Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rocks, Bottles, & Ostrich Eggs: An Epic Adventure Day

My very favorite days are adventure days!  Sometimes they are born of boredom, when we hop in the car with absolutely no direction and go where the wind takes us.  Other times they are planned in great detail, with a trunk full of snacks, a cooler full of drinks, good friends, and an itinerary eight pages long.

The itinerary, as thoughtfully prepared by Amber.

As I mentioned in my last post, we spent a wonderful Saturday with our friends Amber & Bobby, on an exploration of the high desert of Southern California.  Fortunately, the weather was ideal, breezy and hot - but it was a dry heat!!!  Hopefully you're in a comfortable chair because this is a very picture-heavy post.

Adventure day begins...with bagels in Bob & Amber's cool kitchen.


Our first stop of the trip was Mormon Rocks at The Cajon Pass, so named because of the significant rock formations, created by shifts in the San Andreas Fault, and noted by the Mormon Pioneers as they made their way from Salt Lake City to Southern California.

To me, the most fascinating part of these rock formations was their appearance.
Now I'm no geologist, but I guess it is the extreme, windy conditions of
the area, that, over time, have created the pitted, pock-marked, but
 very smooth, round shape of the rock faces.  At such a stress point along
 a major fault line, I expected a much more craggy, fractured appearance.

And that concludes our "Rock Formations for Dummies" lesson.

Amber was a surprise to me on our adventure.
I never would have pegged her as the type to turn over every
single rock that we saw, looking for scorpions and snakes.  We
were expecting to see at least one snake because according to
our local news, this is "a record rattle snake year."

Much to Mary's dismay, the only wildlife we saw was this tiny lizard.

I took my orders from our fearless leader, Bob.
He was an Eagle Scout, you know.

Amber was pretty certain that every rock she picked
up was either an arrow head or a centuries-old fossil.
This one definitely was...a rock!

I'm not sure at what angle I took this photo, but for some reason it minimizes
 the rather treacherous angle of the rock face.  Trust me, this guy was
 a real climber!

This formation is called the "Happily Ever After Rock."
Not by anyone else, I just thought it would make Amber & Bob feel special.

Yeah, we hiked...kind of...


Our next stop was the Route 66 Museum.  There was a car club there that I was foolish enough to not get pictures of even after one of the ladies snapped a photo of Amber and kept looking for "that blonde hussy," Mary, so she could get a picture of her too!  I also didn't get a single picture of their cars.  Thanks to Paul & Larry, volunteers at the Museum, I found a picture of us on their Facebook page!

Bob, Amber, Mary, and Mr. Tiny
(courtesy of the California Route 66 Museum)

Brownie was a stray dog that lived along the Santa Fe Railroad Line and was
adopted by the train engineers.  He was the unofficial mascot of the
station and faithfully greeted returning soldiers until one day he got
in the way of the 5:15.

The museum is filled with all kinds of authentic Route 66 artifacts including
cars, trailers, and water bags.  My favorites are the signs!

An awesome sign for Mahan's Hulavlle

The Hula Girl

After the museum, we took off on a helicopter ride over the
beautiful high desert of Southern California.
Or maybe this is really just a scale model of downtown Victorville.

The facilities were primitive, but effective.

I saw first hand, during our Route 66/Grand Canyon Tour
 last year, that Burma-Shave signs still exist along Route 66.

A fully-outfitted teardrop trailer


Ostriches are weird and scary.  According to legend, that I may or may not have made up in my own imagination, they can disembowel you with one angry kick.  They are definitely prehistoric in origin and they don't smell particularly good.  Therefore, it was strange that I was so happy to be around them and take their pictures.  Could you imagine seeing one in the wild?  The weirdest bird that we have in my neighborhood is the eccentric lady down the street who built a wall around her front yard so she can sunbathe in the nude...and sometimes we see those wild parrots that make so much noise.

My favorite ostrich face of the day!!!
This guy was so cartoony!

Their beaks are constantly opening and closing (recreating the sound of that coconut shell horse gallop) and their mouths are full of some kind of phlegm that is probably due to seasonal allergies and the arid desert climate.  I was pretty sure they were saving it up to spit on me.  Amber, in another surprising turn of events, was not afraid at all!

How much do I love this photo?
Mere words are not enough.  With the right filters, wouldn't this
look like some 50's Kodachrome dream of your crazy aunt on a roadtrip
 to California?

Yep, they're doing exactly what you think they are doing.
I've seen more of an ostrich than I ever wanted to see.


The glory that is Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch is beyond description.  This one spot alone, would have made our trek worthwhile.  The only disappointing part was the absence of Elmer.  We were assured by our pals at the Route 66 Museum that if Elmer was there, he would come out and chat about his ever-evolving masterpiece - no such luck!  But the presence and inspiration of Elmer could be seen and felt everywhere!

No bottle, or piece of scrap lumber is immune to repurposing
 on the bottle tree ranch - even this outhouse seat!

Even though Elmer wasn't home, music was being piped
in through the rusted front end of a car or tractor.

I've always wondered - when the Santa Ana Winds start howling through,
 is it just like one big, never-ending jug band?

Elmer says, "I may not always make bottle trees,
but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis."

Happy to be lost in the bottle tree forest!

We were told that Elmer scoured all of the local dumps
 for pieces that could be used in his creations.
But where did he find the torpedo???

Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch is an homage to the long-gone, Mahan's Half Acre Hulaville.  The signs for the defunct bottle tree forest can be seen above (they are on display at the Route 66 Museum).

A carousel pony high atop a tree made of vintage,
glass insulators


Our ultimate destination was Nelson Studios.  Amber told us that her dad found this abandoned studio lot on one of his adventure days and had since taken them back to explore the grounds.  Relics of long-forgotten films litter the premises and offer a look into a place that is very difficult to research.

Amber just kept surprising me.
I dared her to sit in this filthy, sun-baked, louse-ridden
Barcalounger that had been there for who knows how long
...and she did it!!!

The main building on the lot seemed like it was more of a storage space than a
sound stage.  The building is about 1/8 of a mile long and is filled with crumbling
 statuary, architectural plans, fiberglass molds, old pop cans, and assorted odds and ends.

The corrugated metal roof had been blown off (or removed for scrap) since
 Bob & Amber's last visit.  I'm actually glad; it made creeping around in there
 a lot less creepy because the space was flooded with natural light.


The property is covered in stone, cement, plaster, and fiberglass figures that were presumably used as set pieces or ???  Almost every item is in pieces, but there was so much to examine and discover that we decided early on to save some room in the trunk for mementos from our visit.

This sea serpent/fish body was cool, but we couldn't find the head.

This mantle/fireplace surround was beautiful but much too big to fit in the trunk.

Our favorite piece of all was the gargoyle, but it was far too heavy, not to mention cemented into the ground, to realistically excavate and bring home.  We had to settle for taking our pictures with it.

I make apologies for neither my poses nor  my hair on adventure day!!!

A Mary-atid
(Art/Architecture history nerds will get that one)
Mary decided on this partial face.
I took some reliefs of horses heads that looked like
they were part of a larger frieze.

I will leave you to draw your own conclusions on this particular artifact,
which was mercifully left in the dust for some other scavenger.

It was funny being at Nelson Studios because all of the remaining
 design elements were Greco-Roman and Egyptian in style, so
 we really got the feeling that we were digging through ancient ruins.

Who's to say we didn't just hop a flight to ancient Greece?

 There is not one complete building on the whole of the grounds; some
were demolished, some ransacked, some left to the ravages of weather and time,
 and some were burned.  Here's a tip: when the fire starts burning, don't waste
 time looking up the number for the fire department; just dial 9-1-1!!!

Amber, Mary, and Bob stand on a bridge that
crosses what was once a man-made lake. 

Apparently it was deep enough to film water scenes or at least
float around in a row boat on a lazy summer day.

One of the buildings on the property was encrusted in bricks,
mortar, and stucco.  Upon further inspection, it became clear
 what the building was - a 1960's mobile home that had a
facade built around it.  The Hollywood tradition of smoke
 and mirrors continues!!!  The original refrigerator and
 wallpaper were left unchanged.

Groovy wallpaper...

Sadly, I couldn't gather much information on Robert Nelson or his studios in one of my famously perfunctory Google searches.  The only thing I could find was a picture of the studio's water tower on someone's tumblr.  One of the comments on the photo indicated that the studio was in operation into the mid- 90's and that old man Nelson was eccentric, kind, and rich in not much more than interesting stories.

According to locals, The Ace Motel is the place where
Robert Nelson spent his final days, penniless and alone.
The sign looks very similar to the Green Spot Motel
 sign found at the Route 66 Museum.

Was that enough adventure for you or what?  I hope it wasn't too much because I even left out a few minor stops AND we still have a couple more posts from our epic adventure day.  Thanks Bob and Amber for a wonderful day!  I hope that she's already hard at work on the itinerary for our next adventure!!!

"Donald's Ostrich" (1937)

* On an entirely unrelated note, we are closing in on 100 followers - not a huge number for some of you big-time bloggers out there, but extremely surprising and gratifying for us here at wacky tacky!  When we reach 100 followers, we are going to sponsor our very first GIVEAWAY (details to follow)!  So, please encourage your friends to follow us here and on facebook.  Thanks for following and participating!


Mr. Tiny


  1. You are blowing my mind with this post. Both with that itinerary and Nelson Studios - wowee!

    1. The itinerary, right? Amber will be in charge of planning all of our adventures from now on!! I can't wait for the next one!

  2. What a fun day! Very interesting about Nelson Studios, especially for those of us far away from CA :)

    1. Thanks Jana! I love find interesting places close to makes the everyday stuff less boring!!

  3. you are totally right about them thar ostriches. once when i was little we went to the zoo and one of them thangs ate the zoo map right out of my daddy's hand! true story.

    1. Ostriches are weird!!! And according to the cartoon, ostriches are exactly like cartoon goats and will eat anything!!!

  4. Wow, what an adventure!! I hope you had lots of water......

    1. Oh, Anon, you must me omniscient, water was at a premium in the desert...especially with certain parties drinking far more than their fair share!!! Fortunately, we survived the broiling desert sun and made it back to tell the tale!

  5. Okay this is so awesome! LOVE! Those ostriches, I think they will spit on you. What absolutely cool places! I need to go to Nelson Studios, that is the most amazing thing! To think stuff is just sitting out there and no one knows, so awesome

    1. I am ready to go back with a U-Haul and do some serious "excavating." Our friends said there used to be even better stuff, but other picker types have had their way. It was definitely a cool place to spend an afternoon.

  6. Thanks for this post! I stumbled across Nelson Studios yesterday ont eh way back from Big Bear. We stopped because there is a Geocache there but we couldn't find it. If the little kid wasn't asleep and the big kid didn't have to pee I would have loved to gone back there and done more exploring! I thought it weird that the gate was padlocked shut!!

    1. Isn't that hilarious, a heavily-padlocked gate with no fence to support its efforts in keeping out trespassers?! I kept thinking someone would care that we were tromping all over the grounds, but in retrospect, I'm sure that they couldn't give a flying leap! Next time you're out that way, definitely leave some time for exploration! Thanks for checking out wacky tacky!