One of my favorite drives in California is along CA-58, which starts in Bakersfield, meanders east through the Tehachapi Pass and eventually ends at Kramer Junction in the Mojave Desert.

The town at which I insist on stopping is Boron, which once thrived as it was, and still is, the boric acid (an important compound in the cleaning agent borax) capital of America. Decades ago, caravans of mules hauled this miracle compound out of the nearby mountains and into households across America.

You can still buy borax at stores such as Target, and yes, it does help get your laundry cleaner. But the competition for household cleaning products has become far fiercer, and weathered Boron, home to just over 2,000 residents, shows the results.

But the surrounding scenery is still alluring. The bizarrely-shaped Joshua trees tower randomly across the landscape. Houses and offices along the town’s main drag are weathered and make you feel as if time has stopped for at least 60 years. Travel through here is far more interesting than along the Grapevine; and depending on traffic, may actually be faster if your final destination is Palm Springs or the music festivals at Coachella.

You can visit a couple museums, which pay homage to the 20-mule teams that brought borax to homes across the U.S., as well as highlight the accomplishments of the local aviation industry.

The town is about a mile off of CA-58; you can’t miss the town, as it is really the only outpost between Tehachapi and Kramer Junction. A few restaurants line the town’s main drag – a short drive will bring you to the newest store, a Family Dollar. Having lunch in Boron, and spending 30 minutes or so exploring the town’s museums, offers a lesson in California’s riches – and how economics and changing consumer trends can take away that wealth just as quickly.

Image credits: Leon Kaye

One of several murals touting Boron's past

The gnarled Joshua trees are a draw

Time seems as if has stopped here; trains rarely do

Lone Joshua trees on the outskirts of town

Local American Legion post

The harsh Mojave sun is brutal on the landscape

The main drag in Boron

Welcome to the borax capital of America

The dog enjoyed the dry landscape

The view of the Mojave from Boron

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.