"Zye - Zex"
(it sort of rhymes with Isaac’s)
A bizarre little pseudo town that was founded by a medical quack who conned people out of their money with his claims of a fountain of youth......................of COURSE we had to drive down a long dirt road to check it out.
Zzyzx is now an unincorporated community within the boundaries of the Mojave National Preserve. It is the former site of the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa and is currently the site of the Desert Studies Center. In 1944, LA radio evangelist Curtis H. Springer, a self-proclaimed minister, decided the mineral springs were the ideal location for a health resort. He and his wife filed a mining claim on a 12,800 acre parcel of what were public lands. He named it "Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort," and billed it as "the last word in health" and the last word in the English language. He made a fortune promoting his useless medical products, shipping them all over the world to cure various ailments. He planted rows of palm trees to enhance the oasis atmosphere and they are still there and they really do look like every typical image you have of a dessert oasis in the middle of now where. The "natural" hot springs were fake and the water was heated by a hidden boiler. He was such a master conman that the American Medical Association proclaimed him "King of the Quacks" in 1969. Yes, he did some jail time for his misdeeds.
And now we can say we have visited Zzyzx. I know, you are terribly jealous.
We have had a few interesting stops in the last few days. Our van Patchwork has been a fantastic rolling cocoon that is also a very comfortable place to curl up and get a good nights sleep. We have tried to balance making good time with some fun side trips and “roadside oddities”. We left San Francisco and made our way into the hills of Southern California and decided to camp by Lake Isabella. On the map it looked like a beautiful area and we pulled into a free campsite that was right along the lake shore. We were in the dark of night when we arrived so we tried to find a spot that looked like we would wake up close to the water in the hopes that when we opened our curtains in the morning we’d have a beautiful view. Sadly, when we woke up we realized the lake had long ago dried up and we were in a grazing field for cows. I’m happy to report that we were parked far enough away from the herd that we didn’t open our doors into them but there were no fences between us and the them and they certainly gave us some odd looks as we drove right next to them to exit and get back on the highway.
We drove through the nearly abandoned gold rush town of Randsburg that was just quirky enough that I wished a few of the stores and bars were open so that we could explore a bit. A roadside oddity that caught my eye was Peggy Sue’s Diner-Saur Park. It was on the way and we were hungry so we popped in. What a fantastic stop! What was once a one room diner has grown into 4 dining areas full of crazy movie and pop culture memorabilia. The food is good and the Diner-Saur park in the back is worth a few cheesy photos, my favorite kind.
We spent a night in Tecopa Springs to enjoy the natural hot spring. We visited the spring that is truly au natural and in the middle of mud flats but decided it was more enjoyable to use the private pool at our campsite that has the hot mineral water pumped into a comfy facility with showers. The sun set at the campsite was beautiful and we managed to have a progressive dinner at three different establishments in town including Delights BBQ which was truly a trip highlight. It doesn’t look like much inside or out but the BBQ is on point. Another good nights sleep and we were up early to have coffee and oatmeal from the back of Patchwork and we were on our way to Las Vegas.
So it turns out that Seabiscuit is buried at Ridgewood Ranch in Willits, CA , which just happens to be along our route.......of course we stopped. The property is where he spent his final years and we were able to visit his grave and his barn.
We picked up our Escape Camper Van and while it has a bit more pink than either of us would like, we love it. It’s name is Patchwork and it will be our home for the next two week. Tomorrow we’ll be sure to take lots of interior photos but for tonight we’d much prefer to curl up with a movie and get a good nights sleep.
We had a nice leisurely breakfast with the Whelan Family before we hit the road. Our first stop was at the World’s Largest Egg in Winlock, WA but Matt assures me that the Pysanka in Vegreville, Alberta is much larger. It’s on the to-do list for my next visit.
We made it to Astoria to see the Goonies House (it's such a great movie!!) but the owners made it quite clear with a sign on the private drive that we were not welcome.....still got a photo :) We made our way up to the top of Astoria to see the Astoria Column and the view. The rain and fog really limited what we could see.
We'd have liked to have seen more of Canon beach but since the sun sets around 4:30PM it was pretty dark when we got there. Haystack Rock is impressive even in near darkness. We will be up bright and early tomorrow to get on the road and have as much daylight as possible.
We ended at the Tillamook Creamery for a free tour and cheese tasting. We are now curled in a free campsite to try to stay warm and dry in Patchwork for the night. More from the road tomorrow.