I’m not in a hurry to leave our Salton Sea camp.
More shore birds than ever congregate in front of our campsite. While I pack up, Spike goes on a long, solitary walk down the beach and back. “Did you say your goodbye, Spike? I think you really like it here.”
Bridget and Spike hop into the Perfect Tow Vehicle. Just then a man and woman appear! They introduce themselves as Linda and Stephen from Vancouver Island, B.C. and they’re camped here, too. “You don’t know us because we’re lurkers on your blog. We’ve got our GPS.” Stephen holds out his hand to show me. “We’re geocaching.”
Spike and Bridget jump out to greet our visitors.
Before we part ways, Linda says they’re going over to look at the Slabs. “Well, that’s where we’re headed, too. Maybe we’ll see you there.”
The sound of the PTV’s gears as we accelerate onto Highway 111 ramps up my anticipation for our next camp.
I’m ready for a Slab Experience, but first . . . .
The highway follows the shore and brings us to Bombay Beach. Once a getaway for the rich and famous, now the glamor is gone and it’s a very dreary place. The tumble-down homes and outbuildings huddle together like bums in an trash-laden alley. As I expect, a gate is across the entrance to the state park.
Not long after Bombay Beach, we drive through Niland looking for a dump station.
Niland sits like the crown jewel of poverty in the poorest county in the state of California. Hoo-boy. Here’s the predictable dumpy grocery store, bars on the windows and door, liquor signs flashing. Oh, and the laundromat. Depressing. It’s pretty bad when the most attractive building in town is the gas station.
I search both sides of the road, looking for a sign of the RV dump station.
We pass the school. Oh, these poor people, trying to make a living and raise a family here. The town disappears behind us and we enter an agricultural area, green fields on both sides of the road. No dump station. We must’ve passed it. I look for a place to turn around. Huh? What’s this? Sheep!
Returning to Niland (not a phrase I hope to type often in this blog), I stop at the gas station for propane.
As I put the cover back over the tanks, a couple drives up.
“I saw you turn around and followed you here,” the tall, slim man announces as he gets out of his car, looking at the Best Little Trailer. “I want to get one of those in Texas, but the taxes will kill me.” I wait for an explanation. “My credit union says I have to register it and I live in California.” He stops. Mentioning California is enough explanation I guess. He wonders out loud if the ceiling is high enough for him, so I get out my key and let him step inside.
After they leave, I open up my laptop and google “Niland dump station.”
I find it’s on Fourth Street. A few blocks up the road we approach a huge sign, “RV Dump Station.” The sign faces only one way, a metaphor for the town . . . . (One way to crap, for those of you who aren’t paying attention.).
The dump station is in the Niland Community Park.
The “park” is a big, flat area of dirt with some dilapidated sheds, concrete picnic tables, and one brilliantly beautiful bougainvillea in full bloom. Bridget and Spike think this is our new home so they’re barking their fool heads off. I walk them around the “park.” They empty their waste tanks, then I empty the BLT’s. At the other end of the “park” is a place to get fresh drinking water and pay $10.00.
Next stop is the grocery store.
I park around back. While parking, I see a guy looking at me expectantly. Great. A panhandler. “Ma’am, could you give me fifty cents? I’m hoping to get three dollars so I can get something to eat.” I reach in my change purse, grab some coins, and place them in his hand. I look back as I enter the store and he’s already found another “customer.”
I drive down Main Street which oddly isn’t the main street.
I stick out my hand and stop a guy in a shiny, white truck. “Is this the way to Salvation Mountain?” I ask. He smiles. “If you mean Slab City, keep going, you can’t miss it.” Not long thereafter a car approaches with arms waving out both sides. “It’s Linda and Stephen!” We wave and exchange smiles in the instant we pass.
The crew and I arrive at Slab City.
Salvation Mountain comes into view.
We slowly travel down the main road.
Suffice it for me to say, there are a lot of different people here living in different conditions, and it’s difficult for me to know where to set up camp. I get out my cellphone and call Ken. (Ken is a guy I met last spring while we camped at Williard Springs, south of Flagstaff. He’s the owner of Scooter who took a bite out of crime aka Spike. Ken said he might be at the Slabs again for the winter. I called him yesterday and found out he’s here!)
Ken answers my call.
“Ken, I’m overwhelmed. Can you show me a good place to camp?”
Ken is surprised to learn the crew and I are parked right around the corner from the pet cemetery where he happens to be visiting his dog’s grave (Sorry, Spike, it’s not Scooter’s.).
Ken immediately shows up on his motorcycle.
He remembers that I prefer a campsite with some space around it, not crowded in with other campers.
I’m happy with the site he finds for the crew and me.
While Bridget and Spike relax in their pen and Scooter plays with her big black friend named Oprah (!), Ken and I sit in camp chairs in the shade of the BLT and spend the afternoon catching up on each other’s adventures on the road.
Note: If you’d like to see more of Slab City and local attractions, visit Karen’s blog. Her show-and-tell covers it all!