California Here We Come [Sucker]

Our Bluebird Musical horn plays that song [I added “Sucker”] , along with 31 others including RV WHERE YET’s Theme Song: Roll Out The Barrel… ..


This reminds me why we like to VISIT California only…things are quite expensive – out of proportion to their value. Other than GREAT friends whom we enjoy the hell out of visiting, I can see no reason to be there for long!


Leaving Phoenix we had about half a tank of diesel. In that situation, I like to check GAS BUDDY to see if there are RADICAL price differences if we were to fill sooner or later. ½ a tank gives us 600 miles or so to choose the optimum.

What I found stretches even the definition of “radical.”

In Arizona just before crossing the border we would pay $2.99/gallon. As soon as we cross the line (so to speak) the price is $4.05! On 150 Gallons, the difference is NOT TRIVIAL — the savings will pay for quite a bit of provisions or adult beverages or both! Once we pop out of California north into Oregon, back to $3.00/gallon. Some quick calculations, and I think our 225 Gallon tank will carry us all the way thru the Peoples Republic of California, completely avoiding $4.00+ diesel. (For now, our Canadian Friends remind us).

Also before arriving in the People’s Republic, we HAD TO STOP at the roadside mess that is… “THE THING.” “Mystery of the Desert!” It is advertised for miles. Definitely NOT worth stopping, except for the attached DQ. That makes almost anywhere worth stopping! But, there is no ignoring the “Quirk” factor, so we stop!

Because we got a bit of a late start from Phoenix, due to Liz’s reminiscing with Cousin Denise, we decided to stop just after crossing into California. The area here is desert…just like West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona…we are getting a LITTLE tired of desert. One of the Apps we use to find places to stop (Allstays) showed an RV Park that got FIVE STARS and cost $35. In. The. Middle. Of. NOWHERE. “Near” the town of Indio, home of the Coachella Music Festival, which was running like bookends the weekends before and after our transit of the area. But near in miles, not in magnitude or gravitas.

Looking OUT from Lake Tamarisk Resort

We always wondered why/how there can be little clumps of building off in the distance in the desert – here was one and we thought we’d give it a look. “Lake Tamarisk” is a Golf “Resort” in the town of Desert Center. The town really no longer exists. There IS a Post Office. No bar. No Gas Station. No Grocery Store. No NOTHING. I wondered WHY IT WAS THERE, even though in fact it was not there anymore.

Looking IN at Lake Tamarisk Resort

Since they had EXCELLENT WiFi (which is even MORE important than water to us…after all we carry our own water!) I could do a bit of research with Dr. Google and Wikipedia to ascertain WHY.

What I learned was FASCINATING!!

The town was started in the 20’s because a fella’s car broke down and a prospector with a well took him in until his car could be repaired. The rescued motorist (a guy named “Ragsdale,” who became a fairly well-known desert rat, historian, promoter and poet) ended up buying the “town” (which was one building), building a Gas Station and a café, which needed to be moved when the State paved and moved by a couple miles the road. There weren’t enough kids for a school, so the fella advertised in Los Angeles for a “Mechanic with a Large Family” and one moved to Desert Center; resulting in enuf kids for the State to provide a teacher – the fella had already built a school (shack) out of paperboard (cardboard).

Eventually, the Town grew (a bit) because of Ragsdale’s eccentricity (a sign on his Restaurant said, “We lost our keys so we can’t close!”) and construction of the Colorado River Aqueduct and the Kaiser Steel Mine nearby. There was even a training base for Desert Tank Warfare in WWII, and at one point a store that was the largest seller of Coleman Camping Equipment in the country!!!

On the mine and aqueduct construction, an interesting sidebar: Henry Kaiser started what may be the FIRST “Health Insurance Plan” for his workers. After the town’s first doctor threatened to leave because he had been treating workers on credit, the funds for repayment of which usually were spent on liquor before paying said doctor bills, Kaiser deducted a nickel from each pay check to cover on the job injuries. If the worker wanted to cover himself outside of working hours, another nickel. To cover a spouse, another nickel. With the money from these contributions, the doctor was able to remain in Desert Center. This continured and expanded when Kaiser worked to construct the Grand Coulee Dam – now with 50,000 instead of 5,000 workers. The concept and Doctor’s Clinic later became Kaiser Permanente – one of the largest managed healtcare systems in the country!

While the mine was operating (it closed in the 80s, after which the doctor, school, restaurant, garage etc. all left), Kaiser built a small mobile home community AND A GOLF COURSE, complete with water hazards for his management staff. Lake Tamarisk Golf Course was that community. The Golf Course still exists – Greens Fees are VERY REASONABLE ($20 or so) and the Water Hazards look like a Mirage in the Desert. The largest is called “Lake Tamarisk!”

The Resort is inhabited almost solely by Snowbirds who leave in the summer (it is Hades-hot here – uninhabitable, really – during the summer). They have a few spots for overnighters like us. With a swimming pool, Hot tub, laundry, etc. JUST WHAT WE NEEDED for one night in the desert!

So, if you are still reading, you now know a couple of things you maybe did not know before…

1 – The world is full of quirkiness and history. If a place like Desert Center can have such an expansive backstory, it behooves us to (and rewards us for) open(ing) our eyes and ears wherever we are!

2 – This is why we LOVE our mode of transit/living

1 thought on “California Here We Come [Sucker]

  • Kaiser story fascinating. We owned at Motorcoach Country Club (INDIO) for 3 years and never knew about this “resort”. We did visit Slab City…lots of off the grid folks there, & Gilly nets. Originally built to train Patton’s troops for desert war fare. Quirky for sure at this point… Also Salvation Mountain…the desert must attract quirky!?! ?

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