Local

September 6, 2012

Off the beaten path

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Story and photos by Don Ross
Public Affairs Office, NTC and Fort Irwin

The Whistle Stop Café in Nipton, Calif.

The Whistle Stop Café in Nipton, Calif.

As a motorcyclist, taking the long way home, bypassing the interstate highways in favor of the road less traveled is something that I’ve always done and enjoyed, for the most part. It’s not the destination, but the journey—right?

In most cases, that’s true. This time however, a late start for the quick trip to Las Vegas meant it was Interstate-15 the entire way. No meandering up Route 66 and no rest stop or beef jerky in Baker, Calif. The Mad Greek would have to wait!

Blame it on poor planning, a late start or my passenger. But that’s exactly what turned our mundane I-15 motorcycle ride into a unique experience off the beaten path. Ok, so it was that and a check engine light about 20 miles or so outside of Baker. Taking the first exit, exit 286 at Nipton Road, got us back on the road less traveled (much less traveled) looking for a service station or something in Nipton, Calif., “The Gateway to the Mojave National Preserve.”

With a population of about 40 (four, zero), Nipton has the distinction of being the most solar-powered town in the country, thanks to a concentrated photo voltaic plant that began operating in 2010. Other unique features include the Nipton Hotel, complete with furnishings straight from your grandparents’ attic. And when was the last time you’ve seen a mile-long freight train stopped at a railroad crossing for burgers? We couldn’t believe it either! If a Whistle Stop Café bacon cheese-burger (since closed, reopening this month) can stop a freight train, it must be worth it. It was!

Hotel Nipton, the five room bed and breakfast frequented by silent film star Clara Bow in the 1920s.

Hotel Nipton, the five room bed and breakfast frequented by silent film star Clara Bow in the 1920s.

Another unexpected fact uncovered with the check engine light is that Clara Bow, a silent movie star in the 1920’s, owned a ranch not far from Nipton. She frequented the hotel when accompanying her husband on cattle drives and when picking up her fan mail there. Plus, her Hollywood guests would arrive in Nipton, via rail, for events and gatherings at her ranch.

George Strait, in the title track of his 2001 album “The Road Less Traveled,” sang “I’ve chosen a pathway I may not endure/one thing’s for certain, nothing for sure.” While I’m a huge George Strait fan, there are two things for certain if you travel just 10 or so miles from I-15 to Nipton: it’s a friendly, unique and historic stop at the “Gateway of the Mojave National Preserve,” and there certainly isn’t a service station.




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