5/24/2014 – Slab City

You’ll just have to Google Slab City yourself because I’m writing this while off-line and can’t look up any URLs to link to.

There used to be a Marine base (I think it was USMC anyway) on the east side of the Salton Sea in southern California.  Just outside the little town of Niland.  Eventually the base was closed down.  Buildings were torn down, leaving only the concrete slabs.  Later on, the place was pretty much abandoned.  Well, nature abhors a vacuum, so pretty soon some folks with trailers and motorhomes, as well as miscellaneous hippies started to dry camp on the site.  The federal government apparently looked the other way and allowed these squatters to stay.  Slab City was born.  It’s become a place where people are free to do pretty much anything they want as long as no one gets hurt.  It became a fairly popular place to park your RV for the winter since it was free.  There are no service but there’s also no cost.  Slab City was featured in the movie “Into the Wild”.  The first thing you see on approach is the “Welcome To Slab City” guard shack.  That’s a USMC guard shack, no one actually guards the entrance to Slab City.

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The next thing you see is Salvation Mountain.

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Salvation Mountain was built by some Bible thumper back in the day.  It’s quite a structure:

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It’s quite the place.  I urge you to google it and find out more.

I wandered around just sort fo checking Slab City out.  There are a few tents, lots of motorhomes and trailers and a few people have even built structures and fenced off “their” area.  Most seem laid back but there was the one guy who had fenced off a fairly large area.  Part of his fence was plywood.  On it he spray painted “Hippies Suck” and “Keep Out My Campsite Hypocrit” (his spelling and grammar, not mine).  I’m sue he’s a very well-thoiught-of citizen.  Like any community, there are lots of feuds and side-choosing.  That part would suck.

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I was fortunate to arrive on the day that I did because, every Saturday night, they have live music at a stage called “The Range”.   If you saw “Into The Wild”, you’ll remember the music stage.

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The audience area is filled with lots and lots of “seen-better-days” couches and chairs.  Every kind of chair you can imagine is strewn around the area.  Unfortunately, the music wasn’t quite as good as it was in the movie.  Mainly, they need a mixer and someone who knows how to run it.  This guy’s treble strings on his guitar is all anyone could hear.  Not his voice, not his bass strings, certainly not the little lady playing harmonica, just the twang, twang, twang of his top three or four string.  I’m sure he meant well, but it was painful to listen to.  But the next band was even more painful.  The guy playing rhythm guitar, who seemed to be more or less the leader of the band might have been OK but you’d never know it because all he did was thrash on his axe and he did this thrashing through an amplifier that seemed to be set at “Distort”.  I hate dissing on these guys but c’mon.  They do this every week,  You’d think they’d have it down by now.  On the other hand, I guess you get what you pay for and this was free.  There are actually people who come out from town (Niland or maybe Brawley) to see these shows.  However, I suspect that a large part of the draw is that there are no cops out here.  Want to light up a joint?  No problem.  Nobody cares.

My overall impression of Slab City?  I’m glad it’s here.  Let freedom ring.  Interesting place to see but probably won’t spend more than a day here.  However, if I was looking for a wintertime parking place in my RV, I’d rather stay here than Quartzite.


About sryoder

Steve & Lulu... retired. Had enough of the cold wet dreary fall/winter/spring in the Pacific Northwest. Bought a boat, fixed it up, sold our home and sailed to Mexico in November, 2010. Been here ever since except for occasional forays to the States (summer only, thank you) to visit the kids, parents and siblings. If you're looking for a sailing blog, this is the wrong place. This is a traveling, hunkering in, eating blog. Sailing is just how we get from place to place when we can't walk.
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4 Responses to 5/24/2014 – Slab City

  1. sryoder says:

    BTW, on the way out of Slab City you pass three old guard shacks, each painted up festively. On the Slab City side of the last one is a large yellow Caution sign: “Caution – Reality Ahead”

  2. Truly bizarre place! And as a sound guy, I’d probably be hesitant to make it known! Observe… and run in the opposite direction!

    • sryoder says:

      No, Pete, you’re exactly what they need. And you’d get to work for free just like you’re doing now. I think you’d better just pack your bags, and a tent and head on over. It’s nice and warm, if that would help entice you.

      • Ok, lemmie think about it for a… NO!
        I’m already working free on a jazz fest at work on Sat. Sunday antifouling/wrapping it up, Monday splashing (+working). I must be enticed… it’s gotten warm (hot) here as well! Plus I got “closure” (on that other thing) and alotta support from friends and people like you!
        Cheers dude
        keep on “truckin'”

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