Baker, located in the Mojave Desert, southeastern California, USA. Feeling scorching land with the world’s tallest thermometer landmark.
This is a town in eastern California, USA, located on Interstate 15 from eastern “Los Angeles” to “Las Vegas”. It is a place for people who is back and forth between “Los Angeles” and “Las Vegas”, or for long-distance truck’s driver, to stop for a rest. There’s nothing special, but it’s a very impressive place for me.
First of all, this place is in the desert. To be exact, it is a wilderness area and nothing. In other words, it is the barren lands. A town in a barren land, but it can be said it is “oasis”. When driving between “Los Angeles” and “Las Vegas”, this Baker is a good place to rest in the middle. There is a place of town like near “Baker” is “Primm”, which is 80km away in the north, and in “Barstow”, which is 100km away in the south.
The main street of Baker runs parallel to Interstate 15. When getting off the Interstate, it is joined to the main street. In the center of the town, there is an intersection without traffic lights, and the roads to the north and south cross. Heading north is “Death Valley National Park”. Heading south is the “Mojave National Preserve”. I can feel the wonders of nature in both places and they are my favorite places.
By the way, this town has a landmark called the best in the world. The world’s tallest thermometer, right next to the intersection. The elongated concrete tower is a thermometer as it is. The height is 41 meters (134 feet). This is the first thing you will see when driving through the Interstate and approaching this town. The landmark was built in 1991 to commemorate the world’s highest temperature in 1913 at Ferns Creek in Death Valley National Park, it was 57 degrees Celsius (134 degrees Fahrenheit). When visiting this place for the first time and saw this landmark, I was surprised at the idea of a huge thermometer. Standing under the landmark and looking up, it’s pretty cool. The feeling of saying “Amazing”. It’s a kind of structure you can’t see anywhere else.
Below this world’s tallest thermometer, there is a kind of visitor center. It used to be a visitor center in the “Mojave National Preserve” in the south, but when visiting in 2018, it became a souvenir shop. When talking with an older lady in this souvenir shop, she said she had been working at the “Bun Boy” restaurant for 20 years, at the foot of the world’s tallest thermometer.
This “Bun Boy” restaurant was once a landmark restaurant in Baker. A picture of a child holding a big hamburger was an icon of a restaurant, and I visit this restaurant when came to Baker. It was an ordinary family restaurant, but it was a calm place for some reason. The restaurant sold a board game called “the Original IQ Tester” with a picture of the world’s highest thermometer. Despite the scorching heat outside, the restaurant was air-conditioned and comfortable. While sipping weak coffee, I had a short conversation with the waitress who came around the table from time to time.
This restaurant was already closed when I visited Baker in 2018. However, there was a monumental sign indicating that there was a Bun Boy Restaurant.
There is another restaurant that represents Baker at the corner of the intersection. It’s a “Mad Greek Cafe” with white and blue motifs of the Greek flag. “Gyro” is delicious at a self-service Greek restaurant. There are blue box seats in the store and can relax.
I visited this town nearly 10 times, but it was very hot from spring to summer. Of course, the highest temperature in the world was observed around here, so it’s natural, though. When I parked the car on the side of the main street and looked at the town against the backdrop of the “highest thermometer in the world”, the heat wave that blew up from the concrete road surface fluctuated, then no car was on the road, it looks like the whole town is dead. I sometimes come across this scene when visited. One day, when I refilling the gas at a gas station, a person at the next gas pump looked up the highest thermometer in the world and said, “Hey, it’s a terrible temperature isn’t it, by the way, do you know where this is?” he asked me, I replied normally “Isn’t it Baker?”, then, he said to me,
“No, here is Venus”.
According to a lady in a souvenir shop at the base of the world’s tallest thermometer, the town’s current population is about 500, “It used to have about 700 people”. I remember there were 3-4 motels in the early 90’s when I visited Baker at the first time, but now it has only one. I’ve stayed at two motels in Baker so far, but it was old and I didn’t want to stay any more. Probably because of the evolution of the car, it could be related to being able to drive to “Las Vegas” and the outskirts of “Los Angeles” than staying here.
There is a novel that depicts the scenery of this town. The story is “In the Desert” in the short story of “Life After God” by Douglas Coupland. Lastly, I will introduce the part where the appearance of Baker is written.
The place was like a Twilight Zone episode, and riddled with cops – two cops every diner: There were CHiPS, there were San Bernardino County sheriffs, and there were even two guys from the forestry service which was such a joke because there could not have been a tree for fifty miles in any direction.
Did you want to go after reading this? I want to go any number of times. I don’t know why. No special reason for this.
Visited in 1993, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2005, 2010, 2018.
(*) Quoted from Life after God, written by “Douglas Coupland published by POCKET BOOKS in 1994.
■ Name of Place : Arcata, California, USA
■ Homepage : Arcata, California, Official Website
(described on Aug 14 2023)