What an incredible day! I took it on today to celebrate being my own valentine since I'd be out on the road by myself, and what an amazing result.
After breakfasting and provisioning in Yuma, I set out on a path that would take me north past the decrepit Salton Sea area on my way to my ultimate destination: Hicksville Trailer Palace in the Twentynine Palms area. That would allow me to drop by and visit Salvation Mountain outside of Niland, California and it was urgent that I do so because the fellow that built it, Leonard Knight, was recently moved to a managed care facility, which is unfortunately an all too common death knell for a folk art environment.
Leonard has spent the last 30 years literally painting a big pile of mud. He's added elaborate chambers and rooms to the mountain using trees, straw and other salvaged materials like windshields. But every square inch of it is coated in bright shades of what was left over from painting your daughter's bedroom. Leonard's legion of fans lug their leftovers to him so he can continue his work, tirelessly. Just look at the donations that had accumulated when I was there:
The sheer scale of the place is hard to capture. If you look at the picture of the mountain above, you can just see a tiny couple sitting at the top under the cross. Suddenly, that becomes a lot of paint and a lot of painting when you think about it.
But what I see most when I look at this place is the thousands and thousands of beautiful abstracts that lurk in every single nook and cranny.
What a perfect place to take me, Valentine! Salvation Mountain is about love in a way few other things manage to be.
After I left, I stopped and spent a good hour picking through a trash dump not a mile west of Salvation Mountain. The glittering bits of glass had caught my eye as I had driven by earlier, so I took a sack and spent some time filling it with little bits of treasure for my own version of Salvation Mountain. What a swell day, Valentine!
I drove north past the odd, sad, Salton Sea including a town which is straightforwardly named Mortmar (dead sea so far as I can tell). The Salton Sea is a man made body of water that has a long sad history of environmental disaster. There are still people living in little outposts here and there, but it's largely abandoned as a place to live.
I did stop at a date farm along the way to sample some dates and try one of their famous date shakes. My review: tasted just like a milkshake. Meh.
I continued driving north to a favorite passage of I-10 where it intersects with Highway 62 - dramatic desert scenery with a forest of immense wind turbines, turning as fast as their arms will go. It's the turn off to a wonderful stretch of this great country of ours, The Twentynine Palms highway. There are so many choice destinations along this road from the Integratron toNoah Purifoy's Desert Art Museum (to name just two), but I was headed to the Hicksville Trailer Palace for a Valentine's day celebration in the gloriously purple Fifi trailer. B'anna Federico had kindly tipped me off to this place several months ago and it was just in time to include it as a stop on my itinerary. I had a big Valentine's evening planned: a giant box of chocolates, a bottle of good champagne and some tasty morsels to eat.
When I arrived, everything began tumbling into place at light speed. The trailer was perfect. The setting was perfect. The other GUESTS were perfect! I spent the rest of the evening playing in my trailer and getting to know my fellow trailer trash - I had an absolute ball! What a great group of folks. Obi and Ali brought their archery gear, so we spent some time getting to know one another while plunking arrows into the targets on the BB gun/Archery range. Bernadette and Dave regaled us with stories of Disneyland and ordered us a delicious pizza. Todd, Ethan and Jesika worked in the recording studio and joined us between bouts of recording for delicious bourbon and lively conversation. There was a fire under the stars. AND a fire in a tepee! I think I could write a book about how much fun I had last night. One of the last things I remember was sitting outside gazing up at an incredible canopy of stars and planets, the desert whisper quiet with a steady breeze blowing, all while the strains of Mr. Blue Sky by E.L.O. played from the jukebox in this terrain so frequently visited by extraterrestrials. Perfect.
I came to Hicksville for a cool hotel room and I got a whole event is all I know to say. Awesome.