Considering the sheer size and assortment of characters in this world, I find it odd that I’ve not actually come across that many bizarre places on my travels. There’s been some humorous moments and weird finds that I’ll share at a later date, but not thaaaat many things that have made me go ‘WHAT THE ACTUAL F IS THAT?’.
Saying that, it occurred to me the other day as I was pondering this thought that I have been to one particularly landmark that challenged my inner artistic weirdo.
In the middle of the grossly humid Californian desert is Slab City, a derelict abandoned area that is reminiscent of a zombie apocalypse. Trolleys wheeling in the non-existent breeze, a scuffling creature in a tin can… you can imagine that movie scene.
The Slabs is America’s uncontrolled land of freedom. There are no rules here… and no electricity or fresh water either. You won’t see much life among the concrete and rusting RVs apart from the odd group of squatters who live here either due to poverty or an unfortunate craving for the off-the-grid lifestyle. Known as ‘snowbirds’ the town’s residents pack up their waste in the horrifically hot summer months only leaving the bravest or most unfortunate dwellers behind.
Despite sounding like most people’s hell on Earth, the community has come together to create their own library, social clubs and even a golf course where they come together between the flaming cars and squabbles.
But in the middle of the madness is Slab City’s famous attraction; Salvation Mountain. Created by the site’s most popular slabber, Leonard Knight, this now historical landmark is a sight for strange eyes.
Made of straw, adobe clay and any rubble Leonard could get his hands on, the mountainous piece of artwork is a gigantic bright treasure covered in over 100,000 gallons of lead free paint. Over 20 years, Leonard evolved his first failed mountain into the structure that has become a popular tourist attraction, living in his van and constantly adding new paths and declarations.
Why you ask? To make a ‘small statement’ about his undying love for God.
As a non-religious person in the traditional sense, I was a bit sceptical about the whole ‘Jesus loves you’ vibe of the place. But after twenty minutes of exploring strange corners (perhaps it was the break from the scorching sun), I felt like a character in Wonderland.
The word LOVE is everywhere you look, surrounded by bright painted flowers and magical patterned tunnels. A small concrete cave holds thousands of signatures, and letters of positivity and happy thoughts. As someone who likes to drink from a half-full cocktail glass, I was kind of enjoying Leonard’s crazy little home.
Yeah it was f’ing weird. But it was also immensely cool. You gotta respect a guy who spends an entire portion of his life making something so vast and colourful just because he believes in it.