Saturday, May 4, 2013
The Last Word in Health
The last word in health according to Curtis Howe Springer, a radio evangelist from the 1940's out of Los Angeles, was Zzyzx. Springer was a fanatic in ensuring he was the last stop in any directory when it came to health. He believed the regular usage of mineral baths, a dry climate, bright sunny days, and plenty of fruits and vegetables would make for a long lasting and enjoyable life. He had a dream and his dream included having the perfect place to practice what he preached - it should be noted that he was neither an ordained minister nor a medical doctor but that did not stop this visionary. He set out from Los Angeles with those dreams and made them a reality.
He sure chose the right spot - in the middle of a blast furnace we call the Mojave Desert!
About four miles southwest from Interstate 15, eight miles southwest of Baker and sixty miles east of Barstow lies an oasis on the shore of Soda Dry Lake. At an elevation of 938 feet above sea level and on the western edge of the Mohave National Preserve is the remains of Springer's dream health resort. Low slung buildings and bungalows decked with a multitude of swamp coolers (the best for cooling in a low humidity and hot spot) and shady front porches border a large oblong pond which gives the illusion of cool. It works to a point as we walked about the place enjoying the early morning sun, hovering in the low nineties, and knowing the day would easily reach 100 degrees and it wasn't even May yet.
Shade was offered by tall and thick palm trees which could be found individually or in clumps which made the shade much easier to utilize. Of course, to me it appeared as if the palms were wearing long dresses out of a sense of modesty with my buddy Paul and I wandering the grounds.
The past is as interesting as the present day use of these 1,200 acres on the edge of a large but dry lakebed with the Soda Mountains as a back drop.
In 1944 C. H Springer settled on the old remains of Hancock's Redoubts, an army fort built in the 1860's to assist travelers from marauding Indians, lack of provisions, lack of brains and constructed his Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa. The location hosted many of the well-healed and Hollywood famous up until 1974 when Springer was arrested for violations of food and drug laws and unauthorized use of federal land. Of course, one could beg the question that how this man could use a portion of federal land for thirty years while broadcasting a daily fundamentalist down-home radio program from the radio station he had built there without being caught earlier. Makes one wonder but then again isn't federal land owned by the people? It's just another question which ops into the mind of this writer.
Rumor had it that he named the place Zzyzx because it sounded like someone sleeping. But J of J and L still believes it had to do with the unashamed self-promoter inside of Springer making his place the last word in health.
The entire resort was turned into the Desert Studies Center in 1976 as a research facility for the California State University system,. With the backing of the Bureau of Land Management the out-of-way center has seven university partners sharing the research center: Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Northridge, Pomona and San Bernardino (nice to be included since it sits in San Bernardino County).
In 1994 the center was placed into the Mojave National Preserve due to the passage of the California Desert Protection Act.
So, what does a scientist study during the summer where temperatures can easily hover around 110 degrees Fahrenheit in July? It's simple, see the below listing taken directly off the website for the facility.
Recent and ongoing research projects are not limited to the following examples:
* Factors affecting sexual expression in desert holly (are they smiling or frowning I'm assuming)
* Social behavior in desert kangaroo rats (do they shake hands when meeting perhaps)
* Performance of a 10,000 watt solar panel array powering everything out there (a rather bright idea)
* and many other worthwhile and exciting scientific studies but the best one is the study of those pre-historic appearing creepy crawly things called scorpions. At night the student/scientists will go out into the desert armed with black lights trying to find these not so friendly looking tail wriggling creatures hoping to light them up with the chemical they carry within their exoskeleton (the scorpions and not the scientists).
I believe tall leather boots would be order before tramping across the sand in search of scorpions who can leave a painful if not fatal sting.
Overall, it is an awesome place to visit and if any adventurer is driving toward or away from Las Vegas it is worth the time to explore and discover the wonderful history and present of this place.
And if you have the time - enjoy a game of horseshoes but make sure the shoes have not been laying in the sun.