In early 2020 I traveled across the country with the course of three weeks. My A to Z posts this year will have the “8154” theme, which will also be the title of my forthcoming new book that will document the epic road trip. Each entry will highlight a few stories with photos based on the alphabet and not the order of the trip. I hope you will enjoy this bouncy ride across the back roads of America. Please enjoy the Z Stories. (all photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz)
Getting a Bucket list item Knocked Out
Though there are few places in the U.S. that start with a Z, one of the most well-known has generally been only a pipe dream for me. Well, on the 8154 road trip, I finally got to this place. And, not only that, I got an additional one that wasn’t even on the radar. I don’t think many people have ever hit these two places in one road trip! See below for more details.
As a purveyor of strange and unique place names in the U.S., this place has been on my radar for years. In February 2020, I finally got there…at least to the highway sign, which is really the famous part. (Have you seen my first book yet?)
So, there is indeed a story behind the name of Zzyzx. The place was formerly known as Soda Springs and had a natural mineral springs. It has been an area with human activity for centuries. But, the place changed in 1944 when a guy named Curtis Howe Springer established the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa after filing mining claims for 12,000 acres. He used the springs to bottle his water and provide drinks for travelers through the desert. But why Zzyzx? Springer wanted the name to be remembered as the last word in the English language. The settlement and the Zzyzx Spring as a water feature, were approved as a place name by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names on June 14, 1984. It is, alphabetically, the last place name in their lexicon.
We did not take the 4.5-mile-long road through the Mojave Desert to the old settlement and spa due to time schedule. But, it was the sign I wanted anyway.
Zuzax, New Mexico
Honestly, I had never heard of Zuzax, New Mexico. It was never on my radar. In fact, as we passed the exit on Interstate 40 just east of Albuquerque, I had to pull over quickly so I could get the sign. Indeed, I thought to myself at the time that there may not be anybody else that has documented a visit to the Zzyzx exit and the Zuzax exit in the same trip! So, this may be a back roads piece of history.
Around 1956 a guy named Herman Ardans opened a curio shop on Route 66 and made up the name Zuzax so it would capture people’s attention and also be the last entry in the phone book. When Ardans was asked by customers about the origin of the name, he often told them that it referred to the Zuzax Indians. Though his curio shop is long gone, the Zuzax exit remains.
We did pass one more exit on our road trip that began with a Z. It is a much more common name. Located on the western outskirts of Kentucky in Henderson County, it is an ironic place to finish up my 2020 A to Z Challenge… right back in Kentucky where the 8154 Mile Epic Road Trip began.
Zion got its start with some settlers and by 1906 had a population of 300. There were three churches established in the community. It is now a small dot on the map.
And so ends my A to Z Challenge. I hope that you have enjoyed the ride, all the stories and all of the photos. If you did, it is my hope that you will register on my site and look forward to my forthcoming book titled “8154.”
WATCH FOR MY NEW BOOK “8154” — COMING SOON TO AMAZON
I am currently working on my FOURTH book, titled “8154” to represent the mileage of my epic road trip with family. You can visit my Amazon Author Page to see my other books at https://amzn.to/3azY36l