The other day driving home from work, I popped in a CD (remember those?!) that immediately took me back to my high school years. Listening to each song only seemed to immerse me more into nostalgia, so much so as a matter of fact, that a certain aura fell over me—almost as if I were sitting in my ’66 Kombi bus in the school parking lot listening to the music in my cassette player during break (or on my way to catch a few waves in lieu of the day’s curriculum more like). As soon as the disc ended, however, I was immediately thrown back into modern suburbia reality, unfortunately.
I get the very same feelings when I step foot onto the dry lakebed of El Mirage in the Mojave Desert, be it for an SCTA-sanctioned event or a weekend of outdoor adventure. Except, instead of my high school glory years, the clock turns way back, beyond my conception, to a time when hot rodding pioneers first laid foot—and rubber—on the silt surface nearly a century ago. Looking down upon the earth’s sun-cracked terra firma, I realize that over the decades, nothing’s really changed … other than the shapes and speeds of the race cars and the ATVs on the horizon. It’s a pretty humbling feeling being out there, especially during time trials—just seeing the plume of dust from a given racer as you enter the lakebed facility can give you chills.
Unlike other racing landmarks, such as Pomona and similar dragstrips that have been renovated and modernized over time, El Mirage and Bonneville are hot rodding’s only true unmolested links to its beginnings, and in some form or another, they both may be going away (heavy emphasis on “may”) at some point in time. They’re nature’s gifts, and like all things Mother Nature bears, it’s mankind’s responsibility to maintain and nurture. But just how we interpret that nurturing varies from one person to another—or from one government official to another.
Bonneville’s gone through its ups and downs over the years (natural salt erosion for one), and now it looks as if El Mirage, Southern California’s only remaining dry lakebed sanctioned for land speed racing, is being sighted in the scopes of government use. Doesn’t seem all too long ago when the military granted the pubic temporary use of Muroc Dry Lake, an incredible opportunity that I was fortunate enough to take part in—but all we have left today is El Mirage, and we need to do our part to preserve this important part of hot rodding’s true heritage.
The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), Senate Bill No. 2X, was signed into law earlier this year by California Governor Jerry Brown. Among other things, it has its sights on a number of locations in the Mojave area of Southern California, and El Mirage is right there near the bull’s-eye as potential spots for wind and solar energy generation, to, as the bill states, “increase California’s renewable energy portfolio standard to 33 percent of all retail electricity sales by 2020.
“The desert regions of California provide extensive renewable energy resource potential. They also support extraordinary biological and other natural resources of great value, including numerous threatened and endangered plant and animal species. The DRECP is intended to advance state and federal conservation goals in these desert regions while also facilitating the timely permitting of renewable energy projects under applicable state and federal laws. The DRECP will encompass the development of solar thermal, utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV), wind, and other forms of renewable energy and associated infrastructure such as electric transmission lines necessary for renewable energy development within the Mojave and Colorado desert regions of California.”
Whether or not you live on the West Coast, let alone ever plan to set foot on the dry lakebed of El Mirage or the Bonneville Salt Flats, we all need to be concerned with preservation; from the cars we drive to the surfaces on which we drive them. This is just part of that preservation effort. Organizations such as the SCTA/BNI cannot go it alone—they need all the help they can get.
For more information on the DRECP—and more importantly, to voice your concerns—write to the California Energy Commission or visit their site:
California Energy Commission
Dockets Office, MS-4
Docket No. 09-RENEW EO-01
1516 Ninth Street
Sacramento, CA 95814-5512