Mad Greek Diner
72112 Baker Blvd
Baker, California 92309
Statue of the Discoverer of the South Pole
71927 Baker Blvd
Baker, California 92309
As you drive along Interstate 15 heading towards Las Vegas, you'll pass by the small town of Baker. Baker began in 1908, and was named after Richard C. Baker, a borax and railroad magnate. Even though the town has less than eight hundred people, you won't miss it, as you'll see off to your left, the large 134 foot tall thermometer rising up from the middle of the town. Yes, Baker is home to the World's Tallest Thermometer. In addition to the World's Tallest Thermometer, Baker, being really only one road with three off ramps, one at either end and one in the middle, is a treasure trove of weird.
The three sided World's Tallest Thermometer is 134 feet in honor of the highest recorded temperature in Fahrenheit in the United States recorded on July 10th, 1913 in Death Valley; not too far north of Baker. Although the thermometer has never recorded a temperature of 134, it did reach 127 degrees on August of 1995. The thermometer was dreamed up by Will Herron, then owner of the Bun Boy restaurant, and constructed by Young Electric Sign Company in 1990. 33 tons of steel and almost five thousand lamps were used in its construction. As the temperature rises, more bulbs light up on the structure's three sides. The thermometer weighs 76,812 pounds and cost originally about $700,000. It was first lit up on October 9th, 1992.
The World's Tallest Thermometer was originally built near one of two Bun Boy Restaurants, the other one being down Interstate 15 in Barstow. Both Bun Boy Restaurants were possibly established in 1956. I'm not entirely sure, but I think the business began in 1926 by J.O. Failing, and in 1956 Willis Herron entered into a partnership with him. There was also a Bun Boy Motel off to the right of the thermometer between it and the Country Lotto Store. When the Bun Boy Restaurant was regrettably sold in 2005, a Bob's Big Boy moved in for a few years, but it also closed in May 2013 due to the owner having franchise issues. The location may have temporarily reverted back to a Bun Boy, as you could see fresh Bun Boy signage placed over the former Bob's Big Boy signage. After being vacant for many years, the building is now something called Markeplace 15. The Motel also closed years ago, as did a business office, which still sports a Bun Boy sign, located across the street from where the restaurant stood. Signage around town, however, still advertises for Bun Boy, including a tall sign down near Arne's Royal Hawaiian Motel. The Barstow Bun Boy additionally closed in 2012 and the building was torn down in 2014.
Until 2000, the thermometer and Bun Boy business were owned by Will Herron, who dreamed up and had built the tall thermometer. He sold much of his enterprises to Steve Carter in 2000, before passing away on July 11th, 2007. Herron's tombstone has a color picture of the World's Tallest Thermometer on it. However, sometime in 2005, it seemed much of it was sold off to Matt Pike in 2005. Matt Pike was responsible for changing the restaurant into a Bob's Big Boy, and eventually sold or shut down most of the properties by 2012, including the thermometer. Herron's family found out, and arranged to repurchase the 134 foot thermometer, refurbish it, and reopen it.
But Baker's list of weird attractions doesn't just include the World's Tallest Thermometer. Equally weird is the official home for Alien Fresh Jerky, a fun little jerky store complete with all sorts of aliens on display. Outside the store, garbage cans are stenciled with "Area 51" and aliens have pulled up in a car. Both a flying saucer and a rocket ship have landed in the parking lot. Inside, besides dozens of different flavors of jerky, aliens watch over the customers, several trying to blend in by wearing cowboy hats. There's also a variety of alien souvenirs such as t-shirts, magnets, bumper stickers, glasses, etc. to buy.
Apparently the owner of Alien Fresh Jerky, Luis Ramallo, intends to build a three story saucer shaped hotel in Baker. The hotel is currently projected to have 31 rooms and will cost $30 million dollars. Plans for the hotel include giving visitors the feeling that they are walking through and living in a craft from outer space. Rumors also state that the hotel plans to have a pool in the shape of an alien's head.
Until the middle of 2014, there was a statue of Roald Amundsen, who discovered the South Pole, standing at the western end of Baker. The explorer was an ancestor of the owner of the gas station, then a Shell station. The gas station has since changed hands, and brands, and sadly the statue of the South Pole Discoverer has disappeared. Even before the statue had gone missing, it had seen better days. Its plaque explaining the great explorer's accomplishments had unfortunately already been stolen by vandals sometime in the last half of 2012. Without an explanation, the statue simply looked like a fisherman without a boat or an ocean, perhaps trying to sell fish sticks or something. The plaque originally stated: "Discoverer of the South Pole, was the ancestor of Pike's Service Center founders Milton Pike (formally Marlowe Amundsen) and Thelma Hutton Pike, Parents of Gale H Pike." Hopefully, one day the statue of the South Pole Discoverer will resurface, but for now, Baker will have to make due with all the rest of the weird it possesses.
But the weird doesn't stop there! Two more stops in Baker include the Mad Greek Diner and the "Lucky" Lotto, Liquor and Country Store. The Mad Greek Diner was started by Michael Dabour and is all done up with Greek columns, Greek flags, and classical naked statues. It's done so well, that they have opened up additional restaurants in Las Vegas and Primm.
The "Lucky" Lotto, Liquor and Country Store has the reputation of being one of the luckiest lottery selling stores in California. Just since the beginning of 2013 they have sold 9 tickets that have paid at least one million dollars! On your way to or from Las Vegas, you should stop and get a lotto ticket or a scratcher! The mural on the side of the buildig is also impressive showcasing the trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas through Baker!
There are still several abandoned buildings throughout the main stretch of Baker. Probably one of the most famous is the tiki themed Arne's Royal Hawaiian Motel. The 43 room motel opened in 1957 and, at the time, served as a good half way spot to stop when traveling between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The motel thankfully closed in 2009, and became a popular destination for urban explorers. The main building has a beautiful curved ceiling. In addition to the Royal Hawaiian Motel, there are other abandoned buildings in Baker including some restaurants and at least one other motel.