Mojave, California. Wind capital of the Mojave.

Anyone who’s driven from Bakersfield to Las Vegas is familiar with it.  Up until the Highway 58 bypass was opened around 2002, you actually had to drive through it on the “main drag”, Sierra Highway.  If your destination was Las Vegas, it offered the first convenient restroom stop of the trip.  If you were heading from Las Vegas to Bakersfield, it represented the last leg of what seemed to be the longest drive of your life. Its bars and liquor stores conveniently fronting Sierra Highway provided numerous opportunities to pull over to the curb and secure the necessary “hair of the dog” for the final one-hour drive home.

Mojave offers numerous restaraunts, gas stations, and convenience stores and appears to be still thriving, even though the 2002 bypass has diverted much traffic. If you’ve just left Los Angeles or Bakersfield and are headed to a remote desert spot, Mojave offers you a chance to buy anything you’ve forgotten to take with you.

If you love trains, hang out in Mojave. The old railroad yard is still there, though no longer used, and several railroad junctions are in or near the town.

If you’re an airplane geek like us, you must check out Mojave Airport. We would list the different types of aircraft that were there just last week (week of 1-2-08) but we’d run out of web space. You need permission to access the flight line itself, and you can ask at the airport office which is located in the building at the base of the old control tower. If you access the airport off Highway 58 south of town you’ll find yourself greeted by two snazzy “gate guards:” an F-4 and a Convair 990. The F-4 is more than enough to look at, but be sure to take a close look at the Convair. It was used by NASA to test Space Shuttle landing gear (the landing gear test fixture is still in place at the center of the fuselage). During one test the landing gear test assembly actually caught fire, and the flames billowed to the top of the fuselage. A very ordinary appearing, but extraordinary aircraft. After you pass the two aircraft just continue north on the road you’re on and you’ll come to the airport office.

The upper picture looks to have been taken around 1956.  The bottom picture was taken on 1/6/08.  The landmark is Reno’s Café in the upper picture, now Mike’s Restaurant in the lower.

(Above) The Convair CV-990 “gate guard” at the Highway 58 entrance to Mojave Airport. At the risk of repeating ourselves, this jet was used by NASA to test space shuttle landing gear and tires in the 1990s. During one such test the landing gear caught fire and produced a spectacular but relatively harmless conflagration as the jet rolled along the Edwards AFB runway after landing. The shuttle landing test fixture is still in place at the lower center of the fuselage between the main landing gear. The jet is easily accessible just inside the highway 58 entrance on the south side of the airport. You can park on the side of the entrance road and walk around the jet, but obey the signs and do not attempt to gain access to the interior or otherwise climb on the jet. You’ll wear out your welcome real quick. When you look at the jet the first thing you’ll note is that the NASA logo has been painted over and the uninspiring “www.mojaveairport.com” logo has been substituted. You’ll also notice that the jet is suffering from neglect common to gate guards at airfields off the beaten path. For more gouge on this jet, visit the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center fact sheet here.

(Above) A BAE Flight Systems privately owned F-4 Phantom next to the CV-990 is the second of two “gate guards” at the Highway 58 entrance. At this juncture we don’t know much about the history of this particular jet;

(Above) And just so you’ll get the general flavor of the town of Mojave, this is a view looking southeast just across highway 58 from the town and the airport. That’s a whole lot of nothin’, folks, and it is windswept and hot. Nonetheless, it is the Mojave, and it is our kind of country.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Mojave is a census-designated place (CDP) in Kern County, California, United States. The population was 3,836 at the 2000 census. The town is located at the northwest corner of the Mojave Desert, below the Oak Creek Pass. Telephone numbers in Mojave follow the format (661) 824-xxxx and the area includes three postal ZIP Codes.

The city of Mojave began in 1876 as a construction camp on the Southern Pacific Railroad. From 1884 to 1889, the town was the western terminus of the 165-mile, twenty-mule-team borax wagon route originating at Harmony Borax Works in Death Valley. It later served as headquarters for construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

The name Mojave comes from the name of the Indian nation occupying the area before the arrival of European settlers. Geographic features using the word Mojave are spelled differently from state to state. The convention is to spell it Mojave in California and Mohave in Arizona according to David Darlington’s book on the Mojave Desert.

Located near Edwards Air Force Base, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, and Palmdale Regional Airport, Mojave has a rich aerospace history as well. Its airport is the home of various aerospace companies and institutions such as Scaled Composites and the civilian National Test Pilot School. The town was home to the Rutan Voyager, the first aircraft to fly around the world nonstop and unrefueled. The airport is also the first inland spaceport in the United States, the Mojave Spaceport, which was the location of the first private spaceflight, the launch of SpaceShipOne on June 21, 2004.

After winning the Ansari X Prize, Burt Rutan quipped that the isolation of the Mojave Desert fosters invention. “Innovation is what we do here,” he said, “because there’s not much else to do in Mojave.”

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