It rose like a beacon above the Mojave Desert—officially proclaiming to weary travelers on the road from Las Vegas to Los Angeles that their skin and central nervous system were indeed in good working order because it really was 95 goddamn degrees outside at midnight.
But the relentless march of time and the elements (also an $8,000 a month electric bill) took it's toll on Baker, California's monument to the Mojave's brain-scrambling heat and two years ago the last lightbulb on the world's tallest thermometer went dark, sending travelers who couldn't just let it go at "It's hot" scrambling to their weather apps to find an exact reading.
The 134-foot tall World's Largest Thermometer was built by Baker business owner Willis Herron in 1991 to lure drivers off I-15 and into his Bun Boy Restaurant.
Herron, who died in 2007, built the $700,000 steel and concrete tower to that height in honor of the hottest official temperature ever recorded in nearby Death Valley—134 degrees Fahrenheit in 1913.
Herron sold the property in 2002, and after passing through several owners it was purchased back by his family earlier this year. Renovations on the landmark began in March.
The tower originally featured almost 5,000 incandescent light bulbs, all of which were removed (and are now for sale—each with a numbered Certificate of Authenticity signed by Herron's wife, Barbara—in the World's Largest Thermometer gift shop) and replaced with energy-efficient LEDs.
The new and improved World's Largest Thermometer was "soft-launched" on Thursday, but the formal Grand Reopening and dedication to Willis Herron is set for October 11.