Zzyzx, Mojave National Preserve

z1.JPG

Zzyzx! It sounds like a species or planet from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It also sounds like a dread sickness, “After Bart got the zzyzx, he only lived one minute!” Or, if you’re heading North on the I-15 to Las Vegas, and it’s late at night, the word and exit (the last exit before Baker) makes you think, “Zzyzx – man, I wish I was in Vegas so I could get zome zzzzzzzyzx of my own”(even though everyone knows that no one sleeps in Vegas!). Or, if you’re on your way back from Vegas, the word sounds like the best curse ever, because you’ve been stuck in 110 degree traffic for the last hour on the I-15 South, and you lost all of your money, and the girl/guy you were with. In this case, you’re probably thinking, “I got your ZZYZX right here you son of a sea monkey!!!”

z2.JPG

However, if you’re a true desert wanderer, you’re not thinking any of these things. You’re thinking, “Hey, that’s a mighty strange term – I wonder what exactly is off Zzyzx???” And, since I am a true desert wanderer, let me tell you what’s off Zzyzx road (just in case you elect not to stop). To the North, there’s desert, and desert tortoises. To the South, there’s more desert – Mojave National Preserve desert, to be exact, and if you follow the road down, you’ll see a sign that says this “Zzyzx, 6 miles”. If you continue following the road, you’ll wind along some salt flat, and the road will go from paved to graded gravel, to paved again, and then to gravel, and then you’ll be in a parking lot outside of the town of Zzyzx.

z3.JPG

Astute observers and readers are now likely muttering at their screens, “What? You’re telling me there’s a town in the middle of the Mojave called Zzyzx? Yeah, right. I’d have heard of this before. Nice try!” To this, let me assure you that had you been alive in say, 1944, you would have definitely heard of Zzyzx – on a little box called the radio. Back then, it was developed by Curtis Howe Springer, who had his own radio show promoting the water (yes, there’s water – and lots of it there), selling the water, and promoting his own health spa and yes, radio evangelism. Prior to that, it was called Soda Springs, and inhabited thousands of years ago by prehistoric man. Today, what remains is pretty much all of the town built by Springer, which is now the California State University Desert Studies center. While classes are held there regularly, every time I’ve been there, the place has been empty and deserted. This brings me to my last point about Zzyzx – it’s eerie. When its high noon, and you’re standing by the abandoned swing set on the Boulevard of Dreams (actual street name), you start to wonder where the inhabitants are, and what happened to them. Then you start to wonder, “Are they coming to get me? Is this a horror movie? Is what got them going to get me??” Or maybe that’s just me. Horror movie qualities aside, the town has a cute art deco feel and interesting street names, so if you’ve been stuck in traffic, or want to see a part of America that’s disappeared, check it out – Zzyzx.

z4.JPG

Directions: See above, but first exit after Baker, or first exist before Baker. Zzyzx exit, of course.

Tips:What, you need more? I mean, really, I think this whole post is a giant tip. How many of you knew there was a town out in the Mojave also called Zzyzx? I thought not. Ok, ok. I say, wait for a starry night, and drive out to the town while listening to a little Blue Moon by ol’ blue eyes himself, Frank Sinatra to get a feel for how Zzyzx was in its heyday. That, and don’t drink the water out there: Springer may have sold it, but was ultimately busted for being the “King of Quacks”! (There’s also a good recording of Springer at the Kelso NPS Museum, should you wish to listen to his radio claims).

More Information:http://www.nps.gov/moja/planyourvisit/zzyzx.htm, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zzyzx,_California, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curtis_Howe_Springer, http://www.weirdus.com/states/california/fabled_people_and_places/zzyyxxzz/index.php