Penny Press in Baker, CA

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The last time I drove I-15 to Vegas, I stopped at Alien Fresh Jerky in Baker, CA. I was looking for a penny press. As I said in my post Squashing Pennies, I have a friend who likes pressed pennies, so I try to get one for her whenever I see a penny squishing machine. I stopped in Baker in December 2016 because a reader of Roadside America said Alien Fresh Jerky had a penny press. Alas, Roadside America reader was wrong.

This photo shows the Mad Greek Cafe in Baker, CA. The Country Store–and its penny press–are right across the street.

When I told The Poet and The Activist of my fruitless search for a penny press in Baker, The Poet told me where I could find one in the town: The Country Store. She told me it was across the street from the Mad Greek Cafe on the main drag, and she was exactly right!

When I pulled up to the Country Store, I saw the penny press machine right outside the front door. I love the convenience of not having to go into a store to use a penny press, but is the press left outside all night? Is no one trying to steal these things? Maybe they are too heavy for easy theft.

In any case, my first order of business at the Country Store was a visit to the restroom, which I found to be adequately clean and comfortable. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the store, but when I passed

This photo shows the front of the Country Store. I managed to cut out the “C” in “Country” and include an innocent bystander.

through, I saw a lot of prepackaged dried fruit, nuts, trail mix, and other snacks. The store also had souvenir items for sale, especially items pertaining to Route 66. In fact, the store’s inventory reminded me of what I’d seen the year before at Alien Fresh Jerky. In any case, I wasn’t interested in snacks or schlock aimed at tourists. All I cared about was that penny press.

When I exited the store, I had to dig around in my van to find two quarters and a penny to use in the press. I found a penny in one of the cups on the console between the two front seats, then grabbed a couple quarters from my laundry stash. I was ready to go.

The penny press at the Country Store gave me four choices of designs to press into my penny. I could have an image of the Country Store itself (boring!); one of a desert tortoise; a cluster of desert images, including a cow skull and the proclamation “Gateway to the Mojave;” or an image of the World’s Largest Thermometer. The tortoise, was nice, but since I’ve never seen one in real life, I didn’t think I should press one into my friend’s souvenir penny. “Gateway to the Mojave” was nice too, and I have driven through the Mojave, but since I haven’t seen a cow skull or much else while passing through, I didn’t think that design was the right one. I had, however, seen the World’s Largest Thermometer before, and in fact could look to my right and see the thermometer in real time, so that’s the design I picked.

This photo shows the penny press in front of the Country Store in Baker, CA. The press does seem to be secured to the wall, which probably discourages thieves.

Even though the machine was the manual kind and I had to turn a crank to press the penny, it didn’t take long to make a souvenir for my friend. I was back in my van and on my way to Vegas in just a few minutes.

I took the photos in this post.

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

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