No boondockers' tour of California would be complete without a stay at The Slabs.
We had heard various reports about The Slabs, a well-known California desert location where Snowbirds camp alongside squatters on what may well be the last piece of "free" unregulated land in America but we had never actually been there ourselves, until last week.
Everything was different than we had expected - better, worse, bigger, friendlier, wierder, and safer are all words that come to mind.
Salvation Mountain was bigger and better than we had imagined. Leonard Knight the artist, was on site, (apparently almost always is) to answer questions, pose for pictures and spread his message of love. He is quite endearing. We were surprised by the size of the structure and the bizarre museum inside.
An outdoor stage called, The Range, is the scene of free entertainment every Friday evening. Unfortunately we were too early in the week.
From Leonard and his friends, we learned that this parcel of land (over 600 acres), an abandoned navy base, is actually owned by the California Teachers' Association and they continue to allow free unrestricted use. Approximately 50 people live here year-round and another 3000 arrive to spend the winters in their RVs.
We arrived early in the day, with plenty of time to decide whether boondocking would feel safe here. As we drove around the area called "the slabs" we found sections where the "homes" were in shambles and completely surrounded by gargage. Despite the winter season coming to an end, there were still plenty of Snowbirds all set up with solar panels in respectible, expensive, big rigs, parked in amongst the regular residents. Most of them were, however, concentrated in areas on the outskirts where there was no garbage to be seen - very similar to any desert RV boondocking area. We pulled into a spot surrounded by Snowbirds' rigs and spent the night.
Other than our contact with Leonard and his friends, and a few other friendly hellos as we walked the streets, we didn't really get a chance to interact with the residents.
We concluded that, while The Slabs is definitely a place of "alternative" lifestyles, and we have friends who would probably just love every aspect of his place, it's certainly not for everyone. I think our tolerance for alternative lifestyles is generally quite high but not when it comes to living in piles of your own garbage all around your home - something that could be remedied with minimum effort.
Days On The Road At Time Of Writing: 23
Camping Costs To Date: $27.00