When I was growing up, my family would often travel north to Oregon to spend a couple weeks there for the summer. The drive was long and arduous, but occasionally scenic, passing through neglected gems like Shasta and the southern Cascade volcanoes. However not all was pristine and beautiful; we would also pass through the town on the California side of the Oregon border known as Dorris, CA. Every time we passed through it, we would make fun of it endlessly.
You see, when we would drive the several blocks through Dorris (population 886), we would always play the game: “Spot the Person.” There were two rules to this game:
- Spot a person – any person – outside of a vehicle or building
- Whoever spots the first person wins
Everyone lost. Every time. Eventually Dorris, being at the crossroads to nowhere between the least visited part of California and the least visited part of Oregon, as well as resembling a post-apocalyptic country village, came to be known to us as the Worst Place on Earth.
To be fair, I now realize this is not true. I am much older than I was, and significantly more traveled. I have since discovered places much worse than Dorris (the entire country of Moldova for instance), and so I have set out to write a series of blog posts in honor of those places.
Now, when I decided to do this, I sought out the usual suspects: communities nearby familiar pit stops between Los Angeles and San Francisco on I-5. First I went to Coalinga, best known for the putrid smell of cow dung and horrifying factory carnage at the nearby slaughterhouse, Harris Ranch (aka: Cowschwitz). But much to my chagrin, the actual town of Coalinga itself is quite quaint and welcoming. Happy people roamed the streets and houses general had no more than one shattered window. I decided to move on to Usual Suspect #2: Avenal.
Avenal is best known for …well… Avenal is known for absolutely nothing. But the town is cradled in between warm hills and, aside from being host to a state prison, the community seemed quite friendly. That is to say, I saw no less than two people walking and spotted at least one sandwich shop and something that looked like a gas station perhaps. Just don’t pick up hitchhikers.
This did not bode well for my mission. I knew there had to be places worse than Dorris, so my quest continued onward. Fortunately, one town did not let me down: Lost Hills, CA.
As the name suggest, Lost Hills is surrounded by flat and arid plains of what used to be farmland. People traveling between the big California metros probably know Lost Hills for the gas stations and fast food right off the freeway, but in reality, the actual town is a couple miles off the exit. And oh, what a town it is!
Lost Hills is several block by several blocks of decaying wooden houses and rusting cars. According to Wikipedia, 75% of the town is involved in what little agriculture is left in the San Joaquin Valley, which is odd because 40% of the town is under the age of 18. It also has a per capita income of about 8,000.
Fortunately for Lost Hills, it has honor of being next to the second fastest growing oil field in California. Although this apparently does not yield job opportunities for the residents, it does however give a chillingly grotesque yet cool look to the Lost Hills western skyline as hundreds of derricks rape the land for the precious residue of once forlorn dinosaur decay juice.
But not all is bad for our friends in Lost Hills! They do have an In ‘n Out Burg… oh wait, no they don’t.
Congratulations, Lost Hills. You are worse than Dorris.
P.S. If you’re from one of these towns mentioned in this blog and you’re offended, I apologize. But seriously, you need to get the hell out. God invented the U-Haul for a reason. Believe me, the grass is greener… although there’s no grass in Lost Hills. Move anywhere. Except for Trona.
P.P.S. I’m a firm believer that everything can be beautiful if you look at it with the right frame of mind. Even Lost Hills.
But not Trona.