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About half way between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, as you drive along Interstate 15 through the lonely Mojave Desert, you’ll come across an unusual exit sign directing you towards a rather oddly-spelled “Zzyzx Road” (pronounced “Zye-Zex” and rhymes with “Isaacs”). The 4.5 mile-long, part paved and part dirt road leads you to an old health resort, now abandoned, called Zzyzx Springs, started by a self-proclaimed minister and quack named Curtis Howe Springer in the 1940s. Today, it’s home to the Desert Studies Center, and the artificial Lake Tuendae that the pseudo-doctor built is now a refuge habitat of the endangered Mohave tui chub, a kind of fish.

Before Zzyzx became Zzyzx, it was called the Soda Springs, because of the presence of a natural spring, and was a popular stop for Indians in search of fresh water. The area had prehistoric quarry which later became a mining site. In 1944, Curtis Howe Springer, who had made a name for himself as a Los Angeles radio personality, purchased a mining claim on 12,800 acres of land surrounding the springs with the intention of building a Mineral Springs and Health Spa. He called the area Zzyzx, a name he had invented himself claiming it to be “the last word in the English language.”

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