On our way out of L.A, we made a quick stop off at an electronics store to buy some electrical components for Willow’s new spot lights on our roof rack. She was very excited by the prospect of killer lighting for nighttime driving.
From the store, we made one final pit stop at Wolfsbürg West, one of the leading VW parts suppliers in the world. If you own a VW, you are guaranteed to have bought a part from these guys at some point.
Their warehouse was a wonderland of VW parts, and if you have the space, then it can be pretty bad for your bank balance. Fortunately, we had neither the space, or the finance to buy anything major.
During the VW meet, we were urged to visit a place named Salton Sea. A former holiday resort, which was popular in the early 1900’s, up until the late 60’s. The resort was built next to a giant lake, which was formed when the Colorado River burst it’s banks. In it’s heyday, I was the hip place to be, and could name stars such as Frank Sinatra as it’s guest.
Sadly, the water which made the destination so popular, was found to have a high salt content, and even worse, the pesticides from surrounding farmland drained into the lake, causing it to become hazardous to peoples health. Unsurprisingly, the resort’s stock quickly plummeted, and now the town houses only a couple of residents who are prepared to risk the deathly conditions that now surround them.
We found the story of Salton Sea immensely fascinating, and was curious to see for ourselves what remained of this once great paradise.
As we neared our destination, the Californian landscape changed to a strange variety of palm trees surrounded by mounds of salt on the ground, which could have easily have been mistaken for snow (if not for the immense heat).
We passed through the remnants of the surrounding town, nothing more than small houses with a very worn road.
We identified a long since abandoned RV park to spend the night in, located only a couple of metres away from the lake. As it was getting dark, we decided that we would camp up and explore the ghost resort in the morning.
We let Aimee loose for what seemed like the first time in ages. No longer restricted by being in a major city, and boy was she happy. Once again darting around, ears pinned back, leaping into the air and escaping us if we got too close. It was nice to let our ‘Little Munch’ enjoy some freedom.
The sunset was magical, something you would more likely to have seen in a fantasy movie. Pastel colours once again painting the sky.
As much as we had enjoyed our time in L.A, it didn’t half feel nice to appreciate a little alone time before we hit Buses by the Bridge.
We woke up feeling more relaxed than we had in a long time. It’s amazing how much you can come too appreciate the simple quiet places living off grid. Where most people crave the ‘hustle and bustle’ of big city living, we had now become more accustomed to being isolated. Free from our former hectic city life.
The ‘road’ which we drive to get to our spot was not very well maintained (as you can imagine!) So we chose a more unusual drive to the remains of the former resort. Choosing to drive off-road, cutting across the coast of the lake, directly up to it.
With Ruby’s high clearance, the drive was a blast. We worked our way through the sand, driving up and down sand banks of former stream and rivers. Only one catching the front end on the way up, scooping a shower of sand into the air as we rose.
Unlike some of the previous ghost towns we had visited, there wasn’t as much of interest in Salton Sea. All of the main former building have long since been burnt down. But we took our time, examining the wreckage and taking pictures, deciding not to spend too much time there as we’d much rather of had more time in our next stop off… Slab City.
Slab City is a lawless commune, located on a formal military base not far from the Arizona border. The entire community is made up of nomads, people living permanently off grid. A lot of the people who live there are artists, or ‘snowbirds’ who have made their way down south to escape the harsh northern conditions.
Being nomads ourselves, the idea obviously sounded very intriguing to us.
Salt City was on the other side of Salton Sea, and so we had to rejoin the main highway to drive around to it. Fortunately, it was no more than an hours drive.
As we started making our way off the highway, we drove past one of the saddest sights I had ever seen. A giant cattle farm, located in the middle of nowhere. I had never seen so many animals kept in one place. There were cows packed as far as our eyes could see, and not surprisingly there were warning signs forbidding and photography. I felt it important however to document it, to show people the inhumane conditions some animals have to suffer in order for people to get a cheap piece of meat at their local supermarket.
We soon pulled into the main road for Slab City and straight away, you could help pick up a weird dystopian vibe from the place. At any minute, I was expecting to see a young Mel Gibson drive past in a butchered car, being chased by a bunch of punks. Was this place a glimpse into our future? We had spent a lot of time on this trip looking at long abandoned places, prompting me to ponder how future generations will be living once our planets resources run out, and our climates become inevitably more hostile. Maybe Mad Max wasn’t as far fetched as it may have once seemed.
As we drove deeper into ‘the town’, we drove past a portrait of John Lennon, and a large monument created out of PVC. We passed shacks which people sat outside next to signs looking to sell their strange creations.
When the place was recommended, we were told to visit a site named ‘East Jesus’, we were sure what to expect, other than there was some artwork located there. Neither of us were prepared for what we would actually find!
We parked up in the parking space, after following signs directing us and other proclaiming East Jesus to not be the real Slab City, we parked alongside a plane, and peculiar sculptures made out of empty gas bottles.
As Aimee was a bit restless, so Willow decided to bring her along with us. After all… we were in a lawless society, so who would have a problem.
Walking into the main area, you could tell immediately that this would be your typical artwork.
We were greeted by three people who were local artists, they were ‘over the moon’ that we had a cat on a lead. They told us how a guy bought the land that East Jesus was built upon, and how it was the only owned land in Slab City. Apparently the owner had since passed away, and left the site to be a vessel for artists to come an create whatever they desired.
They also told us that there were three rules whilst visiting the grounds.
The first was that everything was to be touched, moved, sat in/or on. I can’t remember the second, so it couldn’t have been that important! The third rule was that if we hurt ourselves on anything, then we should seek medical help. Seemed fairly logical.
We arrived at the same time as another group. Two blokes and a girl wearing a bathrobe, probably unusual anywhere else, but here, perfectly suitable.
We explored the odd assortment of creations, made out of junk found on the former junk yard, there was even a couple of VW Beetles and a baywindow van.
I found the whole experience conflicting. One half of me found the idea of people travelling all over the world to create something a truly magnificent concept. The other half of me however, felt like a lot of it was still just junk. Put together by a bunch of loons most likely high off some crazy arse drug. But then again… aren’t most artists?
As it turned out, the other group were there to take pictures of the girl in the bathrobe. Although, they weren’t interest in having the bathrobe in the shots. And as it turned out, she had nothing on underneath. She was wearing only her birthday suit, and had it all out for everyone to see. As I said, completely acceptable here. Anywhere else, you normal have to pay to see that kind of show!
With a big drive still to complete to arrive at Lake Havasu, we departed Slab City and hit the road once more. We still had about three hours of driving ahead of us.
It seemed we hadn’t maxed out our weird experiences just yet, the road to Quartzite led than a minor road which led us past enormous sand dunes, out in the middle of nowhere. Shortly after this, we hit an unexpected check point. Run by armed military soldiers with search dogs.
A soldier asked us where we were heading from, where we were going, if we had any illegal substances or weapons and then asked us to provide him with all of our travel documents. We were then asked to step outside, whilst they inspected Ruby. Aimee decided at this point that she wanted to see what all of the fuss was about, and so we had to hold onto her, whilst the sniffer dogs examined the van.
Whilst we were waiting, we observed two guys pulled out of an Enterprise hire lorry and thrown in a cell. They were hiding underneath a bunch of blankets, so it wasn’t surprising that they were found.
After they checked had checked our documents and decided that we weren’t travelling illegally, we were sent on our way, and before long we reached Quartzite, a town not too dissimilar from Slab City. It too was made up mainly of snowbirds, however this town possessed neither strange art, or free naked ladies.
After stopping off at a Walmart for supplies, we eventually pulled up to the entrance for Buses by the Bridge. Upon seeing Ruby and hearing our accents, one of the doorman rushes over to us.
“I can’t believe you actually made it!” He cried enthusiastically.
Apparently, he had seen our Hot VWs interview which had recently gone live on their Facebook account. The interview had already amassed twelve thousand views in under two days!
It seemed we had suddenly become minor celebrities, and were given passes and instructions, but weren’t asked to pay the entry fee. I could get use to that kind of reception!
We followed the directions into the campsite, which was already full of VWs. Apparently, admission into the main camp ground is strictly for ‘buses’, and we laughed about how our friend Jay would hate us turning up in our ‘van’.
It was surprisingly hard to find a place to park. We had never been before and knew no one else there, so drove around aimlessly, hoping to find a spot to park Ruby. Eventually finding to last few remaining spots in the site.
As it was late, we briefly said hello to our neighbours and then settled down for an early night. After the recent popularity of the Hot VWs interview, we were sure that we would be spending a lot of time socialising over the next couple of nights.