previously published on Need Supply Co.
Far beyond the desert chic glamor of Palm Springs stretches miles upon miles of “uninhabitable” desert. Summer temperatures reach a blistering 120F while nighttime temperatures dip down to a bone-chilling 40F. The clay-based soil yields little more than arbitrary dust storms and the occasional sagebrush. Here, the roads come to an end and the sun reigns. One cannot help but feel like a small and insignificant blemish in the middle of a rogue and silent universe.
Despite all of this, there are settlements here in the badlands. Not RV parks or tidy groupings of campers parked along the side of the road — but permanent, standalone houses. Many are located in desolate company towns clustered around salt beds and mineral deposits. Behemoth factories spout billows of steam into the air as these humble settlements scatter on the wayside, like a hastily made diorama of clapboard houses.
Aside from the towering smokeshafts and ridiculously dense distribution of Christian churches (there are 5 churches in Trona, a town with a population of 18), these settlements resemble a poorly executed post-apocalyptic American suburb. Chain link fences indicate property lines. Dirt road “ boulevards” branch off into dead-end cul-de-sacs. Pillbox houses congregate in grid-like format. It is a crude manifestation of the virtues of suburbia: privacy, order and isolation. These makeshift settlements populate the soulless vacancy that is the desert landscape — a uniquely and quintessentially American backdrop for Freedom.