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On the road to Las Vegas, straight through the heart of the Mojave Desert, are strange turnoffs leading to even stranger places. Just before Baker is Exit 239, Zzyzx (pronounced ZYE-zix) Road, which supposedly leads to a former clinic run by a sharpster named Curtis Howe Springer. Then there’s Kelbaker Road, which runs south from the I-15 to Kelso, where there is an old Union Pacific railroad station and railway workers’ dormitory, near the Kelso Dunes. It continues south to Amboy, one of the most hellacious towns in the California desert.

Another route from Baker takes you 100 miles north to Death Valley on Highway 127, past Death Valley Junction with its Amargosa Opera House, where Marta Becker used to give regular performances.

In that vast agglomeration of dry lakes, mountains, Joshua Trees, and creosote bushes there are strange little gems waiting to be discovered. I wish I could live long enough to take the time and discover them.