Day 15: July 11, 2009 – Indio, CA to Los Angeles, CA
Hello Big City
Having woke up in the already-sweltering-heat-at-8:00am-city of Indio, we shoved a pancake in our mouths, said our good-byes to the Castro Family, headed to Shields for some delicious date shakes, and began our Tour de Jour.
The fortunate beings that we are, we were able to glean from our CouchSurfing hosts a very important and interesting tourist tid-bit: Salvation Mountain was only about 45 minutes away. If you’ve watched Into the Wild or read the story, you may recognize the importance of Salvation Mountain, if not just maintain confidence that it is quite possibly the greatest sight to behold in the great state of California. Salvation Mountain is located just south of Niland, CA in an area that is known as Slab City, an old Naval base – a slab of cement serves as the landscape for a myriad of RV’s and various people living life simply. We however, did not go so much for the experience of Slab City, but more so for the opportunity to view Salvation Mountain and meet the creator of this famous piece of folk art.
Salvation Mountain is compiled of hay bails, tractor tires, car tires, sticks, ridiculous amounts of adobe and equally ridiculous amounts of paint. Leonard, the creator of this masterpiece has been continually adding to the project for 25 years now. It was 25 years ago that he broke down in this desert of an area and decided to stick around for a week, a week turned into 25 years and one small dome has turned into a large space dedicated to art made of refuse and vibrantly proclaiming the love of God to all who may pass by.
Our journey to Salvation Mountain was a bit rough as the site is not clearly marked or given much notice. However, when we finally spotted the Mount we were thankful for the time and effort we had put into finding this jewel of the desert. Soon as the upwards-of-seventy-years old man spotted us he hollered out a friendly hello and invited us to make ourselves at home and take lots of pictures. He proceeded to give us a tour of the caverns he had made, the trees created from tires and sticks he pulled out of the desert using his Toyota, the bluebirds in the sky, the flowers he had poked, and of course the yellow brick road. He encouraged us to take pictures and explore this place which he had worked on for so many years. We were impressed with magnitude of the sight and the love of the Lord he portrayed in every nook and cranny. We walked the yellow brick road, took numerous pictures and marveled at the time and effort which had gone into this project. Unsurprisingly, the old gentleman was generous in giving us a DVD story of his life, a handful of postcards and a puzzle. Having explored the location justly, we made our way into Nav-E and made our way back toward Joshua Tree National Park so that we could take our time seeing the cacti and landscape.
Sweating on occasion and enjoying cool air on others, we made our way to Joshua Tree National Park. It was no area for hiking or exploring, but Mike was able to get some beautiful photos and enjoyed looking upon the desert-scapes one last time.
Having completed the tasks for the first portion of the day we made our way toward Los Angeles. We were hesitant to board the freeway and enter a city but were encouraged by the knowledge that it would be this part of the trip that would again lead us to good friends from our college years. With fond memories of our friends, we hit the freeway and safely made our way into the area of Los Angeles known as Hollywood (maybe you’ve heard of it?). Our friend, Garrett, has been living in L.A. for about 4 months now. Saturday was an extremely busy day for him, so he gave us directions to his home and the observatory and promised to see us in the morning. Having all that we needed for direction, we made our way into Griffith Park to view the city from the Observatory. What a sight we were in for! Neither Mike or I are huge on city life, however, we enjoyed gazing upon the glittering city lights of L.A. and considering the possibility that rather than lacking the sight of stars in a big city, perhaps all the stars have just fallen from the sky…as the landscape before us was reminiscent of shining stars. Mike conquered his camera and managed some amazing night scenes and we slowly made our way out of the Observatory and over to Garrett’s home where we enjoyed a mostly peaceful nights sleep…which would prepare us for a day of rest and enjoying some old friends.