California City -- Fall 2006
Our October 14, 2006, erection celebrates the 1896 construction of the Randsburg-Mojave Road. This monument is composed of two polished black marble plaques set within a five-foot tall concrete trapezoid. It stands just east of California City where the two legs of the Randsburg-Mojave Road came together. Its GPS coordinates are 35°08'24.98" N, 117°55'28.98" W.
The dedication was part of our "Southern Alliance IV," one of the largest Clampouts ever to occur in Southern California. Hosted by Peter Lebeck and representing cooperation between the six participating southern California chapters of E Clampus Vitus, it had a verified attendance of almost 1200 Clampers.
The Randsburg-Mojave Road was one of three important pieces of infrastructure that helped support the boom in the Rand Mining District at the turn of the last century. The various claims of the fifty square-mile Rand District produced gold, silver and tungsten ores; and drove the local mining economy from roughly 1895 until about the mid-1920's when mining for these minerals became uneconomical.
The impetus for building the Randsburg-Mojave Road came in 1896 with the discovery of gold at the Rand Mine the year before. Soon renamed "The Yellow Aster," the Rand diggings proved so productive that the towns of Randsburg and Johannesburg sprang up immediately to support the mine. This caused transportation in and out of Randsburg to become a pressing issue, especially since Randsburg lacked the water needed to process the gold ore coming out of the ground.
One quick solution was to cart the ore eight miles east to Cow Wells which had the necessary water to become a processing destination once Eugene Garlock had set-up the eight-stamp mill he had brought in from Tehachapi.
Similarly, miners in need of supplies could travel from Randsburg to Cow Wells, which had been renamed after the enterprising Eugene Garlock, and then southeast to Mojave. This was a 54 mile circuit, and for a short time Randsburg to Garlock to Mojave became the established route.
In 1896, Mojave based Rice & Shipee built the new Randsburg-Mojave Road directly linking the Rand Mining District to the town of Mojave and to its Southern Pacific railhead. In building the road, Rice & Shipee used that stretch of the 20 Mule Team trail that lead northeast from Mojave into California City, then added a new leg northeast from California City into Randsburg. The Randsburg-Mojave Road meant travel in almost a straight line.
Using the new road shortened the trip from 54 to 36 miles, making a five hour hop out of what had been an eight hour trek through Garlock by horse drawn stage. The road eventually supported motorized traffic as well.
With completion of a railroad spur from Kramer Junction into Johannesburg in 1898, and the diversion of water from Garlock into Randsburg that same year, the main pieces of the transportation and manufacturing infrastructure of the Rand Mining District were complete. From then on milling was done either in Barstow or in The Yellow Aster's own 100 stamp mill. Rendered irrelevant by these capital improvements, Garlock was a ghost town by 1905, while the miners continued to use the Randsburg-Mojave Road to head for the big city until the decline of Randsburg itself.
The Randsburg-Mojave Road Six-Way didn't just magically spring up in the desert like some kind of mirage. It took four years of serious planning by representatives from each of the six Southern Alliance Chapters that had committed to the Doin's in 2002: Peter Lebeck, of Kern County; Billy Holcomb, of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties; Queho Posse of Southern Nevada; Platrix, of Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange Counties; Lost Dutchman, of the combined territories of Arizona and New Mexico; and John P. Squibob, of San Diego, Imperial Counties and Baja California.
With the event to take place in Kern County, just northeast of California City and north of the 20 Mule Team Parkway, Peter Lebeck was the designated host; and our own Steve Born was appointed head planner and coordinator-in-chief for the entire Six-Way.
In the years leading up to the Randsburg-Mojave Doin's, Steve set the agendas and chaired meetings with representatives from each of the six Southern Alliance Chapters. He assigned tasks to chapter representatives, and devoted the many hours it would take to complete the hundreds of phone calls and emails that had to go out if the Clampout was to ever take place.
Steve did no less in the field. He made multiple trips to California City, coordinating with the local mayor, police and fire departments, Caltrans, the federal Bureau of Land Management and several other governmental bodies. Every minute detail had to be dealt with, from the choice of a Clampsite to the choice of desserts, and Steve was in the thick of it. Oh yea, did we forget to mention that Steve was also demoted to PXL Humbug in 2005 and completed two erections of his own?
Our massive doin's was to take place on Friday, October 13, 2006, but for an event of this magnitude, site preparation had to begin two days before. On Wednesday, a Clamper advance crew marked out the one square mile area that had been designated by BLM for our use; creating traffic lanes, and setting aside areas for check-in, restrooms, dumpsters, Hawkers' Row, food service and a massive Hall of Comparative Ovations. The local and federal authorities had given their blessings to a large, one cord max, HOCO bonfire, but had nixed open fires of any other kind. In addition to the usual Clamper personnel needed to put on the doin's and to protect the PBCs from mischief, this Clampout would require Redshirts to patrol the grounds as fire marshals.
On Thursday the hardware arrived: port-a-potties, mega-dumpsters, trash barrels, a water tank, food service and kitchen equipment. The cooks set up their gear, and the check-in crew set up the administration area. So that by Thursday night the desert was ready to welcome the largest overnight Clampout in the history of E Clampus Vitus. Official records had 1,250 men in attendance, with 1,142 Redshirts and 108 Poor Blind Candidates proffering their gold dust for a chance to spend three days of frivolity in the Mojave Desert.
Despite the threat of intermittent rain the weather proved pleasant -- mostly shirt sleeve weather. Brothers from every chapter in Clamperdom were in attendance, and some came from as far as away as Mississippi, New York and Connecticut. The display of rigs spread out on the flat desert floor was impressive. Everywhere you turned there were tents, trucks, campers and RVs blocking the view. While the flatness of the terrain made it hard to take a photograph that would do the assembly justice, their presence could be described as a sea of Clampers wading in a giant dirt-covered parking lot; with brothers wandering from one RV or camp to another and accepting the waiting hospitality of many a brother Clamper.
Our Mojave-Randsburg Road Monument had been poured the week before the doin's by a 14-man Clamper crew led by PXL's XNGH Joe Szot, and on Saturday, October 14, 2008, at 11:00 a.m., it was time for its dedication. The monument was a mere four and a half miles west of the Clampsite.
Rain and wind threatened but the assembled bunch stood its ground. There were many local dignitaries in attendance including Dr. Larry Adams, the mayor of California City; Bill Way, its city manager, and several members of the city council. The colors were presented by presiding PXL Humbug Paul "PPA" Weaver and the five Humbugs of the Southern Alliance, and much help was provided by the Girl Scouts from Cal City's Troop 180.
Things came to order. Our Master of Ceremonies was Peter Lebeck's own Gene "Dickhead" Duncker, XNGH-PXP, who proceeded to guide everyone through the brisk 30 minute presentation, cut somewhat short by the threatening weather. Former Humbugs Mike Johnson from Billy Holcomb and Steve Born from PXL gave the historical presentation that proclaimed the purpose of the monument, and which complemented the fifteen page keepsake that outlined the history of the Mojave-Randsburg Area. When the former Humbugs were done, the plaque was unveiled, and there were handshakes and many fuertes abrazos all around.
Meanwhile, back at the Clampsite, the Poor Blind Candidates were preparing to lose their scales of blindness. In the afternoon, a long pavilion was placed before an open area, where hundreds of Clampers gathered to watch the Graybeards launch the PBCs into a serious and often hilarious oral examination, and to the surprise of many, every PBC passed with clusters!
Saturday evening held the most splendid of ceremonies. As our Candidate entered the illustrious Hall of Comparative Ovations, they encircled a giant bonfire as they were paraded before the assembled brotherhood. When the secret observances were over, twelve hundred and fifty Clampers stood together in the desert night in cathartic and rowdy celebration.
If there was ever an event dedicated to the awareness of own western history, then the 2006 Randsburg -Mojave Road Doin's has to be the one. Our Poor Blind Candidates were educated by some of ECV's best historians and along the way were thoroughly indoctrinated in the ways of Clamperdom. The crowd at the dedication ceremony was also treated to a superhistorical dose of the whys and wherefores of the local area by some of our best. And, as you traveled around the Clampsite, there were discussions of an historical nature in virtually every camp. By the end of the weekend, there were no doubts in anyone's mind that E Clampus Vitus is what it is claimed to be -- an authentic historical fraternity.
The Randsburg-Mojave Road Event was truly a great accomplishment for the brothers of Peter Lebeck and the entire Southern Alliance. The people and civic authorities of California City, as well as the BLM, have acknowledged the fine work done by E Clampus Vitus, and are eager to see us return to this historic piece of Kern County. The dedication ceremony was covered by radio stations in the Antelope and Indian Springs Valleys, and on Friday, October 13, 2006, the Antelope Valley Press did a full page article on ECV, adding to local interest. All in all, a real feather in the cap of a pis' poor bear wrassler named "Peter Lebeck" and his red shirted, Kern County, brethren -- "Satisfactory!"
To track the northern leg of the Randsburg-Mojave Road you can use either of our map links, or use Google Earth to find California City, California, then mouse over to our monument using these GPS coordinates: 35°08'24.98" N, 117°55'28.98" W. The dirt road to the north of the pavilion is what you are looking for. Follow it all the way across the Desert to Randsberg.