It`s the long weekend of July 4th, and everyone`s thinking where to go! I decided to visit somewhere near home and I ended up visiting Bombay Beach and Slab city. An strange experience I`m looking forward to happen again!
First Stop: Bombay Beach
Bombay Beach once was about to be a great destination for SoCals to enjoy their time and rest at beach with lots of entertainment around. Things didn`t ended up as expected and people left this place one after another, leaving many things behind. Now there are just few people around, try to keep up (although, several “For Sale” signs around this place says what really is happening with them). According to Wikipedia, population is below 300 people in 2013. Remember to fill up your car gas tank, since there is no fuel station in less than 20 miles around.
I arrived at about 11:00am, heading to beach first hand. Weather is too hot (almost 40 degree centigrade) and not so pleasant smell of Salton Sea along with dead fishes around is not welcoming. Artists seems to be hang around quite a while, and run their creativity on the remaining of stuff at beach, and abandoned houses. So This environment becomes somehow strange. I see absolutely no one around, and still I can see effects of human presence here as well. It is really strange feeling around here.
Why you should visit here? Because it has a rare post apocalyptic vibe, and all you see is dead area! Some might find it stupid to go visit such place, and some might fall in love with this ruins. For me, it was just strange. Time to get something to drink.
Next: Ski Inn
I`m going to visit the next strange thing in this town, but it is strange in another way! Ski Inn is definitely a highly recommended place. An old place (maybe from 60`s) with a absolutely amazing environment. 1 dollar bills with words and signs are sticking all over. An old jukebox that can play songs, old chairs and tables, draft beer, food, several interesting signs, and of course a great bartender that welcomes you with smile.
Ski Inn seems to be the only bar around where you can find a cold refreshing beer. I ordered food as well, and I was quite content with my burger and fries. Price is amazing too. I just paid 10.5$ for burger, fries and two Budweiser (don`t forget tip!). In Google Maps photos, I could see some cans with “Fish Assholes” on it, and they were on front shelves available to buy. I asked bartender about it and he told me he had never open any of them (seriously?!). I bought one just as a souvenir. What you pay for it goes to Fire department of this small town.
Heading to Slab city, it`s getting hotter minute by minute! Slab City, originally a WWII base, now hosts several people who travel there with their RV, or just occupy a remaining hand made house from old days. some people arrive by seasonal, and some just live there all days. They say, this is the last spot in United States that has freedom. The movie “Into The Wild” also has some scenes filmed here. Also, they have music events every Saturday, after sunset (my next plan to visit here is already set!)
Before entering city, you will see Salvation Mountain on your right. Leonard Knight was painting this mountain since 1985, to show God`s love for people and displaying Bible messages in a unique way. He passed away in 2014, but his creation and vision still remains for visitors.
Now I`m in Slab City, and there is no one around. I`m all alone! I had to find a restroom and I could see 2 Cafes on Google Maps. I drove to those cafes, which are just a name for some chairs and tables sitting near each other, beneath a shade with no one around (Maybe they are inside watching me as I walk around). At first look, you feel like this place is just left behind as is, all ruins, left to get rusted. But then you feel and know that there are people around here, living, sleeping, having fun, etc. as you walk by all by yourself. So you are not alone! that was mind twisting and somehow scary!
I headed to the Slab City Hostel, maybe I could find a restroom there. Just at the entrance I found it and jumped in! After that, I entered the hostel area, watching around and suddenly someone called me from behind (So I`m not alone!). She was nice and friendly asking me if I need something. I answered I`m just visiting around, and I would love to have coffee here, but I couldn`t find any. She suggested internet cafe which was near, so I headed there.
The Internet Cafe
At the entrance to cafe, I could see a half naked guy and a lady with painted face and a gun shaped vodka bottle in hand, sitting there and talking with two other visitors. The painted face lady aksed me if I`m a zombie, when I said”no I`m human”, she said I can enter now!
– hi, I was told that you might have some coffee.
– Yes we do have coffee! Here`s a cup and coffee`s there (he drank what was remaining at the bottom of his cup, and gave it to me! I was confused, and decided just to drink coffee in his cup!)
Coffee is all cold, and taste is below average, but it can be an ice breaker. I sit on a torn out sofa, and started talking to them. She asked me where I`m from, I said Iran, and she was still friendly! The guy told me he is from Israel and his name was Omar (maybe he wanted to see my reaction when I hear Israel name!). She told me she stays there all year long. They seemed to be OK with lots of visitors, they didn`t look uncomfortable with me. I told them I work on computers and also love to take photos (although I wasn`t brave enough to take out my camera whole time in Slab City. I just use my iPhone). They had a cat and a dog as well. As I was there, some other residents come and go. talking to each other, asking for things and it seems it`s common to trade things , instead of just relying on money payment (trading weed with something else, she didn`t accepted, as she had enough of it!). When it`s my time to leave, I asked her what should I pay for coffee, and she told me just make a donation. I had 2 dollars cash in my pocket, and she accepted it with no complain!
I asked her if it is OK walking around and visiting. She said it is OK, but try to respect people privacy. Some places they made some border for themselves with tires or stone, so please respect their territory. I visited some other neighbors around, and finally decided to leave.
I`ll be Back!
This One day trip was by far one of the strangest for me. The feeling, environment, people I visit, everything was different. I know that I haven`t visited Slab City as complete as I wanted to. So I will come back again to check this place out with much more detail. I forgot to visit one of the main areas called East Jesus, as they had lots of sculptures and artworks there. Next time I`ll be here in the afternoon, with a more walkable temperature. Now I know there are friendly people around and I can take photos with no worries.