Friday, March 29, 2013

RonnieAdventure #0048 - Mojave National Preserve, San Bernardino County, California

If you are looking for solitude, look no further and head for the Mojave National Preserve in San Bernardino County, California. At 1,538,015 acres, you are not going to see a lot of people, and the number of people you do see drops exponentially with the distance from a paved road.

With the passage of the California Desert Protection Act of 1994, the Preserve lands were created from lands previously managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an Agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).

Spread throughout the Preserve are numerous old wagon trails, ghost towns, homesteads and remnants of mining activities. Elevations in the Preserve vary from 880 feet to 7,929 feet, so visitors to the area need to be prepared for all types of weather conditions because weather conditions change quickly and without a lot of warning. Any off-road travel in the Preserve should only be attempted with a 4-wheel drive vehicle that is in good condition. If stranded, the buzzards may find you before the Park Rangers do. Oh! And by the way, be sure to have a full tank of gas, as there are no gas stations within the 1,538,015 acre Preserve.

Some of the more notable natural features in the area include Cima Dome, Kelso Sand Dunes, Marl Mountains, Hole-in-the-Wall, and Cinder Cone Lave Beds. The old Kelso railroad depot has been restored and is now the Preserve’s Visitor Center. The Preserve is also known for its numerous stands of Joshua Trees, which are some of the largest in the world.

Although surrounded by the Preserve, Providence Mountains State Recreation Area and Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve are both managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Unfortunately, Mitchell Caverns is now indefinitely closed to the public.

Cima Dome is very symmetrical and was formed deep under the Earth’s surface 80-180 million years ago when the Farallon Plate was being subducted beneath the North American Plate. At its widest point, the Dome is a little over 10 miles in diameter and covers about 70-square miles. The total elevation change above the desert floor is about 1,500 feet, but the rise is so symmetrical that the elevation lines on a topographical map resemble the rings of a bull’s eye on a target.

 Looking at West Side of Cima dome
Cima Dome Topographical Map
Joshua Tree forest on north side of Cima Dome
Abandoned Homestead in the Preserve
Cellar at Abandoned Homestead
"Looking for Water"
The below-listed pictures taken in 2003 are from a visit to Mitchell Caverns.

Mojave Yucca at Entrance to Mitchell Caverns

Friday, March 22, 2013

RonnieAdventure #0047- Nipton & Walking Box Ranch, California / Nevada

Situated at the northeast corner of the Mojave National Preserve is the unincorporated metropolis of Nipton, California (population 60).

In the 1870s, the only improvements in this area were two wagon trails that crossed in a remote section of the Mojave Desert; then, in 1900 a gold seeker staked a mining claim at the junction and called the mine Nippeno. Other miners took up residence at the crossroads and they soon started calling the community Nippeno Camp. The town became the social center in the area for miners and ranchers and at one time Nippeno Camp had a school, post office, railroad depot, and a number of businesses. Then, in 1910, when the SP, LA & SL rail lines merged with Union Pacific railroad, the town’s name was change to Nipton to sound more sophisticated.

In the 1920s Hollywood celebrities started coming to the area to stay at the Walking Box Ranch that was owned by movie stars Clara Bow and Rex Bell and located just a few miles from Nipton. Clara and Rex loved to throw lavish parties at the ranch and Hollywood celebrities like Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, and Errol Flynn found the Walking Box Ranch a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Hollywood. 

However, as the mines faded into the sunset, so did Nipton. In 1985 the town of Nipton was sold to a private enterprise in an attempt to retain some of the original buildings. Then, a new type of gold was discovered in Nipton – the California State Lottery. Nipton is located just west of the California/Nevada state line and was the closest location for Las Vegas residents to purchase lottery tickets. Soon, Nipton reached notoriety for the most lottery ticket sales in California. Unfortunately, when a new store that sold lottery ticket opened on the California side of the state line in Primm, Nevada, Nipton lost its number one ranking because Primm was easier and faster to get to for Las Vegas residents.

Nipton is now, however, redeveloping itself as the “Gateway to the Mojave National Preserve,” and the community advertises itself to people from all over the world as an eco-tourism mecca. In 2010 the community installed a solar-powered generator to provide most of the town’s electricity and eco-cabins for overnight accommodations were constructed. Other attractions to Nipton include the original five-room hotel that has been remodeled, a travel-trailer park, the original general store (now called the Nipton Trading Post), free water and free public rest rooms. In the evenings one can sit on the front porch of the hotel and watch the trains go by and enjoy the beautiful front yard between the hotel and the railroad tracks as the sun sits over the mountains. There is even a cafĂ© in town that advertises they have the best hamburgers in Nipton (when they are open). Wi-Fi is available in the general store for those that want to stay connected! Now is the time to plan your next vacation and beat the rush to Nipton!

 Eco-Cabin (Typical)
5-Room Hotel
Hotel Front Porch
Hotel Front Yard
General Store
General Store
Town Wi-Fi Center
Street Sign
Town Art on Display
Town Art on Display
Free Town Water
Free Public Restrooms

The last time I visited the Walking Box Ranch was in 2004, and then in 2006 the Ranch was purchased by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to be jointly managed with the University of Nevada. The Ranch is now closed to the public for renovations, but below are some pictures from 2004.

 Main Ranch House
Dinning Area
Family Room
Master Bedroom
Typical Guest Room

Friday, March 15, 2013

RonnieAdventure #0046 - Zzyzx, San Bernardino County, California

Interstate 15 Exit to Zzyzx 

Most people traveling on Interstate 15 between Las Vegas and Los Angeles are perplexed when they see the exit sign to “Zzyzx.” Some people think the sign is a Government secret code dealing with Area 51, or maybe a directional sign for aliens passing through Baker; however, neither are correct!

 Zzyzx (pronounced “Zye-Zex”) is located about 5 miles south of Interstate 15 on the shores of beautiful Lake Tuendae; although, historically, the site was known as Camp Soda located at Soda Springs on the shores of a dry lakebed named Soda Lake.  

Lake Tuendae
Fountain at Lake Tuendae
 White Beaches at Soda Lake

Palm Trees at Soda Lake
Then, in 1944 Los Angeles radio evangelist Curtis Springer, self-proclaimed minister and doctor, moved to Camp Soda and renamed it “Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort.” The resort was touted as “the last word in health,” playing on the word “Zzyzx” as the last word in the English language.  
After arriving in Zzyzx, Springer started bottling the spring water and marketed it as a miracle medical product that could cure heart problems, arthritis, cancer, baldness, etc. Shipments of the miracle water increased astronomically and Springer soon accumulated a small fortune. He then built a 60-room hotel, church, and private airstrip (“The Zyport”) because people started coming from all over the world to partake of the natural hot springs healing waters. (In reality, the only thing “natural” about the hot springs water was the “natural” gas that fired a large boiler hidden in the basement of the bath house to heat the water.) At some point in time Springer became “Dr. Springer,” and he started a radio station at Zzyzx, so that he could broadcast his program of music, scripture, and messages nationwide.
Zzyzx Hotel
 Abandoned Building at Zzyzx
Unfortunately for Springer, in 1974, Federal Marshals arrested him for FDA violations of food and drug laws associated with his “miracle water” and he ended up spending some time in jail. Just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse, the Federal Government realized that Springer had no ownership interest in Soda Springs and he was evicted for trespassing on Federal property. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) then came in and assumed control of Zzyzx.

Some of the original buildings are still standing and the facility is now managed by California State University as the Desert Studies Center. Extension classes are open to the public for a reasonable fee that often includes two nights lodging, five meals, and all the “miracle water” that you can use. (For a schedule of classes, Google “Desert Studies Center.”)


Friday, March 8, 2013

RonnieAdventure #0045 - Baker, California

Most people only think of Baker, California, as a rest stop along Interstate 15 when traveling between Las Vegas and Las Angeles, but Baker is actually world famous!

Historically, Baker (population 735 in 2010) was known as the “Gateway to Death Valley” and “Home of the World’s Tallest Thermometer,” which was built because the small glass thermometers that were purchased at the local hardware store kept breaking in the summer’s heat. Summer temperatures can reach 134 degrees Fahrenheit, or 56.7 degrees Celsius, which is even hotter than Las Vegas! (Well, maybe it depends on how you define “hotter.”) According to published literature, the World’s Tallest Thermometer was built in 1991 and contains about 5,000 light bulb, which reportedly costs about $8,000 per month to operate.

World's Tallest Thomometor

World's Tallest Thermometer

However; in spite of the World’s Tallest Thermometer as a major tourist attraction, over the years the population of Baker steadily declined as Interstate 15 bypassed the town and two of the three motels closed. (Kind of reminds one of Radiator Springs in the movie Cars.) Then, the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives showed up and featured Baker’s own Mad Greek’s Diner in one of their episodes.

Mad Greek Diner

Suddenly! Traffic in Baker increased! People started arriving from all parts of the State, Country, World, Galaxies, and Universe! New businesses opened! One new business was formed by an enterprising group from Alpha Centauri that constructed a building and started selling “Alien Fresh Jerky.” (They copied Wall Drug’s advertising philosophy by plastering advertising signs in great frequency along the Interstate between Las Vegas and Las Angeles.) Business boomed! In fact, the business has been so successful that they now want to build a spaceport in Baker to attract more travelers from throughout the Universe. Along with the spaceport, they have plans for a three-story, disc-shaped UFO hotel to accommodate all of the visitors that will be coming to Baker. This is great, except for one thing – the owners of Alien Fresh Jerky claim that the famous World’s Tallest Thermometer interferes with their proposed spaceport, so they want to tear it down. The town residents have mixed feelings – they like the idea of more jobs, but they don’t like the idea of losing their Thermometer.  This looks like it may be a showdown between the cowboys and aliens!

Alien Fresh Jerky Store

In addition to jerky, Alien Fresh Jerky also does a booming business selling T-shirts, souvenirs, and books. I’m told that the most popular book sale is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. That probably explains why there were so many hitchhikers hanging around the town.

The day we visited Baker there was a young couple getting ready to take their marriage vows in the Alien Fresh Jerky store. When I asked them why they decided to get married in Baker, they responded that they had seen an advertisement that Baker was going to be the next marriage and honeymoon capital of the Universe because of the romantic surroundings and toasty summers. Apparently, the advertisement said that that when the spaceport is completed, Baker may surpass Las Vegas for the number of marriages performed each day (about 450).

Marriage Couple at Alien Fresh Jerky Store

As we were standing outside of the Alien Fresh Jerky store, wedding guests started arriving from all over the Universe. Some of Flat Staley’s relatives from Proxima Centauri (Third Star to the Left of Alpha Centauri.) had arrived in their Reactionless Drive Saucer and were greeting guest at the door, while some of the more distant guests had arrived the day before and had been up all night celebrating. By the time we arrived they were hanging from the building’s roof and nearby signposts. Fortunately, someone had called the Interplanetary Galactic Federation about the potential disturbance and the Federation had send the Galaxy Peace Patrol to keep peace and order in town until after the wedding. Thanks to the presence of the Peace Patrol, thing went well at the wedding and afterwards we were all invited to a reception at Absolute Black. Unfortunately, the anti-gravity thrusters on our Xterra were out of plutonium, so we had to decline the offer.

Flat Stanly Relatives

Distant Guest on Rooftop

Distant Guest on Signpost

However, of special interest to car buffs was the 2017 Night Ranger vehicle that the Peace Patrol was driving. This is one of the first Patrol Vehicles manufactured with both slugthrowers and a photoplasma blaster that fires tachyons. While taking pictures of the Patrol Vehicle, I felt a tug on my shirt sleeve and when I looked down I saw a little green alien with big eyes looking up at me. With a puzzled look on his face he asked: “Can you give me directions to Zzyzx?”

Galaxy Peace Patrol
2017 Night Ranger Patrol Vehicle
Galaxy Peace Patrol Officers