Desert Dessert in a Deserted Winter Wonderland
The beauty of livin' in SoCal is that Cali sun is beamin' 365. The winter is the desert season to treat yourself to the solace from the summer sun since there's little to no shade coverage in the desolate desert. This past weekend we went out to the Salton Sea for some salty desert dessert.
I've frequented the Salton area numerous times and ridden this route from Mecca to Slab City quite a few times. The route is similar each time (outlined in Brad's Salton Sea post) but variations of more or less side adventures divertin' away from the gravel/dirt path of Gas Line Rd followin' the canal. Our past route included tumbleweed whackin' through rutted, washed out ravines to rollin' down dismantled railroad bridges with missin' boards -- watch where ya step 'cause it's a looong way down!
I enjoy these off-the-beaten-path explorations 'cause it not only offers a more diverse terrain to change up the tune of gravel grindin' but also leads to new sights and sites to see. Careful when explorin' off route and be familiar and aware of your surroundin's. There are areas that are former Salton Sea Test Bases used by the Department of Defense with signs warning folks of possible unexploded ordnances. Avoid the east side of the canal unless you want to play a real life game of Minesweeper.
The allure of the Salton Sea is ironic considerin' it's an enchanted wasteland. The juxtaposition of the captivatin' landscapes paired with the catastrophic environment creates a post-apocalyptic scene as if steppin' into the world of Mad Max -- except we take the motor outta motorcycles 'cause our legs are our engines! But, we weren't the only motorless vehicles around...
Slab City is a unique gem in what may seem like an uninhabitable region. Folks livin' in the Slabs have created a de facto enclave which is why it's considered to be the last free place in the country. Within this community of snowbirds and permanent residents, they've created a town with public institutions like a 24 hour library; granted, the librarians are actually librari-hens and ya don't need a library card to borrow the donated books and VHS's.
East Jesus is a growing art installation living in the natural elements of the desert air. It's composed of found objects recycled into an experimental multimedia garden that is continuously changing. Enterin' into EJ is like bein' warped into an alternate reality of Lonnie Holley's curation of Pee-wee's Playhouse.
While attendin' dirt church, we found god. Salvation Mountain is a rainbow mirage out in the middle of the desert. The real irony of this area lies in the contrast of the locals and the visitors. It has become an iconic tourist attraction due to its features in pop culture, like in the film Into the Wild as well as music videos, but also is a destination for the religious. Visitors use the site for a pretty background to have their pictures taken in front of it; but damn, I can't deny that it sure does make for a nice backdrop.
Although, Salvation Mt. is like a Crayola box set melted over the mesa, nothin' compares to the brilliance of a desert sunset. As the sun set, we made our way over to The Range. While visitin' the Slabs on the weekend, it's a must to roll over to The Range, an open-air bar and stage, where the locals host a talent show every Saturday. It's always a treat 'cause I'm blown away by the performers every time. This past show was quite an experience with highlights of a female accordionist singin' lullabies over the sounds of nappy pups and dread-headed munchkins chasin' each other across, over and under the assorted pews. I encourage attendees to chip in to the donation box to help the community sustain such a special weekly event.
The next day we rode down to Bombay Beach -- the lowest community in the country at 223 ft below sea level with a population of less than 300 located near the shore of the Salton Sea. We grabbed a bite and drinks at the Ski Inn, one of the two bars in BB. Don't worry, the fish 'n' chips plate is not locally caught. (; The Ski Inn is a charmin', low-key bar with the walls covered in memories displayed by messages written on dollar bills. The jukebox is filled with some good ol' tunes from the 40s to 80s includin' a range of rock, bluegrass, country and a few pop songs. As we headed out followin' the Salton Sea north, John Denver's voice echos in my mind singin', "Country roads, take me home...
...to a place, where I belong." Although the desert is the complete opposite of where I'm from -- Alabama, where the air is moist all year around -- I feel at home in this dry, vast landscape. I can't help but feel as though I'm Rattata evolvin' into Raticate, and this is what it looks like when a river rat turns into a desert rat!
Thanks to Brad for organizin' this ride for a super salty weekend!