Fully recovered from Laughlin’s birthday, we drove about 150 miles from Palmdale to Indio, CA to visit Laughlin’s aunt and uncle, Shelly and Pete. Again, we were surprised as the landscape changed which this time was the rugged desert mountains and valleys. Along with the desert landscape came the beautiful sunshine and warm weather that we hadn’t had for quite some time.
Driving a large truck through the city can be a bit stressful, so unless there is a specific site to see, we typically take the most direct route to our destination. When we arrived at Shelly and Pete’s, we realized that we passed through Palm Springs without even stopping. Lucky for us, we were chauffeured around the area where we had a wonderful dinner and got to see the Christmas lights on all of the buildings and palm trees. It was a great treat!
A few month’s ago, I stumbled across some photos of a small town in southern California called Slab City. Vice news did a short documentary about the strange town that exists in the desert with no water, electrical, sewer, garbage, etc. and seems to have stirred the curiosity of many people as it has become more and more popular. Laughlin and I were looking forward to our chance to visit and being only 70 miles away, we just had to go.
After a bit of research and looking at a map, we left Indio and headed towards the desert. A few miles after leaving the city behind us, we could see the shiny glimmer of the Saltan Sea out into the horizon. The sea has an interesting history and was a pleasant surprise to visit. It reminded us a lot of our visit last year to the Dead Sea. Most of the development on the east side of the sea had been abandoned long ago and all that was left was rusted chairs, pilings for docks leading to nowhere and houses that had fallen down. Also interesting, the surface of the water is 5 feet higher than the lowest point in Death Valley so were standing at about 243 feet below sea level.
Slab City was originally a military camp built during World War II but abandoned shortly thereafter. The name comes from concrete slabs leftover from this camp. Today it is a safe haven for people to live off the grid without much interaction from the rest of the world. The land is owned by the State of California and residents don’t pay rent to live here. Essentially, it is a bunch of squatters living off the grid in the desert as cheaply as possible. One of the main attractions of the town is Salvation Mountain which is a piece of artwork created out of adobe and painted by Leonard Knight over many years, which was a place for him to write bible verses on the mountain and vehicles. Shortly after our stop at the Saltan Sea, we pulled into Niland, CA and began heading our final four miles towards Slab City.
Our visit to Slab City was an odd experience we won’t soon forget but certainly worth the visit. As we left, the sign read “welcome back to reality.”
We headed back towards Indio on the west side of the Saltan Sea and pulled into the Shield’s Date Garden where we had date milkshakes and I had a root beer float. While we were there, we watched a video discussing farming dates and we learned that 95% of the dates sold in the U.S. are grown here in the Coachella Valley.
Another fun and interesting stop on our adventure complete, we packed up and headed towards Phoenix.