ROAD TRIP: IMPERIAL VALLEY AND THE WEIRD, WEIRD WEST

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ADRIAN MARTIN
ADRIAN MARTIN

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The Imperial valley of Southern California is not what you’d refer to a s a tourist destination but more an example of car-crash-tourism.

An impoverished agricultural region with a slowly disappearing infrastructure is amazingly is the very thing that draws thousands of people a year here whether its the eco-disaster known as the Salton sea and it’s decaying towns surrounding it or the anti-establishment, off-the-grid colony of Slab City.

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The Salton sea had some success as a resort area,in the 1950’s due to the accidental inflow of water from the Colorado River while constructing irrigation canals in 1905. With the severely reduced inlow afterwards, an extremely salty lake was all that was left. This large-scale fuck up ultimately spawned the regions known as Salton City, Salton Sea Beach, and Desert Shores, on the western shore though these and many others substantially shrank in size, or have been abandoned since.

‘Peak’ tourism season HERE is usually around the time of the Coachella Festival when festival punters with a bit of time on their hands stop by on their way to Palm Springs or the Mexican border.

I may be drawing a pretty long bow here but when Andy Warhol used a banana as imagery for The Velvet Underground’s debut album ‘Rico’ he ultimately elevated the staus of the bendy yellow fruit placing in the upper echelons of the cool psychology which might go some way to explaining why someone started a banana museum complete with figurines, statues, posters and more all in the spirit of the banana (there are roughly 17,000 items in the collection gaining it Guiness records status). Owner Fred Garbutt a.k.a The Banana King welcomes visitors with a vibrance one would expect from an such a yellow-toned environment. Look for the yellow Volkswagon.

 

Salvation mountain east of Salton sea is what might be referred to as a feat of improvised architecture.
It’s also, according to creator Leonard Knight’s website, “a tribute to God and his gift to the world”. Reaching 50 ft at its highest point, it has become a sort of national pop-culture treasure having appeared in numerous films and documentaries as well as being the backdrop for a number of fashion shoots and even a Coldplay filmclip (Birds). Leonard passed away in 2014 yet his technicolor legacy lives on.

East Jesus Art Park is a “refuge for artists, musicians, survivalists, writers, scientists, laymen and other wandering geniuses” and is only a mile or so down the road from Salvation mountain. The quickest description I can offer here is a repository for Burning Man installations with a community to match.

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