Monday, March 1, 2010

re: Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea

A few months ago, Derek and I watched a really interesting documentary called Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea. The film is all about this big body of salty water down below Palm Springs that used to be a vacation spot where people waterskiied and fished and hung out drunk by the Yacht club until the whole place flooded, leaving only a few brave people that still call the place home. There are also major salinity issues, and big algae blooms that cause huge amounts of dead fish every year to wash ashore (think 3 feet high in some places), so nobody swims in the Sea or lives down there anymore, even though it is the cheapest real estate you can find in California. Basically, the place looked fascinating, so Derek and I went down there for the President's Day weekend to see the marvels of the Sea for ourselves.

We set up our tent in the dark, and awoke to this scene. Pretty!

Then we stepped outside of the tent and saw this:

In fact, once we walked outside, there were dead and drying fish remains everywhere. This was kind of exciting, because it was what we were expecting of the Sea. I made Derek this Valentine to celebrate.

Perhaps because the Sea is so remote, there is a lot of crazy stuff in the surrounding area. My favorites were:

1) Cabazon Dinosaurs

You would have stopped too if you had seen the billboards advertising a "Robotic Dinosaur Exhibit."

Come to find out ... this is the place with the huge dinosaurs that you can walk inside of, which you may recognize from such awesome films as Pee-wee's Big Adventure and The Wizard.

(INSIDE the mouth of Mr. Rex)

It does not take long to realize that the whole exhibit was pushing the Young Earth creationist belief that most dinosaurs were created on Earth about 6,000 years ago - the same day as Adam and Eve.

Which meant there were signs like this all over the place, emphasizing that Evolution NEVER happened ...

And, a lot of the exhibits have men in medieval costume fighting dinosaurs.

2) Salvation Mountain

Also close to the Sea is Salvation Mountain, where a man named Leonard Knight has been painting the side of a mountain since the 80s.

This paint, plus a mountain, some haybales, and a serious obsession with the Bible ...

Equals this:

3) Slab City

Salvation Mountain marks the entrance to Slab City, a little dessert community built around some concrete slabs and pylons that remain from an abandoned World War II base. They call themselves the "last free place," since the site is both decommissioned and uncontrolled, and though there is no electricity or running water, there is also no charge to be there. This attracts a lot of people that either can't afford to live anywhere else, or people with a desire for freedom from the American government.

This is how you find people in this little makeshift town. "Come find me! I'm over by the Pirate Flag, near Mark the Barber."

I thought it was cute that they have this library set up that anyone can go hang out in and borrow books from.

We added our mermaid that we had found while visiting the dinosaurs to the Human Powered Fountain, and felt pretty good about our contribution to the Library.

This trip made me want to start exploring all the weird and wonderful spots in the US. Any suggestions for future travels?


Jennifer said...

How far is Salvation Mt from LA? :)

If you're ever down South ..
Austin, TX - The Cathedral of Junk
Houston, TX - The Beer Can House


bex said...

Oo. I've been meaning to get out to Texas ... and a cathedral of junk is a good enough reason for me!

Salvation Mountain is probably about 3 hours from LA.

jocie said...

that place is rad. we're for sure going there next time we're in the homeland.

Steve said...

The best place to find weird things is in the middle of the desert!

Local tip: The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, well its more of a tourist trap I think but still weird.

two forks said...

hey! i used to live by the pee-wee dinosaur and i've been in the T-Rex' mouth too!

Courtney said...

Check out the book Fantasy Worlds (or you can come over and look at ours. I like that idea better). It's got a ton of weird man made places like what you have here. This may even be in it. Anyway, it lists places all around the world. It's pretty awesome.

Thanks for sharing this! I'm gonna see if I can talk Nate into going.

MrsEm said...

If you liked that, you'd LOVE New Mexico. We went as part of our honeymoon. The whole area between Taos and the Grand Canyon is crazybeans awesome.

Bek said...

i like your brand of romance.

bex said...

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone! I'm putting them all on my list.

and, bek - i'm giving you dead fish valentines from here on out.

Eva / Sycamore Street Press said...

Ooh. I've been wanting to visit the Salton Sea, too. And I love the dinosaurs at Cabazon! We used to drive past them a couple of times every year on family road trips and every once in a while if we were really lucky, my parents would let us stop and look at them.

180|360 said...

We visited the Salton Sea last year but completely missed seeing these places! I'm so bummed. But I can't believe you managed to sleep there.

It was definitely one of the strangest places I've ever been! It made me want to seek out other bizarre locations to visit, too! :)

In case you are interested, here are my photos of the Salton Sea. :)