Changes in Randsburg
Day Trippin' with Mel
February 18, 2023
Last summer I made a daytrip to Randsburg specifically with the goal of getting a chocolate malt at the General Store there. The town (and the store) has long been a favorite destination of mine as I've been visiting it semi-regularly for over 30 years. Something about the "living ghost town"-in addition to the yummy chocolate malts – just fascinates me.
Over the years I've met several different owners of the General Store, but so much of it remained the same that it's always been like a step back in familiar time to visit it. As one of the former owners told me a few years ago, the store is "exactly the way that it was a hundred years ago; just about everything is original."
I thought it might stay that way forever but alas, if there is one thing we can count on in this life, it's that everything changes.
I met Carol Dyer and Brad Myers (who go by "Carol King" and "Brad Pitt" respectively, just for fun) last summer at the General Store. They are a dynamic duo who are the latest to make a go of the place, and they were doing well. But late last summer the building got sold and the rent got raised and change was in the air. Brad and Carol managed to keep the place open for a few extra months but ultimately the doors closed on the General Store and the couple moved their enterprise a couple of tenths of a mile up the street to 142 Butte, to The Vault.
One cold and cloudy, rainy and sleety and foggy Sunday not long ago, after a big breakfast at Village Grill, I decided to drive to Randsburg to check out The Vault. Happily, before I got to Mojave the clouds cleared and the sky was blue, and the temperature warmed up, and it was a beautiful day to drive through the desert.
I found the new Vault easily and was pleased to see a bunch of bikes and other recreational vehicles parked in front of it (the BLM land around Randsburg is great for off-roaders). In fact, it was such a great day, with temps in the high 50s, there was a lot of activity all over the town.
I was happy to see Carol and Brad again, and glad to see they were busy. The new store is much smaller than the former one ("We moved from 6000 square feet to 1000 square feet," Brad said) but still big enough to serve a full lunch (burgers grilled to order on the grill out front, hot dogs, pizza, pulled pork sandwiches, chips, chili, nachos, pizza, soda and beer). There are 6 tall stools at the long counter, and three tables with chairs inside; outside there is bench seating and picnic tables.
"A lot of our customers have followed us," Brad said. "And I'm really motivated to get more things done around here." Those things include opening Carol's antique shop in the back room and getting ready to serve ice cream delights again.
Carol pointed out an old walk-in mining vault that is off the front corner of the main room. "We'll put shelves and electricity in there, and the milk shake equipment, and we'll call it the malt vault," she said. I jumped for joy, although that all won't be ready for a few more months (a great excuse to plan another daytrip...).
Still too full from breakfast to think about eating lunch, I enjoyed a frozen ice cream bar and the conversation, and then I took a drive up and down all the streets in town. There's always a lot to see (and photograph) on the streets of Randsburg.
If you go, take the 58 east and then go north on the 14. About a mile and a half past Jawbone Canyon, take the "Garlock Johannesburg" turn off to the right (east, onto RedrockRand Rd). In about 12 miles you'll bear right at a Y in the road, toward Randsburg (still on RedrockRand). About 10 miles more on that road and you'll find yourself in downtown Randsburg, such as it is.
There are three paved streets in Randsburg – Burma, Butte, and Lexington – and Butte is the main street, the one in the middle. It is also the location of the businesses still going: The Vault, a bar called The Joint, the Randsburg Museum, the Cottage Hotel Bed & Breakfast, and several antique and junk stores. I like to drive all the streets to see the way people decorate (or don't) their homes. It seems like anything goes in Randsburg and I love the way the residents make it interesting,
Most of the shops are only open on weekends – Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays – so take that into consideration if you go. And be aware that Randsburg is a great gathering spot for off-roading enthusiasts and RVers during the weekends and holidays. Also note: it can get downright hot in the summer months so now is a good time to go, even when the weather ain't so great in Tehachapi.
© 2023 Mel Makaw. Mel is a local writer and photographer, and an avid day-tripper; she welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.