I spent the morning at Starbucks using their electricity and wifi to map out the next leg of my journey, then headed out to begin day 3 of my epic road trip.
When I arrived at the town of Desert Center I was not prepared for how many opportunities it held for exploration. As soon as I got off the freeway I came to an abandoned gas station, near which many truckers stopped with their rigs. A bunch of tourists stopped to take pictures too. I had to wait for them to leave so they wouldn't end up in my shots.
Looking down the road in either direction I saw so many abandoned structures, I knew I'd be there pretty much the whole day. It was an urbex treasure trove, and I felt like a kid in a candy store. I ran around like a lunatic snapping pictures.
Desert Center currently has a population of around 200, with nearly 30% living below the federal poverty line. Despite its current bleak condition, Desert Center was once an important waypoint for travelers crossing the desert.
In 1942 General Patton ordered the construction of the Desert Center Army Air Field to train soldiers for combat against Rommel's forces in the North African deserts. The base was closed in 1944 after the Allies defeated the German forces in North Africa. Desert Center quieted back down after the closure of the base.
It might surprise you to learn that Desert Center is the birthplace of Kaiser Permanente. It also served as the filming location for scenes from several movies, including Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Ragsdale Rd, the town's main drag was surrounded on each side by a row of 4 or 5 businesses, most of them adjoined to one another. The only building among them that was still open was the post office.
An old grocery store stood deserted.
One of the old cafes had signs saying they were temporarily closed for building maintenance, but there was no indication that they’d be opening again anytime soon.
One of the cafes was also a gas station with very old pumps.
Next to it stood an auto and machine repair facility of some sort. I stuck my phone up to the glass and took some pictures. There were many tools and vehicles inside, undisturbed and quite old. I imagined the place could be turned into a museum one day. It seemed the vandals had come to mutually agree that the buildings along that stretch of road would remain untouched.
I was amazed that all the buildings along the main street still had unbroken glass windowpanes. Finding abandoned buildings with windows intact is exceedingly rare. It seems inevitable that one of the large front windows will be broken one day. I wonder how rapidly the place will deteriorate after that.
Set back a little further from the road were a few structures left behind by the military.
There were also quite a few very old tractors with cranks on the front, and some even older farm equipment.
The equipment pictured above was inside a chicken wire enclosure and had a weathered old sign, no longer legible, indicating that it was a historical marker.
Down the road there were a dozen or so abandoned military homes. They were in very bad shape, the walls torn up by scrappers seeking copper wire and pipes. Everything was pretty broken.
The former residents had left a ridiculous amount of possessions inside those little homes, sometimes piled high enough that it was difficult to enter. There were tvs, clothes, furniture, canned goods, even a prescription bottle with pills. Someone had poured them out on the little kitchen table, along with some caffeine pills and vitamin B12.
One of the houses had burned down.
This old sign stood near the homes pictured above.
It had been an awesome morning, and so far I'd only explored about half of Desert Center. I crossed Highway 177 to the eastern half of the town, where I would spend the next several hours exploring some pretty incredible sites. I'll tell you all about them in my next post.
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