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Old 10-04-2018, 11:12 AM   #1
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Exploring the Salton Sea

This is mostly images, since I'm better at photographing than I am writing.


When I lived in southern california I had always heard about the Salton Sea area from friends who had visited. I had never been and had always been fascinated with the place, so I decided to take a three day weekend and blast down there on the FJ to go explore. I packed up a couple of my medium format film cameras (and a small 35mm), some clothes and left.




Awesome breakfast in Los Banos




Highway 138 I believe, it's a beautiful short section of road especially when riding south.




The wind farms outside Coachella


The roll in my backup medium format camera was a bit wonky, I shot the rest of the 6x6 on Portra 400 and that's got 14+ stops of dynamic range. This roll of Ektar isn't as forgiving, plus I think it got super hot and probably grossly overexposed, the camera is 50+ years old (my main cam is pretty modern) and Im sure the shutter is not accurate since I didnt test it before going. Anyway so if you see weird colors that's why (or my lab fucked it up, not sure).

A rare selfie somewhere south of Coachella


I arrived at the Salton Sea right as the sun was setting and got some gorgeous light.










edit: accidentally hit post, continued below!
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Old 10-04-2018, 11:28 AM   #2
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Thanks for posting, looks like a worthwhile trip and destination target. Am I correct in my recollection that, with drying up of the Salton Sea, one of the beach resorts has now reverted to an off the grid commune populated by various artist types. In trying to research this, I found a really interesting article laying out the history or the area. Might be of interest to others intrigue by your trip. Also, any story with regards to the overturned truck sitting in the field off of hwy 138?
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Old 10-04-2018, 11:29 AM   #3
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Too bad I don't have a real ADV bike, this place looked fun. Heading back south towards the hotel there's some interesting terrain to rip around on in a truck or dirt bike, not much fun on street tires though. Not too long after this I got to meet one of Westmorland's finest and got my first performance award in 13 years of driving , I guess it was due eventually.


The hotel in Westmorland, straight outta the 70's. It was actually pretty decent and cheap. Doing my best Stephen Shore impression.




Despite being early it was already a 100* outside, it was over a hundred when I checked in the night before... I must have drank at least a gallon of water on the 10 hours ride down.

These were so odd to me, I didn't try the tap water but I guess potable water is an issue down here. There's another one in Niland too.


On the road to my first stop


Getting closer
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Old 10-04-2018, 11:32 AM   #4
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Thanks for posting, looks like a worthwhile trip and destination target. Am I correct in my recollection that, with drying up of the Salton Sea, one of the beach resorts has now reverted to an off the grid commune populated by various artist types. In trying to research this, I found a really interesting article laying out the history or the area. Might be of interest to others intrigue by your trip. Also, any story with regards to the overturned truck sitting in the field off of hwy 138?
Yep! When I lived down south a lot of my friends told me about the area and Slab City, I had never gone though. If you like exploring weird shit it's totally worth the trip and I didnt get to see everything, although it was extremely hot the whole time so Id recommend going later in the year.

I'm not sure what the story is with the truck to be honest. It was maybe 11 in the morning at that point, the cop was talking to the driver who seemed unhurt. Maybe some early morning drinking?
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Old 10-04-2018, 11:48 AM   #5
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Arriving at famed Bombay Beach


Apparently in the area's heyday in the 50's this was the place to be for boating and leisure. As the lake began shrinking and massive fish die off started happening it closed and is now abandoned. Most of the town is empty but there are still probably a hundred people or so living there. I wanted to talk to some of them but it was so hot during the day most people stay inside, the few I saw driving around seemed friendly though and not bothered by people wandering around.

The Shelter






This place was pretty awesome, very post apocalyptic with tons of graffiti and urban decay. There are a lot of art installations sprinkled throughout.


















The Shaguar




Someone put an XJS in a house... with shag carpet
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Old 10-04-2018, 12:10 PM   #6
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I was dying at this point, I've got my moto boots/pants on and its over a hundred degrees and intense sun. I'm glad I brought a gallon of water with me that morning and Im halfway through it. I end up taking refuge on the porch of this abandoned house, stripping down to my t-shirt and shorts and sitting in the shade for an hour. Thankfully there was a cool breeze off the lake. I regretted parking the bike in the sun when I had to dash across the scorching street to grab more water.





The view from my shelter


I couldn't stay there all day, there were a couple other stops I wanted to make before retreating to the hotel. The Salton Sea Visitor Center was only 15 minutes up the road and the thought of cold AC sounded amazing. Once I felt the threat of heat stroke pass I geared back up and headed out.




In the visitor center, the nice ranger lady was very eager to put their informational video on for me. I was happy to sit in the dark and enjoy the AC.


It was actually pretty interesting, this used to be part of Baja California and was cut off from the bay by river deposits. It was accidentally flooded by a dam breakage and the Colorado River and formed this giant dead sea. They're trying to save it and get the Federal government to reroute some water to feed it, right now it's primarily being fed by agricultural runoff. They claim the high salinity is good for the skin and tout their boat launch and kayak tours, I wouldn't want to get in the water though...

Afterwards I checked out the shoreline looking for the masses of fish skeletons (no bottom feeders in the lake so they just wash on the shore) but no luck.

The view from my cabana thing, the visitor center is actually pretty new and quite nice. They thankfully had a free purified water station inside.




I hung out and took a nap in the shade waiting for my next stop to open.
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Old 10-04-2018, 12:19 PM   #7
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Salton Sea and Slab City has been in my sights for a long time. Thanx for the trip report. Now my travel bug is tickling my throttle hand.
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Old 10-04-2018, 12:35 PM   #8
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I love kischy weird shit, whenever my gf and I road trip we try to hit up all the odd roadside stuff. So the International Banana Museum was on my list of things to see here.




Everything banana related all in one place. It was surprisingly crowded when I got there.





Come for the bad banana puns, stay for the excellent banana ice cream. Seriously, so worth it for the home made banana ice cream it was excellent. They make shakes and different banana flavored stuff, banana sodas etc. The soda I had was okay, they offer it as a float too but being a little lactose intolerant and an hour from the hotel it seemed like a bad gamble





Its about 2pm and scorching so I blast back to Westmorland to grab lunch and hang out in my room for a while. I really wanted to try the local fish taco joint ($1 fish tacos) but it was closed on Sunday. I ended up going to Marco's Restaurant, it's a shabby old building with a dirt lot and a greasy broken down grill out front. The reviews were a mix of really good food and suburban people freaked out at the cleanliness, sounds authentic and Im in. Marco is an older Mexican guy, who reminds me a lot of my Grandpa, I order up a couple fish tacos and a Jarritos.

I ended up with asada tacos (oh well) but they were really good and super cheap. The place is about as authentic to a hole in a wall place in Mexico as you can get, Id definitely go back for more next time.
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Old 10-04-2018, 12:48 PM   #9
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It's been between 104-112* according to my ambient temperature gauge and I believe it. I make the decision to go squid this time since it's still 106* outside and I make my way out to Salvation Mountain.



The man who created it passed away recently but it's been adopted by a local group who is keeping it up. You can make paint donations that they use to patch up any holes or wear. If you saw Into the Wild he makes a stop here and it's been in a ton of stuff. Worth checking out for sure.











It's amazing this was all done by one man!













It's a short walk up to the top



Overlooking Slab City


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Old 10-04-2018, 01:07 PM   #10
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Entering Slab City


The community center


I really want to come back here, I barely scratched the surface of what's there. They have a stage and a local band, a library, food, all kinds of stuff it's pretty amazing. It's an abandoned air base that is now taken over by snow birds and people looking to live off the grid.


This guy has a bunch of solar powered vehicles and a massive panel wall attached to the RV.

East Jesus, I had to rush through since it was getting late in the day






The famous East Jesus wall






Exploring around a bit, near the Library


I think this is where the AirBnB is, this was the cleanest part and had the newest vehicles.






Leaving Slab City



In the local town, it's a kids play area that's for sale. Not sure how many guests it would get out here.


One of many abandoned homes


Enjoying the hot evening air, it is liberating just wearing boots/gloves and a helmet.




Headed back to the hotel for the night, last picture of the trip and it's a beautiful sunset. I suffered riding 9 hours straight back to Livermore but I really want to get back out adventuring again.
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Old 10-04-2018, 01:14 PM   #11
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Lots of cool photos. I too have been meaning to check out this area.
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Old 10-04-2018, 02:07 PM   #12
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Thanks for the ride report and photos
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Old 10-04-2018, 02:07 PM   #13
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Fantastic photos . Again, thanks for sharing. Added to my destination list. Now I just have to work out when I find the time to do this .
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Old 10-04-2018, 03:49 PM   #14
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I love riding around the Salton Sea area and Slab City. I've stayed at the Slab City Hostel a couple times and miss back when Balu was running the place. Perfect place to recreate my Mad Max fantasies.

I remember Balu telling me that at the Slabs when there are bad disagreements between the residents and the community there one of the ways they resolve issues is by torching their camp. There were at least two fires/torchings the first time I stayed there.
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Old 10-04-2018, 03:57 PM   #15
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The man who created it passed away recently but it's been adopted by a local group who is keeping it up. You can make paint donations that they use to patch up any holes or wear. If you saw Into the Wild he makes a stop here and it's been in a ton of stuff. Worth checking out for sure.
The ever inimitable Huell Howser.

https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-hows...-gold-special/

Looking at these photos about the Salton Sea is actually sad in a way.

I love the desert.

One of the things I love about the desert is that it does slowly change, and that we do have things like ghost towns and relics lingering out there in the middle of nowhere. Evidence of someones dream, that either didn't pan out, or simply didn't survive them.

Los Angeles and other cities are filled with dreams, realized and unrealized, but the evidence of them doesn't last very long as the space gets reused.

Not so much in the desert. In all of those areas where we ask "What the heck are people doing out here in the first place", only to realize the remains are there because others couldn't find the reason why those people were out there in the first place either, so they just leave it.

But, the Salton Sea is something else.

This is a ghost town in the making. We're seeing it die before our eyes.

Granted, it's been dying for some time. But there is a difference between a community that lies in ruin, and one falling in to ruin.

Consider this link: https://goo.gl/maps/E8JxD14uApL2

Salton City. The "metropolis" of the Salton Sea.

Look at all those streets! A hundred of more of them!

Then click the satellite view.

Spoiler -- it's pretty much all gone.

Sure, there's some houses still there. And maybe it was never full, but...I'm betting it used to be a lot fuller.

I know, the Salton Sea is not alone in its contraction. Many cities are shrinking, there's a lot of desolation and abandonment in Great Plains areas as the farms change, the children leave, and the communities die.

But, this one is in our back yard, and the Salton Sea is unique with the sea being created by the folly of man, and subsequently destroyed by it.
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