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  • Writer's pictureRobert Gidley

Art of the Salton Sea

February 28 2024 (Wed)

You can tell we’re on vacation, because the Trip Logs start covering more and more days. Today—three days before we got around to updating you!

 

5:30 am Mineral Spa at RV Park

If you get up early because you can’t sleep and you go to the 24-hour outdoor pool and mineral spa, you can lounge around in the hot tub and listen to coyotes howl. It’s pretty cool, especially because nobody else is around…

 

12:45 pm Borrego Park Visitor Center

We are pretty happy with how our tax dollars are spent when it comes to National Parks (guess what—Social Security benefits are taxable, so yes, we still pay taxes). They generally have informative signs, good exhibits, and are well-maintained.

 

Since we’ve been “camping” (staying in an RV park) here for a week, we thought it was time to learn a bit about what’s going on.



The Anzo-Borrego desert is a big flat area enclosed by mountains that keep most of the rain out

 

We watch a 15-minute film about the park that takes us through all the seasons and what’s happening. (Narrated by Peter Coyote. Seriously.)

 

“Fall is the season of the tarantula,” Mr. Coyote proclaims. The film then shows a picture of a tarantula and that’s the last we ever hear of it. Gini, who lived here says, “I never saw a tarantula.”

 

Also, this park is home to two-thirds of the world’s population of Bighorn Sheep. As you might guess, if most of the sheep are in a park in California, the sheep are endangered. The little sheep (“lambs”) sure are cute, though!

 

2:00 pm Pablitos, Borrego Springs

We have to say that Pablitos is a good place to go and get a drink, unless it’s a Monday or a Tuesday. On those days, it’s closed, although there’s no sign that indicates this. In fact, there’re no hours posted anywhere and the only reason we know that they’re closed on purpose is that Gini is now best friends with the staff at the Thrift Shop next door to Pablitos.

 

As a result of this, we had to have a drink at a different place yesterday (Robert had a Nina Jalapeno), and we won’t say the drinks are strong, but there was an earthquake here and we totally missed it. About 2:45 pm (halfway through our drinks), the earth shook, thanks to the San Jacinto Fault. Thanks to the drinks, we had no idea until we read about it on-line.



These palm trees are everywhere and they are big

 

Day 15 Travel

 


Our travel on Day 15 (Wed)

 

 

 

 

February 29, 2024 (Thu)

Ah man, we didn’t do anything today. Seriously. We drove into town to get some blueberries and strawberries, but that was about it. We shouldn’t have exhausted ourselves yesterday

 

We did drive into town to see some art at the Art Institute of Borrego, and upon entering Robert inquired if they were having a “White On White” show  as all the showcase panels were bare white. Turns out the exhibits were being changed and the new show will be viewable on Tuesday. The Gift Shoppe was open, though and had lots of beautiful photographic greeting cards…

 

 

 

March 1, 2024 (Fri)

Okay, today we are rested and ready to go do stuff!

 

10:55 am The Springs at Borrego

When we extended our stay last week, they had to arrange for us to stay in two different spots. This is High Season, and there’s lots of demand. Today is when we move from this spot (next to the party RV) and to a new spot, which is fortunately about the same distance from the pool as before (priorities!).  

 

12:50 pm Westmorland, CA

We are on our way to Slab City, CA, which is near the Salton Sea, both of which are interesting places.

 

First, the Salton Sea. Way back at the beginning of the last century, the Colorado River ran through canals, which started to fill up with silt. While they were being cleaned, the canal ruptured and a whole bunch of water broke through and started flowing into a big low area.

 

It flowed for two years until they could fix the hole. This was a lot of water, and as a consequence, the Salton Sea was created, California’s largest lake. Even though there was no river feeding the lake, irrigation from the local farmers flowed into the lake, which barely offset evaporation.  

 

The fifties were a heyday for the Salton Sea, as people and birds flocked here to relax and stay in hotels and wetlands.

 

It turns out that farm runoff isn’t exactly pure water, but contains salts, pesticides, and other un-fun chemicals. In the 1980’s, as farmers got more efficient at irrigation,  the sea was shrinking, the salinity was increasing, and fish and birds were dying. People didn’t enjoy having to walk from their hotel to the shrinking shores of the lake to look at dead birds, so the resort industry also dried up.

 

Then at the beginning of the 21st century, the lake dried up some more, exposing lake bed (called playa) and the winds started whipping up toxic dust and pretty much nobody wanted to live near here.

 

The various agencies (local, state, and federal) are trying Sorta Hard to figure out what to do. It’s been dubbed the biggest ecological disaster in California history. So how could we resist visiting?

 

1:10 pm Slab City, CA

Once upon a time, during World War II, there was a Marine Training Camp here, because it was within air range of San Diego for planes launched from aircraft carriers. They had a good old time practicing bombing and flying around and such.

 

After the war, the Marine Corps didn’t really have any use for a base way and the heck in the middle of nowhere, so they tore down all the buildings, leaving just the slabs. In 1961, the Department of Defense gave the whole thing to California who didn’t know what to do with it, either.

 

Gradually, word spread amongst the RV community that here was a good place to camp (us RV’ers especially like level concrete slabs) and then more word spread to folks without much money or who didn’t care for modern life.

 

Today, Slab City is an “alternative lifestyle community” of up to 2,000 people. The population fluctuates, because it gets wicked hot during the summer and folks tend to head north to cooler places.

 

We drive through the area, trying to answer the question: Is this a Giant Art Project or a Big Homeless Encampment?

 


Salvation Mountain: An artwork forty years in the making

 

There are lots of RV’s, but probably more shacks that are cobbled together from local materials (or junk brought in). Lots of pieces of art, and about a half-dozen or so churches—or buildings that proclaim themselves to be churches. No mainstream churches, however (not a single Episcopal church!).

 


One of the many churches

 

East Jesus is home to a community of artists who work on art projects collectively and whose line-up of artists is always changing.

 


This artwork is in East Jesus, so many different folks probably worked on it

 

We were told not to stop and definitely not to get of our vehicle, so of course Robert wants to stop at one of the souvenir shops. There, he gets some over-priced souvenirs (aka “injecting money into the economy, because East Jesus, these folks are living on the edge!”)



One of the many shops that exist to infuse money into the local economy

 

2:00 pm Bombay Beach, CA

The “shop keeper” (really a shack with cloth walls and driftwood poles) that Robert chatted with recommended that we visit Bombay Beach, because it was another “artist community.”

 

Hoo boy, was he right!



Bombay TV, an artist’s vision

 

We drive through town (about four streets wide and three streets deep) and see lots of run-down housing (cheap!) and housing that’s been turned into art projects.



A flying fish. Get it?

 

Finally, we stop at the one and only bar/restaurant in town, the Ski Inn. This is the self-proclaimed Lowest Bar in the Western Hemisphere, at 233 feet below sea level. It’s your basic tavern with a full bar.

 

Also, in the back is a “collective painting” party where anybody who wants to join in can grab a brush and some paint and contribute to the masterpiece. The result is about what you’d expect.

 


The “collective painting” party underway; one of these people is from France

 

2:45 pm Salton Sea

Harvey is a real trouper when it comes to driving places you shouldn’t (such as the Alaska Highway). He has no problem clearing a huge berm and landing on the beach, so we can drive over to the Salton Sea. (The official parking lot is about half a mile away from the Sea.)



Gini, Harvey and the Salton Sea (the fish skeleton is an artwork)

 

The whole beach area is covered with artwork, ranging from a door in the middle of nowhere to various chunks of artwork, such as a giant star pierced with rebar.



Robert, with the Salton Sea (and some kind of wharf, pier, artwork?) in the background

 

It’s hard to tell if the Salton Sea is still shrinking. Lately, there’s been a lot of rain in the area, but probably not enough to make up for years of drought and evaporation. It certainly hasn’t risen significantly, or the art works would be under water.

 

3:30 pm Mecca, CA International Banana Museum

When we saw on Google Maps that there was a place called International Banana Museum, we knew we had to stop. We followed the Google directions straight to it, only to be sadly disappointed.



Yes, we have no Banana Museum today

 

It’s probably just as well, as (according to the website), it’s only open on Sat and Sun. ☹ 

International Banana Museum website: http://www.internationalbananamuseum.com/index.html

 

6:30 pm The Springs at Borrego

After all that driving, we needed to stop at Pablito’s and get some Mexican food and drink. Whew! What a day!

 

Day 17 Travel



Our travel on Day 17 (Fri)

 

 

 

Gini & Robert                                                                                

Harvey Staff

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Stephen E. Moore
Stephen E. Moore
02. März

You kids have seen, perhaps, "The Monster That Challenged the World" (1957)? It was directed by Arnold Laven, starred Hans Conried, and featured giant mollusks who hatch in the Salton Sea and then crawl out to eat people.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monster_That_Challenged_the_World


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