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'Jacob's Tails' soon to be published as an E-Book
For almost 10 years we heard about The Slabs or Slab City (as it is called) and for almost ten years we avoided staying there. But when Diane and Andy (valued Escapee buddies) said how much they enjoyed their time there and we really hadn’t planned where to go next, we thought – what the heck!!
Slab City is situated about 3 miles outside Niland, California on an old military installation Camp Dunlap that was built during Second World War and abandoned shortly after. It may be the time of year or just the time of man, but everything around there – the buildings; the desert; many of the people – give the impression of being worn out, burned out and/or abandoned.
In 1946 most of the buildings and everyone and everything that could be moved were taken over to Camp Pendleton, California on the west coast. So, now we have a section of desolate land (one mile square) with nothing on it but the occasional water tank or bunker that couldn’t be sold or moved and a collection of concrete slabs where over 30 buildings used to be – thus the name Slab City or The Slabs.
We followed Diane’s and Andy’s directions and found Ray Hound Road, Chili Bob, Mary and Rich and a very welcoming evening fire.
“Of course we remember Diane and Andy,” they told us, “What a great, fun couple.”
“Have you been at The Slabs before?”
“We’ve visited here but never stayed.”
“Would you like me to take you on a tour?” asked Chili Bob.
There is nothing official about Slab City being a city. In fact part of the attraction is that there are no rules and no fees – so they say.
The first place Bob took us was the main Library. The woman who started the Library died and is buried right there in the front yard.
Next we went out to Gopher Flats, the 18 hole Golf Course next to the military Bombing Range. Each (gopher) hole is marked with a red flag. It is reputed to be quite a challenging course.
Bob was going to take us out to the Mud Volcanoes but we had been out there last year. Instead we visited The Queen of the Slabs and her daily Yard and Tool Sale.
Many, many of the folks who stay out on the Slabs have pets – especially dogs – and like most living things, pets die. There is a Pet Cemetery dedicated to the memories of these treasured friends and (I was told) that there may be some people ashes there as well who wanted to spend eternity with their best friends.
It’s interesting how communities evolve and how various social conventions develop. Selected sections are cordoned off – some with yellow tape; some with old tires outlining the parameter and some where you are made to feel uncomfortable if you are not part of the group.
Still others have signs posted – like: the area where the LOW’s (Loners on Wheels) stay; another where there are mostly Escapees; others that people with ATV’s gather; and still others for naturalists who reject the use of generators. There is one area that has been tagged Poverty Flats; another Beverly Hills. Almost every form and description of housing exists. Dwellings constructed from recycled, rejected materials stand beside Motorhomes valued at close to ¾ of a million dollars.
There are two separate music stages, two libraries, a church, a café and various businesses including a solar sales place.
If it stands still long enough, it will have graffiti on it, be decorated or painted (usually with some gawd-awful colour of donated paint).
The Oasis is one such gathering place. This is the place where a bunch from our group goes to have breakfast and play poker once a week. The trailer that sat out front used to be white but someone donated some cans of paint and just before we left it became interesting shades of pink, lavender and yellow.
Not that the folks are not creative – where else would you see vehicles decorated with absolutely everything imaginable?
The most famous construction at Slab City is the Salvation Mountain that stands on your right just before you get to the Welcome Guardhouse entrance to Slab City. It has been featured on a number of documentaries and is Leonard Knight's tribute to Love and God. There are always vehicles parked and people walking up to see the mountain.
Our stay there was fascinating and an experience I wouldn’t have missed for the world but we’re off to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to stalk the illusive desert wildflowers.