Thursday, February 21, 2008


We are parked in a gravel lot across the street from the "World's Tallest Thermometer" in Baker, California (map). The thermometer was erected by the famous "Bun Boy"restaurant which stood here for 80 years, starting in 1926. In 2000, it was sold, and in 2006 the new owners turned it into, ironically, a Bob's Big Boy, a chain which originated a full decade later with an iconic mascot strikingly similar to the Bun Boy.

I have to say I miss the place -- it was a great stop between Barstow and Vegas and the food was decent, even if the joint was a bit on the kitsch-overload side. I have no need to eat in a Bob's Big Boy, but I used to eat at the Bun Boy on occasion. At least the landmark thermometer, its 134' height a tribute to the highest recorded temperature in the US (at Furnace Creek some hundred miles from here), is still there.

This lot is the truck and RV parking area for the Big Boy as well as the Mad Greek, another iconic Baker eatery, and is a common overnight stop for trucks and RVs alike. We chose to stay here in Baker because I had a conference call this morning, and we wanted to be sure of having good cell service -- there isn't any in Death Vally, and we'll likely be in the middle of the Mojave National Preserve tonight, where I'd bet against having any signal.

The downside to being here was that, small as it is, Baker still emits a lot of light pollution, and I really wanted to see the total lunar eclipse last night. (Ironically, one source of said light pollution is the giant thermometer, which is actually an electric sign, with pink neon running up each corner, and the temperature displays made of white light bulb digits.) The light issue proved to be nearly moot, as there was extensive cloud cover at sunset which persisted through most of the event. We did get a nice break in the clouds just before 7pm, as the moon was about half engulfed in the umbra, and we got to watch it slowly enter totality over the next hour. We did not get the blood-red moon that I was hoping for -- more like a ruddy brown, but still dramatic. Shortly after the moon was completely swallowed by the umbra, the cloud cover moved back in and obliterated our view, not to recede again until 9pm or so, after the entire event was over. At least we got to see a bit of the totality, and the view here in the desert was pretty spectacular in spite of the lights.

Now that my conference call is over, we're planning our strategy for proceeding south. I expect to cross I-15 and proceed to Kelso on the Kelbaker road, which will take us all the way to I-40 on our way to Amboy.

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