If you’ve seen the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas starring Johnny Depp, then you know what the California high desert looks like. It’s the actual desert that Depp and his friend drive through on their way to Las Vegas while all whack-a-doodled out on drugs. Many non-Californians are unaware that a vast portion of California is desert; it’s not all palm trees, beaches, and congested cities like Los Angeles. There are quite a few desert communities (some well-known ones are Palm Springs, Coachella, and Barstow) which offer just as many gems to see and do as Hollywood or Venice (California, not Italy, ovviamente).
The major issue is they’re far away, and you have to drive for what feels like eternity through the barren and unforgiving California desert. But it’s worth it, because you visit places like ‘The World’s Tallest Thermometer” in Barstow, Calico Ghost Town (which I’ll cover in a blog next week), or the Palm Springs Air Museum; see things like the sliding rocks in Death Valley, or visit the San Andreas fault (made famous by the 2015 movie starring The Rock… un-ironically), or visit cool stores like Charlie Brown Farms and Alien Fresh Jerky, which are the two places I’ll be covering in this blog.
Charlie Brown Farms
Don’t let the name fool you. This is not a farm at all, but rather a store unlike any I’ve visited. It’s located on highway 138, near the town of Little Rock, California, and sits right off the highway with ample parking. It’s open from 8 am to 8 pm, and is about an hour’s drive from the Inland Empire, or about 2 hours from Los Angeles. While I recommend a visit if you’re ever in the area, be prepared for what you’re about to encounter: knick-knack heaven. This place is a collector’s wet dream because they just have so. much. stuff. Every part of the store is packed to the gills with different sections of collectors’ items. The sections include the beach, police and military, the Nightmare Before Christmas, steampunk skulls, the Day of the Dead, historical documents, Native American, Egyptian and other African cultures, Coca-Cola, dogs, horses, wolves, masks, and so much more. That is just a drop in the bucket. It also has candy and food sections, an entire room dedicated to weird and unusual sodas/drinks, and a separate building for children’s toys.
They also have a more… controversial section, which is Nazi memorabilia. I am 100% convinced it is fake, however; there isn’t a soul who would sell these kinds of things for $45 per piece. Maybe more like $4,500 per piece. I don’t understand why any decent person would want to collect memorabilia (real or fake) of an organization that was fueled by blind hatred and genocide, but hey, to each his own, right?
In addition to having all of these sections, they also have their own restaurant. It’s more of a- go up and order, wait for your number to be called, walk up and get your food- type of place. To be 100% honest, I wasn’t a fan of the food. I ordered a shredded BBQ chicken sandwich and macaroni salad, and both were “meh”. After maybe my second or third bite, I bit straight into a chicken bone, which pretty much killed the entire meal for me. Luckily they refunded the meal. My parents both ordered the tri-tip sandwich, one with baked beans and the other with potato salad, and they both said they enjoyed the food. So I can’t really say if the food sucked or not, so you’ll just have to judge for yourself!
In addition to having an inside seating area, they also have an outdoor area with tables, benches, and umbrellas surrounded by Wild West-type buildings. It’s actually a cool little place to eat at, and my 17-month-old daughter thoroughly enjoyed being able to run around unrestrained because the entire area is fenced off.
Overall, I enjoyed Charlie Brown Farms, and thought it was cute and fun, albeit kitschy and a bit claustrophobic. It’s a nice little place to take the family or to just take a day trip with a friend. While many of the items may not be your cup of tea, I guarantee you’ll find at least one thing that you like. There’s so much there, it’d be a miracle not to!
Alien Fresh Jerky
If you start your drive from Charlie Brown Farms like we did, Alien Fresh Jerky is about a 2-hour drive further north, up the 15 freeway. It’s open from 8am to 7pm, and is located in Baker, California, 64 miles north of Barstow, which is well-known for being a favorite pit-stop for travelers making their way to and from Las Vegas. Why the owners of Alien Fresh Jerky decided to build such a unique and expensive-looking store in the middle of meth country, the world may never know.
If you’re driving down Baker Blvd (the main street in Baker), you absolutely, unequivocally, without a doubt, cannot miss this place. If you do, well, I’m sorry to inform you, but you probably shouldn’t be driving anymore because you are blind. This place is THAT big, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. The building is in the shape of a gigantic UFO, surrounded by giant green aliens on light poles. There is a 60ft flashing sign in the shape of a robot, which you can see from far away. There is a car dubbed the ‘Galaxy Peace Patrol’ with 4 life- sized green aliens inside, as well as a spaceship on a raised platform with a see-through alien cutout next to it flashing a peace sign. Both sit in the parking lot right outside the store’s front door, facing the main street. The only way you’ll miss this place is if you intentionally try.
My first impression of Alien Fresh Jerky when we pulled up was “Wow”. The building looks massive from the outside, and you can’t help but assume the inside is just as big, and maybe even two stories. In reality, the inside is shockingly small. This is in no way meant to discredit how cool this place is, or discourage anyone from going; it’s just a genuine shock I had when I first walked inside. It’s a single-room store, and you can literally stand at the entrance and scan the entire place in one go. However, they still had a lot of cool stuff and it’s right up an alien enthusiast’s alley. In addition to having what they’re known for- beef jerky- they also have a wide variety of unique hot sauces with funny labels, alien themed T-shirts, weird and unique energy drinks, beer mugs, coffee mugs, magnets, candy, and other small collectible items.
We were there for about 45 minutes, give or take a few, and the store was constantly buzzing with people the whole time. For a place that’s located sort of in the middle of nowhere, it sure did attract a lot of visitors.
While this place is cool, and I wouldn’t mind stopping there again if I’m ever driving to or from Vegas, it’s not somewhere I would go back to just for the heck of it. If you’re an alien fan like myself and live in the area, I definitely recommend visiting at least once. If you’re just passing through on your way to somewhere else, I still recommend a quick stop. However, if you want to fly into somewhere and then drive a few hours just to come here, ehhh, save your money and just go to Roswell instead.