I left Barstow on what must have been the 21st. Only it seems like I was there ages ago. I decided to go north on I-15 which is as good as saying I’m going to Las Vegas. But, first, I made a pit stop in Baker, a crumbling small town built on tourism that looks, again, like the ghost of America’s past. There’s nothing to do there, but if you walk down Baker Boulevard, it’s almost like wandering through a museum. Of course, it has all the obligatory niceties of modern America—gas stations, fast food, Denny’s. But, there is this distant, almost otherworldly feel to some of the buildings that is maybe enhanced by the fact that the whole town sits squarely in the middle of the desert. The motels, in particular, are abandoned messes. Arne’s Royal Hawaiian Motel is probably the worst offender, but it also makes it the most interesting building in town. Its paint is chipping, the sign looks like its been the victim of a nuclear fallout, and all the doors to all the rooms are sitting wide open. Inside, the rooms seem to have been ripped to shreds. The only constant is that there are palm trees painted on one wall in every room—a quaint, if not over-the-top bit of decor. But the rooms are filled with a pastiche of vintage curios and junk. Ripped-up mattresses, broken glass, dusty desks. One room had construction books from the 70’s strewn all over the musty carpet. Another had a dusty Apple computer and a porcelain bear sitting on a broken down desk (I’ve got a picture of it on the blog). It’s all very post-apocalyptic—a vision of the future without human civility.
I walked all the way down the Boulevard and found the World’s Tallest Thermometer, which happens to be a roadside attraction that attracts almost no one. I was the only one taking pictures there and everyone else seemed content to drive past what is literally the World’s Tallest Thermometer the same way they might drive past the World’s Tallest Toothpick or the World’s Tallest Pencil. Because it’s tall and thin and resembles a radio tower, no one really gives it much thought. It’s not even really that tall when you think about it. I mean, it’s tall for a thermometer, but it’s certainly not clearly identifiable from a distance. It’s not like the Eiffel Tower rising incongruently in the desert. You have to be right next to it to know it’s there.
Which is a good way to describe Baker, in general. You have to be next to it to know it’s there. There are signs all over town advertising “For Rent - 2, 3, and 4 Bd.” And I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why anyone would move to the middle of the desert. I would move to Baker just because I like the idea of living in impractical places, but why would any regular person want to move out there? They even have a brand new apartment complex that seems to have been built under the idea that it would house a plethora of people (it seems about half-full as it is). The only jobs in town are at the fast food places and gas stations and the one still-operational motel in town.
I don’t know. My battery’s dying. I’m in St. George, Utah right now.