper. The perfect way to get ready for what was going to turn into a perfect day.
Saturday morning was damp, but sunny & not raining. The desert smelled sweet like wet sage. People who set up their tents on tarps regretted it because the tarp acted like a funnel and the rain flowed right under the tent. Oh well, don’t do it like that again, (if you must put a tarp under the tent, fold it so no tarp sticks out from underneath).
After a 9am driver’s meeting where no information was exchanged, we all followed Fearless into the first canyon. The route included some dirt roads, a few chewed up half paved ones, and lots of bumpy rocks to drive over. We drove into canyons, over hills, and into more canyons. The going was pretty slow though, and it took all day to cover about 25 miles. We might have covered more ground if everybody didn’t need so many P stops. Must have been some strong coffee! About 10:30 or 11, after we had driven through a natural rock arch, (neat!) the rain started up . Sometimes it would sprinkle, sometimes it would rain, and sometimes it was nice & sunny. I was busy putting on my jacket then taking it off again all day. The rain was ok, except it made the rocks all slippery and hard to get a tire grip on.
What was billed as a “true kick back run, even Vic can go” turned into a nasty, slippery treacherous struggle to clamber up & down narrow canyons. Most of the group avoided bashing the steep canyon walls, but almost a third of the group suffered some sort of body damage. But it was fun. We were all surprised when the Roostermobile made it up a tough stretch, first time. Must have been that it was so easy after we built a freeway for him. Tow straps came in handy all day. Even Montego’s Montero got high centered a few times. But with a lot of advice, direction, and careful rock placement (usually under tires), we all made it all the way through with a perfect record – no fatalities. Talk about bumpy roads! Good thing dents under the vehicle don’t count. One thing was clear, no wimp wheeler could have made it on this run.
We had a long lunch, and checked out some miners caves. The caves were especially handy when it started really pouring rain for awhile. The caves were big & airy, with the ceilings black with smoke from years of cooking fires. There were mines dug all over the place. In the late afternoon we played on a steep hill, and Patti bravely tried to show us the right way to stand a truck on it’s nose.
The damage list included; Steve & Carol for tweaking the front left bumper on their brand new truck (congratulations!), also Victor, Montego, and anyone else who listened to Fearless & went down the left side & hit the same rock with the left front. After I got my bumper pulled out of the tire, things looked a little better. Keith whacked the left back of his top on a canyon wall, and had a problem with his nut that made him lose power until it finally got twisted properly. And I got a mud flap yanked off and a few scratches too. Too bad, because we played in the mud before going back to camp. Walter showed us how to drive sideways, but I doubt that had anything to do with the loud hole in his muffler that appeared when his mud started falling off the next day.
On the bright side, Ed didn’t drive off any cliffs, and Keith didn’t back up into anyone. Nobody told Patti to get out of the driver’s seat, Paul didn’t have to memorize any new songs, Rooster barely had his hood up, and nobody’s brakes went out or wore out their front hubs. Camp didn’t seem to be exactly where we left it, but at least it wasn’t raining when we got there an hour before sunset. That was enough time for people to dry out their tents and make some dinner. The fire was started early, mostly so we’d have something to drink Tequila around, but a few folks actually cooked over it. I’m happy to report that the Roughwheelers read the trip sheet & just about everybody brought at least one bottle of the happy stuff that makes you shudder & make faces when you drink it. The rain-soaked firewood smoked and smoked, despite the brave, selfless efforts of a few who tried to do something about it. Somehow Rooster got a rock-sized hole in his tent, but we’re not going to talk about that. Must of been a manufacturing defect or something. To everyone’s complete surprise, history was changed forever, we did see Bob Hughes drunk, or at least that’s what he said. Some people still aren’t so sure. But we all liked the aerial fireworks he shot out of his nifty fireworks gun. Good thing we didn’t have any whiny neighbors!
Saturday night came and went, leaving a sunny Sunday in it’s place. Victor & Steve spent most of the morning airing up everybody with nitrogen. We woke up late and putt putted over to the Calico Ghost Town Tourist Recreation Area. I don’t know how many photos were taken, but it was a lot. Calico Ghost Town is pretty touristed out, and sort of hoakey, in a small gift-shop town sort of way, but we had a great time, eating pizzas and drinking our beverages. The horseshoes tourney came after that. You know, it’s amazing; the ghost town was $5 to park, $2.25 to see the mine, and a $1.25 for something else memorable, (but I forget what)… But horseshoes,…. is free. Go figure. I won’t say who won the games, but Montego was giving lessons. *Watch out over there!* And a grand time was had by all and there were plenty of laughs to go around. You folks that didn’t make it for this trip were missed (you know who you are), so try and make it next time, OK?