The location: The Desert Gas Station.

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. "Al's" : a classic Route 66-style diner, a weathered gas station and a 1950's motel, grouped together in a remote part of the desert. Al's sign includes the silhouette of an alien face, and the words "gas, food, lodging".

Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. It's supposed to be located in the California desert, out in the middle of nowhere, on Interstate 15, on the way to Las Vegas.

Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. In Episode 8 (of season four), "The Earth Girls Are Easy", where a worried Summer stops in the restroom to take a pregnancy test (with Taylor helping).

    But when Summer has second thoughts about looking at the results, and puts the pregnancy kit in her purse, her purse is stolen (by a woman dressed like an alien), leading her to chase down the woman to get her purse back (and find out the results). This chase takes them to an odd, UFO-themed New Years Eve party in the middle of the desert.

Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. Oddly enough, while it is indeed in the middle of the desert, and while it appears to be a real gas station & motel, it is actually a unique set, used strictly for filming (but not just by The O.C.). The actual name isn't even "Al's", it's really called "Four Aces".

Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. You'll find it on an isolated strip of high desert road, at 14499 E. Avenue Q, five miles east of Palmdale, CA (at the northwest corner of East 145th Street & Avenue Q), a good 75 miles northeast of Los Angeles - and 175 miles northwest of the real Indio, CA.

    It's not on Interstate 15 (the highway that leads to Vegas, that sign was fake); it's actually 20 miles west of that highway, closer to Highway 36.

    That is only about six miles south (southwest) of "Club Ed" (a similar desert set, where they filmed motel & diner scenes for an earlier episode).

    Here is a map link. And here is a birds-eye view aerial photo from Live Local.

    [Warning: this is a very isolated location. If you go choose to go there, make sure your car is in very good running condition, bring drinking water, and don't go alone. Exercise reasonable caution.]

Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A. I went to Google Images and typed in every search term I could imagine: "Al's gas station", "Desert motel", "UFO gas station", "desert gas station", etc.. Finally, one of those searches turned up a photo of the right "gas food & lodging" motel, which gave me the name "Four Aces". Still thinking it was a real gas station, I typed in "Four Aces motel", and that gave me the official website of the desert film rental set:

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