Monday, February 6, 2017
San Diego to Rancho Mirage


Another gray morning and still only 55 degrees. Time to leave this crummy hotel behind and head into the desert, but first to the Super Target for allergy meds for my bug bites and wine for our soon-to-be hosts.

Leaving the coast, we took a winding route over the mountains. It was foggy and raining, and we couldn't see a thing. We were getting pretty discouraged about what should have been a very scenic drive until we popped over the ridge into the Anza-Borrego Desert, and the rain suddenly stopped. Plus it was finally warm!

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Anza-Borrego Desert

After some good food but poor service at Carmelita's Mexican Grill & Cantina in Borrego Springs, we spent some time exploring the Galleta Meadows sculptures of artist Ricardo Breceda. Over 130 giant metal sculptures dot the desert landscape around Borrego Springs. The serpent is the best!

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Galleta Meadows sculptures, Borrego Springs

Next we headed to the Salton Sea, an ecological disaster I found quite lovely, though I understand at times of large-scale fish die-offs, it can be pretty unpleasant. The 15-by-35-mile lake was created by accident in 1905 and 1906 when heavy rainfalls overran irrigation canals, breached a dike, diverted the entire volume of the Colorado River, and flooded the low-lying Salton Sink, forming a large freshwater lake now called the Salton Sea.

For a time in the '50s and '60s, the Salton Sea was a successful resort destination, with water skiing, yacht clubs, golfing, and all the rest, but in the '70s, with a dam to control flooding of the Colorado River and almost zero rainfall to dilute agricultural runoff from nearby farms, the lake became increasingly saline and polluted. Once dead fish started washing up in mass quantities on the beaches, the tourist industry died as well, and the lakeside settlements were all but abandoned. It takes a certain kind of soul to settle here now. The people who live in the area currently are interesting indeed!



A one-hour documentary about the Salton Sea

Slab City is a squatter community at the southeastern end of the Salton Sea, outside Niland, California. They have no on-grid electricity, water, sewer, or law enforcement. Slab City gets its name from the concrete slabs left on the site from an abandoned Marine Corps base. Thousands of snowbirds camp here for the winter, with around 150 permanent year-round residents. It's bleak but free, an alternative way of life.

At the entrance of Slab City is the colorful Salvation Mountain , a hill covered with concrete and paint, the creation and labor of love of Leonard Knight, who lived out of his truck and worked on the mountain for 20 years. Mr. Knight passed away in 2014, but others have continued his work.

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Tom on Salvation Mountain

East Jesus, also in Slab City, is a fantastical mixed-media sculpture garden made of repurposed refuse, in other words, trash. An artist-in-residence came by and told us, "Touch whatever you want; if you break it, tell 'em it was broke when you got here." This is my favorite art exhibit of all time, by far.

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Welcome to East Jesus

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Halfway up the eastern shore of the Salton Sea, we stopped by the sad little town of Bombay Beach. Due to the fluctuating water level of the Salton Sea and the low elevation of the town, the town is surrounded by an earthen berm. Bombay Beach, once a thriving resort town, is now the most famously depressing wasteland in California.

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The Salton Sea from Bombay Beach

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Sadly, Bombay Beach

After a great day of exploring, we pulled into Rancho Mirage at dark o'clock and arrived at Tom's aunt and uncle's house (aka Casa de Kawan) in the Mira Vista HOA just before 6:00 p.m. Alice and Joe had a nice dinner waiting for us, and we ate and chatted and watched the giant TV in their media room before spending the first of several nights in their fantastic guest suite.

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Our suite for the week!


Continue to February 7, 2017

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