As you drive through the vast Mojave Desert you are astounded by the monotony. Sand, more sand, even more sand, interspersed with straggled bushes and rocks. Every so often, however, you find yourself driving through one of the little towns that litter the highways, glorified pit stops that survive on the money of travelers passing by.
One such little town is Baker, California, population 914 (as of the 2000 census). It is located on the junction of I-15 between Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as California state highway 127. Baker prides itself as “the Gateway to Death Valley” as it is the last town you pass before entering Death Valley.
Baker’s true claim to fame, though, is the World’s Largest Thermometer. Standing at a whopping 134 feet, it is by far the largest thermometer in the world, and is certainly a noticeable landmark in the neverending desert landscape.
The thermometer’s height of 134 feet is symbolic of the highest recorded temperature in United States history: 134 degrees Fahrenheit, which was measured in Death Valley July 10th, 1913. Its construction came as a result of the work of Will Herron, owner of the Baker Bun Boy restaurant (there is also a Bun Boy in nearby Barstow, California, also on I-15).
Herron waited 25 years after first imagining the thermometer before it was finally built in 1991. The thermometer cost Herron $700,000, used 33 tons of steel and requires almost 5,000 lamps to keep the temperature illuminated. The original thermometer was actually broken due to harsh desert winds, and the thermometer had to be rebuilt, this time with a much firmer concrete foundation.
If you are taking a trip that will take you anywhere near Baker, California, the world’s largest thermometer will not be difficult to spot. It dominates the landscape, particularly in the little town of Baker. Unfortunately there is little else to the thermometer besides the thermometer itself. There is, however, a frying pan on a rock near to the thermometer that holds a pair of eggs, a minor monument to the hot (but dry) weather.
Besides the world’s tallest thermometer, Baker holds a number of restaurants, convenience stores and motels servicing passers-by. The tiny town holds 7 gas stations, 10 fast food chains, 5 restaurants and three motels.
The most famous stops in Baker, besides the thermometer, are the Bun Boy and Mad Greek Restaurants. The Bun Boy is of course the home of the thermometer, and also includes the Bun Boy Motel. The (World Famous) Mad Greek, offering fine Greek cuisine, is also well known for its wide variety of milkshake flavors, all of them delicious and a nice refreshing treat to beat the heat.
Should your travels ever take you past Baker, California, take the time to stop and appreciate the world’s tallest thermometer, a one-of-a-kind attraction. The town itself is an excellent roadside stop, and exists to serve those just passing through on their way to more thriving destinations. Both the Mad Greek and the Bun Boy are fine restaurants, and there are far worse places to spend the night in the Mojave Desert.