Lancaster–Here in the Antelope Valley, Los Angeles County Meets the Mojave Desert
Over decades the City and County of Los Angeles looked to the San Fernando Valley for expansion; but when that too filled with industry, houses, apartments, malls and more it next looked to the Antelope Valley and Lancaster. Like communities all over the west, Lancaster started as a stop on the railroad and hub and center for local farming.
Now all that has changed once again with Lancaster now serving as the center for Los Angeles County expansion; and thanks to its Freeways and Metro Link railroad, still only one hour away from Los Angeles civic center. Situated at where the Mojave Desert begins, Antelope Valley is nestled between two mountain ranges and still offers vast expanses of land leaving Lancaster and surrounding communities with plenty of space for expansion.
To experience what this expansion has accomplished in the last quarter century Lancaster has established a tourism marketing organization. Called Destination Lancaster it was this Writer’s good fortune to be included in an orientation that was entitled “24-hour Getaway to Los Angeles’ Mojave Desert”. Actually it involved visiting places like modern art and Native American museums, reminders of the Valley’s past . Also a visit to an Ostrich Ranch as well as a refuge for felines from many countries, some on the border of extinction. Then there was a tour past wineries and vineyards, the newest venture in the Valley’s agriculture and a matching expansion in Lancaster’s restaurant scene.
Through the years we often experienced Lancaster as a stopping place en route to the Eastern Sierra but knew little about its local attractions.
Our stay was at the Lancaster Hampton Inn & Suites, much to our delight, since in our travels the last few years we have consistently sought out an Hampton Inn. They offer consistent comfort, style and value. The comfort is there with rooms with ottomans, desks, and all amenities. The value with free WiFi, newspapers, parking and an excellent complimentary breakfast .
Our visit to the Quail Run Ostrich Ranch was a true learning experience. They are the largest of the flightless birds and in flight the third fastest of any species reaching speeds of over 40 miles an hour for long periods of time and distance. There are several sub species with the largest weighing as much as five hundred pounds and as tall as most humans. The Ostriches at the Ranch were quite willing to be photographed and were with abandon.
The Quail Run Ostrich Ranch is open for tours and located at 44420 N. Shaffer Road in Lake Hughes, Ca 93532, Tele. 661-724-1592, web. www.quailrunostrichranch. com.
The Exotic Feline Breeding Conservation Center is dedicated to protection and preservation or the world’s endangered felines. Located in Rosamond just a short distance from Lancaster the center is home to seventy of these cats, ranging from Bob Cats to Tigers. For short it is called the Cat House. In American slang this can have a much different meaning and purpose.
Completely non profit the Feline Center is staffed mostly with docents and was first established in 1977. It has been most successful, both in the breeding of the cats and in attracting public support. We were awed as we watched the feeding of a Tiger from Malaya, which when standing on its hind legs was taller than any of us watching in fascination..
The pens for the cats, especially the large ones, are large and some include a pool as well as hidden dens. One attendant explained that many know and answer to their name. The grounds are well kept and the gift shop most enticing for young people offering a large collection of stuffed animals.
The Cat House is located at 3718 60th Street West, Rosamond, Ca. 93563, Tele. 661 256-3793, web www.cathouse-fcc.org.
The timing for our visit to the Antelope Valley Indian Museum was perfect since it took place during their ‘Holiday on the Homestead” event. This special event takes place at night and includes sipping hot chocolate while sitting around a blazing campfire listening to a cowboy singer regale with classic western songs of the range.
The story of the museum is most interesting and exists thanks to two people. The first was Howard Arden Edwards who built a Swiss style Chalet as a private residence on a picturesque rock formation overlooking the Mojave Desert. Dedicated to finding and collecting Indian artifacts he used this remarkable dwelling as the place to house his findings.
When the Edwards family decided to move on Grace Wilcox Oliver purchased the property since she had an interest in anthropology, and an extensive collection of Indian tools, utensils and art. She operated the Museum as a private enterprise for three decades until the State of California purchased the property and turned it over to the State Parks to administrate in 1979.
Now the Museum is administered by California Parks with aid from many volunteer docents The artifacts cover a long time period and are mostly from the peoples who inhabited southwestern California and the Great Basin. Also studies have shown that the Antelope Valley often served as a trading area where tribes like the Chumash, living on the coastal regions of California, met and traded with the Piute tribes of the Antelope and Inyo valleys as well as the Great Basin.
There is much to see and the docents are great answering your questions Also adjacent is a self guided nature trail which explains the surrounding desert with its Joshua trees and also the San Gabriel Mountains looming in the distance.
Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park is located at 15701 East Avenue M in Lancaster. It is open on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call 661 946-30055, on the web www.avim.parks.gov.
We found a lot to like exploring downtown Lancaster. Light traffic and wide boulevards were a nice relief from the San Fernando Valley crowds. We met with Angela Riley, executive director of Destination Lancaster, and joined her as we viewed the murals along the well planned Lancaster Boulevard with ample space for free parking.
Here we also visited the Museum of Art & History, (MOAH) and was led on a tour by Curator Andi Campogone. We thought the scope of the post war and contemporary art collection outstanding and displayed well the talents of local artists.
Just a few weeks before our visit Andi had produced the Pow! Wow! Festival where local and visiting artists redid or developed new murals on buildings stretching for blocks on Lancaster Boulevard. Here too is located the Aerospace Walk of Honor that recognizes the achievements of some of the pilots from nearby Edwards Air Force Base.. In the six days of Pow! Wow! 25 artists painted 19 walls.
Part of the Lancaster Blvd. downtown scene is Don Sal Cocina & Cantina which is spacious with an attractive bar and lounge, huge dining room of booths and tables and an expanded outdoor patio as well. Don Sal is family owned and also has a successful restaurant in Rosamond. At the Boulevard Restaurant we enjoyed one of the most inclusive buffets we have ever experienced. Actually it included two buffets, one styled as classic American, the second, in a separate area, completely Mexican.
We chose the traditional American buffet which here demanded a truly hearty appetite. We were particularly awed with the selection of desserts and shamelessly made a few trips back for more.
We also viewed the Mexican buffet which included some fifteen separate dishes and entrees.
Added to the scene that included a completely filled restaurant was a six piece Mariachi band, traditionally costumed and a perfect match to a memorable dining experience.
Don Sal Cocina & Cantina is located at 706 W Lancaster Blvd, Lancaster, Ca 93534, Tele., 661 941-2301, web www.donsalcocinacantina.com. Hours lunch Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday Night Karaoke 9 p;.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday Brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Antelope Valley folk still take pride in the truly old west beginnings of ranching and cowboys so the Broken Bit Steakhouse is a perfect match. Here one finds a bar, lounge and restaurant offering the decor and ambiance of the old west while serving classic American cuisine. Steaks here are Black Angus grilled over an oak fire and arrive just as ordered with hint of smoke flavor. The menu is large and includes seafood, chicken, lamb chops and short ribs.
At the bar small batch whiskies are featured along with all traditional cocktails and some craft beers and an excellent selection of wines, some from local wineries..
Our dinner opened with a selection of appetizers that included Quail slices, stuffed peppers and fried Brussel Sprouts, then our Filet Mignon which arrived heaped with mushrooms and with the largest baked potato I’ve seen in a long time.
The choice of other entrees included wood fire grilled salmon, sagebrush chicken or Poblano, stuffed Pobano pepper with goat cheese and rice. The other steak choice was a 10 ounce ribeye.
Just as delightful as the food was the western atmosphere of the restaurant as well as the attentive, efficient staff. We also had the opportunity to meet Chef Jouil Mick and compliment him on his culinary skills.
The Broken Bit is located at 41955 50th Street West in Quartz Hill, Ca. 93536, Tele. 661 943-8228, web www.brokenbitsteakhouse.com. Open for dinner only.
We have traveled many roads in many countries and five continents but we took a ride on our first musical road in Lancaster. Lancaster’s Musical road started as a Honda automobile television commercial where engineers designed cracks and ridges in the roadway to a recognizable song, in this instance the William Tell Overtune. At first it was located on a street inside Lancaster but it soon became so popular with local folk that it soon became a crowded attraction. The alternative was to move that section of road to the outskirts of town which has been done. We took the road and then returned for an encore. This old one well remembered the William Tell as the background music for “The Lone Ranger” radio and TV shows. So I could not resist shouting “Hi Ho, Silver Away”.
EDITOR & PUBLISHER:
Vintages and Vittles Voyages
A NEWSLETTER FEATURING STORIES ON WINE, FOOD AND TRAVEL WRITTEN BY A TEAM OF
PROFESSIONAL SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WRITERS. TIPS AND TIDBITS ON WHERE TO GO
AND WHAT TO EAT, DRINK AND ENJOY WHILE YOU’RE THERE!