I read the linked story in the Daily Mail, and realized that my daughter and I must have passed within a mile or so of the abandoned water-park many times, during the time that I was stationed at Hill AFB and made the journey up and down I-15 between the home that we had in South Ogden and my parents retirement place in Valley Center. The desert around Yermo, Barstow, Ludlow, Baker and Needles was familiar stomping ground for Dad, who confessed sometimes that in another life, he would have been a desert rat – for he loved the Mojave Desert. Loved the wide blue sky, at home in the dun-colored sweep of desert which actually hid so much life; Dad would have been happy in a small shack somewhere out beyond Needles, with a burro and a dog for company, watching over the desert life that he adored – the kangaroo rats, the little desert kit foxes, the tiny birds which nested in hollows in the cactus, the desert which bloomed into amazing sweeps of color once a year after sudden flurries of rain.

We never would have stopped at the waterpark – deserted now – in it’s prime, as we weren’t really the sort of people who did tourist attractions. Mom and Dad preferred camping trips, day excursions to places that were free or nearly so, long hikes in the wilderness – that kind of thing. But it looks as if it would have been a fantastic place for families, back when it was open, even though a long, long drive out into the desert.

One of Dad’s regular stops in his desert excursions had first been established when his parents, Grandpa Al and Granny Dodie used to drive up to Las Vegas for a spot of gambling. This must have been post-World War II, when gasoline rationing ended. Dad would have been a teenager then; Grandpa Al and Granny Dodie were rather fond of such excursions, which they carried on to a lesser degree when we were kids. Dad fondly remembered stops for a meal at a tiny, two-outlet hamburger chain called “The Bun Boy”, at the approximate halfway point between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, either the outlet on the outskirts of Barstow, or the one in a tiny hiccup in the road called Baker. For a number of years, Baker boasted of the tallest thermometer in the world, constructed by a local entrepreneur. The local radio station, which was all that we could get on the car radio carried commercials for the Bun Boy, or the rival establishment across the road, The Mad Greek, which featured gyros and fries. When my daughter and I drove from Utah for the holidays, or back again after New Years’ we would time the start of our drive to catch a meal – mid-morning breakfast at the Bun Boy, no matter if we had started the drive before dawn at Mom and Dad’s place, or after spending the night at Mesquite on the Utah-Nevada border.

It was a comfortable diner-type restaurant, not terribly distinguished in architecture or décor – but the food was always good, and the burgers were fabulous. Sometimes we ate at the counter, which was always fun, especially if there were truck drivers also getting a quick meal and refills of coffee. We got the low-down from them on where the highway patrols and the local police keep a strict weather-eye on speeders on the highway.

It looks like both locations for the Bun Boy are closed – and Baker itself is a ghost town — all but deserted save for a gas station; the Mad Greek is apparently closed as well. Are the lights still on for the giant thermometer? California used to be such a lively, interesting, fun place, but now I think with sorrow and regret of crumbling ruins and deserted towns, the hot dry wind whipping through places like Baker and the desert water park.


  1. I was in Baker last week, driving back from Vegas. The Mad Greek is indeed closed. There is not much left. The thermometer is still on – for now…

  2. Thanks, Alice – I did a google street view through Baker, and it looks as if there is nothing much open but a couple of gas stations. Pity. The Bun Boy burgers were great, and the Mad Greek was funky and fun.