California’s third-largest city by area is an urban-planning disaster, a sprawl of empty grids that aspired to become a megacity—and failed. But as the desert works to reclaim the land, it’s become a mecca of another kind.
It was June in the Mojave desert and the sun was blistering. The land around me was empty, scorched, and flat, dotted by brush and the occasional piece of windswept trash. Judging by the map, the intersection where I’d stopped was a busy crossroads between two major thruways. But when I shifted into park in the middle of the road, no one honked. No one looked at me funny. I hadn’t seen another car in an hour at least.
It was probably the safest intersection in America to pull over and take a nap.
According to the map, I was surrounded by cul-de-sacs and neighborhoods. In reality, there was nothing but sand and more sand—and roads. Endless roads. Roads in all directions, marked by white fence posts and the occasional lonely pole. Some were paved. Some were dirt. Some had long ago been reclaimed by the encroaching sand.
California City, California, is the third-largest city by area in America’s third-largest state, and most of it barely even qualifies as a ghost town—a ghost town needs people to have lived there first.
California City is a ghost grid.
That afternoon, it was 98 degrees. Bugged out by the isolation, I kept thinking about everything I didn’t know how to fix if something went wrong with my car. I checked my phone in case I needed to call AAA: no reception. I shaded my eyes with my hand. In the near distance were two hulking wrecks, old cars like two relics of a previous era. The 14,000 or so people who do live in California City were miles behind me, in a concentration of ranch homes and stores clustered around the main drag. Out here, the only evidence of life was a half-dozen RVs I’d spotted, circled like wagons, and two dirt bikes I saw cresting a hill.
A hundred yards away, I spotted a mini tornado kicking up sand, whirling straight toward me. Time to go. I jumped back in the car, shifted into drive, and hit the gas—and 30 seconds later, plunged the nose of my Honda Accord off the lip of a three-foot drop.
Who put a sand dune there?….”
RTWT AT A California Dream – Neatorama