We ended up staying at Moaning Cavern for a full year! We’d come for a summer job, stayed for a fall wedding, wintered over because it was too late to find a job down South, dealt with a few medical ickys, and agreed to one last summer season. Then we told the owner it was time to move on. When he reluctantly agreed to let us out of his parking lot he asked what we wanted to do next. We surprised him by telling him we wanted to explore more caves!
With his blessing and recommendation we headed to the beautiful Caverns of Sonora, Texas. The irony that amused many of our friends and us as well, was that the first time we escaped the area we had been living in Sonora, California!
We took a month to get from Northern California to West, Texas. Believe me it takes a dedicated scenery watcher to make that happen! We took the least traveled roads, of course, and if there was something to stop and look at we stopped and looked. We saw every historical marker, funny sign, oddly shaped cactus and anybody’s homemade pie! We certainly didn’t hurry. This was our down time and there are not many areas that can produce much less stress than I-40 and Route 66! (Well, if you don’t worry about what the awful crumbling road might do to your vehicle that is.)
Some RVers pride themselves in how far they can travel in a single day. They wake up at dawn, pull out of the KOA and hit the interstate. Ten hours later they pull into another KOA and go to bed. At the end of a month they go home and add a series of states to their window map. Those folks seem to have missed the meaning of the words RV stand for; Recreational Vehicle. We take a very different view. We like to brag about our shortest day.
We left an overnight at Wally World and headed for the highway debating whether the bumps on I-40 might be less than the bumps on RT. 66. We were sitting at an intersection a mile from Wal-Mart when we spotted a sign reading “Calico Ghost Town - 8 miles”. No questions asked, we headed for Calico.
Maybe the rest of the year Calico was a ghost town but not that Sunday! That was the second day of their annual festival. Thousands of people had come from as far away as San Diego and Oklahoma City to take part in dog shows, watermelon eating contests, dirt digging contests, and Strong Man competitions.
Then there’s the Mule Race. This has to be the funniest race you’ll ever watch. Rules say no riding them but you can push them, pull them, bribe them, coax them, sweet-talk them, not-so-sweet-talk them (but only when there are no children present) or anything else you can think up to get them around a course that covers the entire town. It goes down hills, through rocky areas, through a mandatory water obstacle (mules HATE water) up a steep hill and then down the main street past thousands of cheering onlookers!
But the best part: THE BEARD Contests.
I never knew that there are men (and the women who love them) who follow beard competitions all over the country and, in fact, all over the globe ! They seem to have a competition for every form of facial hair. Best Mustache, Curliest mustache, Longest mustache, Neatest, Thickest, Funniest .
And then the real thing- The Beards: Fuzziest, Grungiest, Neatest, Most Distinguished, Curliest, Wildest, Shortest beard, (won that day by a teenager who had begun a soul patch 3 days before) and Longest.
Big Jim didn’t need a lot of coaxing to enter the contest. His last day at the radio station in 2002 had been his last day to shave his then neatest and most distinguished beard. So he got up there with 11 other men, one of whom had come from San Diego to claim his 4th annual rosette for the longest beard.
Big Jim won by ¾ of an inch! His 11 ½ inch long winner had knocked out the 4 X champion!
Then, since it was 5 PM and the festival was over, we drove down to the bottom of the hill and camped at the Calico camp ground, right next to the Calico Cemetery. We had gone exactly 9 miles!
See ya down the road,