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The Mystery of Zzyzx Road
I was in Baker.
A truck-stop of a city in the south-eastern chunk of California and I got
hungry. I was on my way home. Baker sits at the mouth of Death Valley to the
south and is the small podunk between Primm and Barstow. Not that Primm is any
bigger, but at least it has some rollercoaster's.
One thing Baker is home to is an internet legend. One of those "Funny Signs!" pictures that's circulated its way through chain mails and internet forums. Zzyzx road. lol.
I had passed the road and the famous sign on the interstate plenty of times, but this time was different. I had it all figured out. After I finished my sandwich, I was determined to find out...
The Secret of Zzyzx Road!
I approached the famous boulevard and considered foregoing the excursion. It was, after all, in the middle of the damn desert. Gulping away my insecurities, I pressed on, flipped on my right-hand turn signal, and exited the interstate. I was met with warnings:
DO NOT ENTER. WRONG WAY. ONE WAY. No return. My fate had been sealed. There was no turning back. I turned right.
Damn. Bad luck. Or was it the looming fingers of fate stretching towards its victim? A dead end was all I found to the right. Flipping around, I plowed on.
A bridge had been constructed to cross the interstate. I wondered if it was safe
to venture over. I had no choice. I plodded on.
Successfully crossing the bridge and turning due east, I was met with a ribbon
of pavement in disrepair. Who knows when Zzyzx had last claimed a victim? What
horrors were witnessed on this small strip of road? Who had previously met their
end in this wasteland? I shook off my nervous daydreaming and pressed my foot to
Curses! Following the road's devilish curves, and facing due south, my last semblance of hope, the pavement, dropped out from beneath me. Dirt...
I plodded on carefully. The gravel road seemed to be made out of speed bumps that had been broken down into smaller speed bumps and then constructed into a road. For about a mile only desert and rock met my gaze, but what's this? a spike of green? An oasis?
No, not an oasis, but an old, dying oasis. A dry lake bed. The road mockingly
curved left and right, etching its path past mountains and south towards my
More curves. More teasing plants. More vicious gravel nipping at my Camry's heels like small rabid dogs when suddenly, a sign of man's intervention. Palm trees appear in the distance...
...as well as along the road. Palms of this type don't simply grow here naturally... Someone planted these. These three stood as sentinels as if guarding the way to something bold and powerful.
More palms stand as stonehenges-- nay, PALMhenges along the way. I was nearing my goal... I could feel it...
...and then at once, a halt. A barrier between me and my goal. The gate that might as well be to me as the Berlin Wall. An iron gate of mocking failure. I do not give up so easily, however.
California State Desert Studies Center? I doubt that... There's something else going on here. Something more.
Pulling off to the side into a parking area, I disembarked on foot and captured parts of this "Studies Center"...
2-lane avenues with landscaped medians? Even though they are far gone in disrepair, it still seems a bit fancy to me for a mere desert studies center. What's on that plaque?
Intriguing. This is a place of great, amazing, interesting historical things and happenings.
Soda Springs indeed. A ranch house overlooks a spring while a building of unknown use sits seemingly empty to the right.
Desert Studies Center? That's what's at the end of Zzyzx Road now, but that's not what it has always been. It's no moon. It's a space station. And by "space station" I of course mean a Christian fundamentalist Health Spa:
The name Zzyzx, pronounced /ˈzaɪˌzɪks/
(pronounced as "Zeye-zix" with the accent on the first syllable, rhyming with
"Isaac's", not "physics"), was given to the area in 1944 by Curtis Howe
Springer, claiming it to be the last word in the English language. Springer made
up the word's pronunciation. He established the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health
Spa at the spot, which was federal land that he had no permission to use. He
used Zzyzx until 1974, when he was arrested by the United States Marshals for
misuse of the land as well as alleged violations of food and drug laws, and the
land was confiscated by the government.
Since 1976, the Bureau of Land Management has allowed California State University to manage the land in and around Zzyzx. A consortium of CSU campuses use it as their Desert Studies Center.
I wanted to see what was at the end of the famous road, so I did. Thanks for coming along.
Panorama of Lake Tunedae and Zzyzx Road
I DON'T GIVE OUT LOCATIONS. I DON'T KNOW IF THE BUILDINGS ARE FOR SALE. I DON'T KNOW IF THE BUILDINGS ARE STILL STANDING.
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