Goodbye to our California connection and friend Julie- before heading to the party. Our last night at Mission Bay Park in San Diego.

Halloween turned out to be a smashing success. Our California girl-friend Julie pointed us in the direction of a church party complete with carnival rides, games, candy and entertainment. We arrived on time and enjoyed a free party with about 5,000 other folks. Against the odds, we also entered the drawing for a chance at six big prize baskets, to be held at the end of the night. We were tired, and were in the lot, loading up the van when they announced that the drawing would take place in 9 minutes at the center stage… I accompanied 3 of the kids back to the stage to hear who won, Our family was drawn for the second prize of the night! … and the fourth!



Exiting from center stage carrying the goods that went to Henry and Trevor (who were resting their tired dogs in the van)


Wow, 2 out of 6 with 5,000 others in the drawing. We got out of there fast before our luck was called into question and stayed for our last night at the comfortable Mission Bay Park before heading East on The 8 Monday morning across the San Diego mountain range, skirting the Mexico border.

Against perhaps better judgment, we stayed at a rest stop alone last night in remote southern California, on a highway between 2 cities that wasn’t well traveled, which didn’t even make sense to have a rest stop with less than 10 miles between towns- but we were tired, so it worked for us. Well lighted, it seemed OK for our needs at the time, and had an RV dump station, a real bonus. Our hesitation about staying at isolated rest stops comes after reading or hearing about some safety concerns for lone travelers that are targeted by dirty local opportunists. Granted, anyone that made their way through the dead bolted steel security door would have taken a beating- but it would have been a hassle…. After a restful night there were no midnight knocks. I’ve mentioned before, the mystery of stopping for the night after dark and not knowing exactly what our surroundings are- we went to bed denying we’d farted and assigned the blame for the occasional poo smell to the farmland around us (an assumption). Come to find out after we hit the road Tuesday morning, we were only about ½ mile from a gargantuan cow farm -so when the wind blew just right, someone had to take the blame.

The morning rest area cleaning crew was hard at work before we rose, and ended up having a trio of friendly men that offered local tidbits of information on just about everything. Their information was good, and panned out as the day unfolded:


The Slab City sentry shack walls were 16" of concrete. This one was artfully decorated, the next shack had fallen to the standard garbage graffiti painted slurs.

We headed just a few miles North to Niland, California- which turned out to be a mysteriously quiet city with an abundance of dilapidated buildings that were once grand focal points of the community. On the outskirts of Niland was the object of today’s desire- Salvation Mountain and Slab City. Located in the footprint of an abandoned WWII military base, Slab City is home to anywhere between a few dozen to several thousand residents that appreciate desert life in an RV, or some creation that was once mobile.


The library at Slab City was the best stocked book exchange we've seen. Albeit dry and dusty, the books were organized according to general subject. In the open, it was remarkable that the books were in as good of shape as they were, despite traces of some animals having visited also. Take close look at all of the items on display.


The rent is free, and it seems like the only rule is not to bother your neighbor if you can help it. There is a lot of information out there about The Slabs that will fascinate you- but suffice to say that we heeded one of the tidbits from the previously mentioned gentleman and did not opt to stay overnight. Everyone is different, and variety is key for Slabbers. From sleeping in the back of a flatbed truck to a $400,000 class A coach, all walks of life seem at home in Slab City. We met a couple of guys that were in the early planning stages of launching an effort to begin the cleanup of this notorious dry camping site, that has been collecting debris and leftovers for decades. Those men speculated about safety as well, and although we generally expect the best from others, we have heard the warnings and decided to pass on our chance to sleep in the wild desert.



Like a paint supply aircraft exploded in midair above this drab desert outpost, Salvation Mountain screams welcome to visitors with the intricate work of one man on display.

Salvation Mountain has also been very well reviewed around the world, and is just a few hundred yards away from most of the residents at Slab City. Here, Leonard Knight has been working on the construction of a tribute to God for over 20 years, after his original attempt to spread the word of God failed to materialize- after 14 years of hard work. That attempt was to construct a hot air balloon that would have been 200’ tall, made out of balloon scraps he had hand sewn together. He still has the device that he built to inflate and heat the air inside the balloon behind the museum portion of the mountain. The balloon never took off, and the last place he tried to take off was Niland- so somehow it ended up here, and is now buried below the straw bales, and paint and adobe and paint and sticks and paint that is: Salvation Mountain.


Isn't it just like the movies to make everything seem larger than life?  From a distance it seems small and manageable, but once you are standing in front of this mountain, it is almost overwhelming. Size, color, and details make you stop and try to just soak the experience in.



Remember that scene in WIlly Wonka where the Oompa-Loompas were running along the chocolate river and there where pinwheels and bright trees and ribbons of candy and... it was too much to take in? Right along those lines of overpowering your minds ability to see it all, Trevor begins the ascent along the yellow brick road to the top of Salvation Mountain.

The colors are vibrant, and we spotted it 3 miles before we arrived. Mr Knight himself interrupted a layer of bright green to show us around for a few minutes before sending us up the ‘yellow brick road’, which led visitors along the designated route to the top. From the top, you get a clear perspective of where we are in relation to The Slabs, the town of Niland, nearby geothermal power stations (we’re at the Southern tip of the San Andreas Fault) and our bus, parked along the road.


Kevin greeted us upon our arrival. He was perched on the rear step of the truck that Leonard lives in, covered by valuable shade- although we were treated to perfect weather. Kevin told us that the heat peaked around 120 this summer, and they swam several times a day to keep their core temp down.

Kevin is the man that greeted us when we arrived, and gave a well practiced introduction about who, what, where and why this was what it was, and then answered our questions. Turns out he’s a retired social worker that specialized in working with homeless folks in New York… Ironic that he now lives in a trailer that although is connected to the grid is remote - but probably a welcome retreat after dealing with around 1,500 visitors a week to this folk art mecca for average joes like us, and artists that recognize what Leonard has actually created.


After directing us to avoid stepping on the fresh green paint at ground level, Leonard offered a tour in the museum, describing how he constructed the trees. Actually a part of the support system for the hundreds/thousands of bales of straw that were slathered with adobe and paint, he seemed particularly proud of the way he built these. Bubbling with a sparkly enthusiasm, Leonard Knight seemed to be a simple, humble man that was eager to weave in a Christian message between almost every sentence. He is immediately likable.


At the foot of his hard labor and worldwide fame, we were privileged to get this shot with Leonard.


Truly an 'art car', Leonard's vehicles are his way of furthering the message. He has several past vehicles on site, decorated with caulk and latex house paint. No longer a licensed driver, Leonard relies on folks like Kevin to get his places, although it doesn't sound like he gets away very often. Breakfast every day in Niland, lunch on site, and a hot dinner at his home thanks to Kevin and his nearby tech-equipped trailer.


From the center if the O, at the top of the mountain- Kelly in the foreground, Bussie on the road to Slab City.



Trying to capture the spread of the paint job as it creeps toward his vehicles at the base of the mountain. Remember that you can right click the image and then View Image to enlarge the view and see the details.



Looking to the rear from the top, Slab City is close, and covers 640 acres of lawless land.


If you get even close to this place, make a point to come by to see and hear the important message Leonard set out to share with the world.

We left The Slabs and Gods message behind and headed for tip #2 from our early morning acquaintance: the Holtville Hot Springs. Just an hour South, and directly in our path to go East, we’re staying at least a night or two- because tip #3 is tomorrow night: the Ham Dinner at the Holtville Lutheran Church.

I’ll add photos tomorrow when I find the camera, as well as a review of the dinner.