Like many people, I first learned of Slab City by reading Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild. Later on, Sean Penn’s feature film provided strong visual imagery of the settlement. A brief history: Slab City was a WWII military installation, Camp Dunlap, in Southern California’s Imperial County. After the need of military use, the camp was dismantled leaving remnants which were only concrete slabs.

East Jesus Slab City Niland California

Hence, when the squatters arrived, the moniker, Slab City.


East Jesus, Slab City, Niland California

The land is neither county or state owned, so people can live out there fairly harassment free, as far as “the man” is concerned. East Jesus is an experimental art installation within Slab City, and this was the second stop for Edie and me following our pilgrimage to Salvation Mountain.

East Jesus, Slab City, Niland California

East Jesus is as iconoclastic a place as I’d ever seen, and creatively applies refuse into sustainable sculpture while thumbing its nose at US consumerism. It’s a bit sassy but incredibly clever. From what I could see, the materials are all reclaimed and reused.

East Jesus, Slab City, Niland California

East Jesus artisans are equal opportunity icon bruisers. Think of them like an artistic, rough shod, Steve Bannon. Opinionated, audacious, intelligent, and outspoken – in your face kind of outspoken. But nowhere near as vile and loathful. East Jesus provides you with intelligent commentary and provocative social observations as opposed to the vile bigotry propagated by the parallel reference.

East Jesus, Slab City, Niland California

The temperatures were punitive and Edie was really hot. Even when I carried her in her sling and she wasn’t walking on the hot ground, she was still struggling. Not in danger kind of struggling. Struggling, as in, she needed some AC.


Edie’s double coat is completely non functional. She has enough fur to shed like a persian cat and be hot in the summer. But not enough to protect her from the sun, so I invest, heavily, in doggie sunscreen. She doesn’t have enough hair to not be cold in the winter, so she has a sweater collection that would be the envy of any ivy leaguer. There is no utility functionality to her fur. At all!

East Jesus 4

There was only one other couple who followed me from Salvation Mountain through the dusty drive to East Jesus. He asked if I was an art student. Apparently, he was dumbfounded as to why anyone would make the effort to walk through the sculpture garden in the height of the sun on such a hot day 108F (42-43C) unless I was there on assignment. Chuckling at his assumption, I understood his intent, and we briefly chatted on his tourism motivation. He and his wife were on holiday from Singapore.


There is a donation tower on site. I didn’t have any smaller bills with me. Having just put in $20 to Salvation Mountain, I couldn’t defend another donation of that size. Instead, I nearly seared my fingertips and palms while I emptied out my cup holder of all my parking meter coins to give about $6 and some change to East Jesus.

East Jesus Slab City

And, then, we were on our way to seek Salton Sea and Palm Springs. AC on full blast, seat belts fastened, and road trip appropriate playlist coming through the speakers.

Slab City, Niland California

Stick around to find out about our venture to Joshua Tree!

Dog is my co-pilot.


Seeking California’s Salton Sea – A Road Trip

Being fairly west coast-ish, already, I can’t go too much farther in Horace Greely’s navigation call (not to mention I’m the wrong gender invited). But…. I was determined. I would visit Salton Sea before leaving the Southwest. My dissertation’s data collection is all but going to Hell, but that is/was/is not going to deter my Farewell Phoenix Tour. Did I mention I live for a good road trip? “Good” being a flexible and creative definer?

A blistering hot July day seemed as good a day as any for a drive. Edie and I hit the road at a painful 4:30am to put as much of the desert trek behind us before the sun got high in the sky. Our first stop was to the wonderful Salvation Mountain and then the iconoclastic East Jesus in Slab City.

Salton Sea CA dog friendly road trips

Living in Phoenix, Palm Springs is just far enough away to be slightly inconvenient with a topography that is too familiar. Palm Springs, for all its fun, just can be a hard sell to a Phoenician. When planning SoCal road trips Phoenicians have two options. 1) a four hour drive to a desert valley surrounded by stunning mountain ranges (in other words, landscape and temperatures completely matching home). Or… 2) a five to six hour drive to the beach and up to a 30 degree temperature differential (in the summer this is an important distinction). For me, at least, the beach will win out nearly every time. Besides, I’m partial to the Sonoran Desert landscape. No offense meant to lovers of Mohave Desert! Well, so we ended in Palm Springs (always a fun time), but the primary interest was a little bit southern. Regardless, Salton Sea is am easy extension to a Palm Springs stopover if you plan well enough. And, IMO, you should plan for this creepy cool site, err sight.

Salton Sea, CA

By the time we got to Salton Sea, the heat and sun were merciless. I was dehydrated — while I packed more than adequate water, I wanted to limit the number of times I’d have to pee on the roadside to as few stops  as possible. I was not willing to take any chance leaving Edie alone in the car for ANY amount of time. It was so hot. I wasn’t going to take any risk with her.Salton Sea, CA

We didn’t stay long on the barnacle and salt crusted shore. I made the artistic error of taking the Border Patrol agent’s recommendation to go to the sanctioned state park site instead of any abandoned beach sites. It wasn’t because I minded paying the $5 fee. I support state and national parks, regardless. We all should…. State park sites are maintained so there were none of the odd, macabre vestiges of the holiday destination Salton Sea used to be that make for beautiful photographs. The shoreline, nonetheless, was just as covered and cluttered with decomposed bodies of countless tilapia who died, most likely, gasping for their last breaths. Many of the fish were mummified from the intense arid heat. The putrid water lapped up the shore and salt crusted sand cracked under and around our feet.

Salton Sea, CA

Whereas Salton Sea used to be a destination of leisure and pleasure, I couldn’t stop my mind from focusing on the scale of death and the slow process of nature reclaiming the basin as it was intended to be, not the desert lake it was made to be decades ago. The persistent and punitive flies didn’t do much to settle my mood. And the smell!

Salton Sea CA

I was forewarned of the smell. Yes, it smells. It probably smells as bad as you expect it to. Not pleasant, but tolerable. That is, for a short time. Although, I think Edie disagreed with me.

Salton Sea California

What is one smell that dogs universally become disgusting little junkies for? Dead fish. And we were standing on a shore that was nearly entirely composed of dead fish bodies. To borrow the words from Summer Roberts, “Eww!” Oh, but for the life of me (I think she still smells of it), my sweet little babe became a filthy mongrel rolling and wiggling IN the mummified fish carcasses! Oh, Edie.

Salton Sea CA

Had I not been on the very cusp of full heat induced misery, I would have liked to stop at some of the abandoned shoreline sites and stayed at the sea quite a while longer. But Edie was hot, too, and showing signs of heat stress. Edie has just enough hair to shed like a cat, but not nearly enough to be functional. Edie’s fur does not help her regulate her body temperature. She is desperate for shade and air conditioning in the summer and lives in sweaters in the winter.  Ok, obsessive dog mom tangent done! Long story short-er — I didn’t want her to become too physically stressed.

Salton Sea California

We picked up several hitchhikers getting in the Volvo and I think we were back in Phoenix before the car was fly free. One of Edie’s skills is she is an excellent fly hunter. While she’s quite proficient, her process and focus is comical. I had a hard time staying focused on the highway a couple of times as a result of her earnestness to get those flies. You bet I cheered each time she caught one. You bet I was slightly disgusted each time she ate her kill. “Eww!” Good girl. Oh, Edie.

Salton Sea, Mecca, California

Lucky for me, on a side note, I came across a fruit stand on the side of the road in Mecca. I am delighted to report communication success! I navigated the entire transaction in Spanish. Not broken Spanish. Effective, conversational Spanish! I’m on my way to continue my studies and prepare for my eventual move to Oaxaca (but first, I must finish this dang dissertation). Mixed fruit, chile, fresh coconut, and a bag of coconut water. Thanks to my week I spent in Belize SCUBA diving, I am undeterred by water in a bag. I developed expert skills drinking water from a bag during several dives along that reef!

Salton Sea Mecca CA

Stick around for another post about East Jesus and take a look at Edie’s and my visit to Salvation Mountain!


Some Like it Palm SpPrings Hot

Some like it hot, so quipped Tony Curtis’s “Junior” to Marilyn Monroe’s Sugar. Well, I like it hot. Temperature, that is.

I’m getting ready for a brief break of my norm. Although I usually dash away to my big neighbor next door  to escape the summer heat here in Phoenix by bathing oceanside, I’ll be driving Stupid Scandinavian Car a “brief” three and a half hour drive west to La Quinta. The Mojave desert is as near perfect a pool party spot and I’ll be heading to a pool party and some more sun of the same extreme brand as I can get here in Phoenix, but with a different view. Oh, and the greatest kind of hosting company who comes with many laughs and a professional ability to play the turntables.

I suspect I’ll be breezing past 29 Palms and winding down my windshield time right in time for Saturday brunch. But, after brunch and yet before dinner, lots and lots of SPF!