Almost immediately upon arriving in San Diego after 5 hours of traveling, I was treated to a 3 hour road trip. What joy! After sitting still for so long I feel as if the blood starts draining from my brain and extremities straight down to my ass. My consciousness and mobility are lessened and after awhile I’m a puddle of a man sitting in a puddle of blood encapsulated within my buttocks. So, after a beautiful car ride through a strange mountainous landscape peppered with massive boulders that I’ve never seen anything like to flat, dry, sparse desert country (from San Diego to the desert town of Niland) we were officially in the middle of nowhere.
You may ask why we had come to the middle of nowhere. I may have been asking myself this as well. But as soon as I arrived I knew the butt-blood-pooling was worth it. After a quick stop at the local grocery store, we had arrived at Salvation Mountain. Basically just click the link and check it out. It’d be pointless to describe on my own what it’s all about. I have to say that it is pretty impacting and insane. It hit me on a bunch of levels but mostly it was the creator of the mountain himself that stood out the most. Right when we pulled up to his site where he lives full time in an old brokedown trailer, 77 year-old Leonard Knight offered to give us a tour of the art project/personal mission that he has been working on for the past 20 years. He was literally excited that we were there and so pumped to show us around his work. I wanted to hold this man like a baby and give him some water from my jug and a few duplex cookies that I was carrying around. He had a perfect lighthearted spirit and his life focus was to show that Jesus loves everyone – who can argue with that? This man was his mountain and message combined. After giving us his tour we were left to wander around and attempt to take in everything in front of us.
Our next stop was slab city, but first we had to find it. If you’ve ever read or seen Into the Wild, then you know about this area. Slab city is a squatter’s paradise in the middle of the desert. It’s the leftover concrete slabs from a military base that was deconstructed leaving a place for people to congregate, mostly in the winter months. In the movie/book this is where Christopher McCandless stays for a little while with a hippie couple that had befriended. Even salvation mountain and Leonard make a cameo in the film. The problem with trying to find Slab City was that it was too easy and us over-thinking city folk made it more difficult than it needed to be. We turned back at the sign where it welcomed you which had a dirt road that led to nowhere. We drove this for a solid half hour (stopping at train tracks to flatten quarters and throw rusty debris at the train & running into 4 intoxicated mexicans with big shiny trucks in front of a hidden run down farm area that we were pretty sure was either a meth lab or heroin drop off) before turning around only to realize that it was located directly behind Salvation Mountain. We had seen it from the top of the mountain before only to think it was random trailers. The problem was that we were expecting herds of trailers parked perfectly in parallel rows and this was just more… random. Also – starting in the spring, the population thins from the thousands to about 150. We drove around the area and ran into some locals before finding the stage from the movie and photographing it like the city tourists we were. I really hope to get back to this place sometime soon – it felt real. The stage area (the Range) was covered with nothing new and it seemed like we had taken a trip to the western frontier 50 years ago. There was definitely a pull to stay and talk to the Slabbians about their colorful lives and to watch the weekly concert they hold but unfortunately this was not going to happen. I reluctantly returned to the car to head back to civilization hoping to be back before I’m too old…
We eventually made it back home, bought some delicious burritos and watched grown men beat the crap out of each other on UFC – a pretty stark contrast to the peaceful Leonard Knight we had met earlier in the day. I zoned out thinking about the day and retired to my room early to try and dream of the crazy colors and beautiful inspiration I had just seen. Plus, I was effing tired.