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Advice on biking to/around Slab City?!

Old 03-13-11, 09:54 AM
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Advice on biking to/around Slab City?!

First of all, a big thank you to everyone who has given me valuable information on cycling across the states - I've learned a lot!

Ever since watching "Into the Wild" a few years ago I've been very intrigued by Slab City and I'd love to see it with my own eyes. Has anyone been there and would you say it's safe for a girl to go alone? Maybe it's possible to at least cycle around it during the day and then stay a night at the motel in Niland before continuing? (The time I'd be in that area would be late September so I guess it might still be very hot...)

Any info on this would be much appreciated!

Anna
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Old 03-13-11, 12:58 PM
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You might start here www.slabcity.org/

I have wondered about checking out Slab City too, and wondering if it is actually the same utopia as they depict it in the movie.
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Old 03-13-11, 05:58 PM
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Heya! Nice to see a slab city topic come up. I've been going back and forth between Slab City and Quartzsite as a place to spend part of the winter.

I've never been there, but I've been interested in the place for years and have collected a lot of info floating around on the internet. From what I've gathered, it seems fairly safe during the snowbird season. There is drug use, but I've not heard of any drug-related violence. There are creeps, but there is also a sea of nice retired old snowbirds(though they're not likely in force yet by September). There is a lot of trash, but not folks crapping all over the desert. In recent years, I've heard a lot of complaints about it 'not being what it used to be', but I've also heard a lot of people refuting those complaints.

The nearest town of Niland has been described as being pretty unpleasant and downbeat with a lot of alcoholism, so I'd be more careful passing through there. If you don't overnight at the Slabs, I'd suggest heading on to Salton Sea SRA and camping, or using a motel in Brawley.

It doesn't seem like theft is a problem, but then again most people have RVs or vehicles to lock their things in. I don't think you need to worry much if you just stay one night and keep an eye on your stuff, but if you want to stay a few and really check the place out, get to know your neighbors. Make sure you get a good feeling from em, you know? They just might keep an eye on your camp.

All in all, I'd say go for it. For every negative comment I hear about the Slabs, its matched by folks who have been there and say it's a friendly place with a great sense of community. Rather I stay for days or weeks, I certainly plan on visiting - alone and female though I may be
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Old 03-14-11, 12:03 PM
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Hi Chickonbike,

Congratulations on your upcoming tour. It sounds like a real adventure, and I hope it goes well for you.

I've been to Slab City several times in my camper, but always in January or February. When there I usually take my bike out for day rides up and down Hwy 111, which is a nice road to ride on with good shoulders.

I have found Slab City to be interesting, and safe. I've never seen any trouble happening out there, although I'm sure there probably is some occasionally, as there usually is whenever there is a collection of people in one area. It is a very eclectic combination of people. Some live in old, broken-down campers that you wouldn't think would hold together in more than a light breeze, and others in motor homes or trailers that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and everything in between. Alternative energy is big there - solar panels on many rigs, and a few with wind generators as well.

As Tansy said, there will be people from the fringes of society as well as elderly retired folks who meet there to spend time with other retired friends in decent weather - they are usually escaping winter in the northern latitudes. There is a library there made of old plywood, corrugated tin, old tires, etc. There is a makeshift golf course. There is a pet cemetery. There are two "night clubs" - "The Range" - which appeared in the movie, as well as another one that someone threw together a couple of years ago. There is a church. There is a Solar Energy store. And of course, there is Salvation Mountain, the makeshift "shower" and some hot springs.

There are no services there. No electricity, no drinkable water, and no bathrooms, unless of course you befriend one of the people who have all of that in their camper. There is cell service, however. Sprint and, I believe, Verizon both work there. The nearest supplies (food, water, a couple of restaurants) are in Niland, maybe 2 miles away.

Like most cities, there are good areas and bad areas of Slab City. For example, the area near the "LOWs" (Loners on Wheels), is clean and safe, and all the residents appear to be over 70. But a half km to the northeast (and many other areas) will be junky and will look more like a landfill than anything else, with a few scruffy people about (maybe in their 30's to 50's). There could be as many as several thousand people camped out there in winter.

But again, that is what's happening there in winter. In September the place will likely be almost deserted, due to the intense heat. There are some who live there year-round, but not many.

I would guess that you will not have an experience similar to how it was depicted in "Into the Wild." It really is not as vibrant as it appeared to be in that movie. Mostly it is rather quiet, unless the military is doing gunnery practice in the nearby Chocolate Mountains (in which case you can expect to occasionally hear automatic machine gun fire and bombs going off). If you really want to see the place then by all means do so, but be prepared for very, very hot weather and very few people to actually be there. Also, most of the area around the Salton Sea is rather run-down and not appealing visually. But for riding, traffic is light and the terrain is flat.

Best of luck and I hope you have a fantastic tour.

Edit: Slab City photos.

Last edited by simplygib; 03-14-11 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 03-15-11, 02:21 AM
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Originally Posted by simplygib
I would guess that you will not have an experience similar to how it was depicted in "Into the Wild." It really is not as vibrant as it appeared to be in that movie. Mostly it is rather quiet, unless the military is doing gunnery practice in the nearby Chocolate Mountains (in which case you can expect to occasionally hear automatic machine gun fire and bombs going off). If you really want to see the place then by all means do so, but be prepared for very, very hot weather and very few people to actually be there. Also, most of the area around the Salton Sea is rather run-down and not appealing visually. But for riding, traffic is light and the terrain is flat.

Best of luck and I hope you have a fantastic tour.

Edit: Slab City photos.
Thank you so much for the helpful info! I'd love to go there in winter, but unfortunately it's not doable this time around. I figure, I'll more or less be passing by anyway, when turning east from San Diego, but I guess I'll give it some thought... How warm is it in September? Still over the 100's?

Anna
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Old 03-15-11, 11:07 AM
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Hi Anna - yes, it can easily be over 100 in September. It could probably be anywhere from 90 to 115. But if you're riding the ST eastbound in September you will most likely be getting a lot of that heat anyway, even without going to Slab City. You'll probably be fine if do your rides early in the day.
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Old 03-15-11, 04:12 PM
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yup, that's the plan - early mornings it shall be!
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Old 04-05-11, 04:24 PM
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The movie presents a view of Slab City that is not entirely or exactly what you might find. There are many different people staying there. Many of them are older 'snowbirds'; but there are others as well. Your experiences will depend to some extent on which people you encounter, and of course on your own attitudes, openness, judgments, awareness, loves and interests.

Leonard Knight still lives (last I heard) at Salvation Mountain nearby, at least during the not-overly-hot times of the year, and may be open to meeting and talking with you. He is a very interesting man.

You can find some interviews with him on youtube.com.

Good sun protection might also prove helpful.
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Old 04-05-11, 06:51 PM
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We went to the slabs. Here is our experience.

https://pathlesspedaled.com/2010/01/the-slabs/

Best,
Russ
Originally Posted by Niles H.
The movie presents a view of Slab City that is not entirely or exactly what you might find. There are many different people staying there. Many of them are older 'snowbirds'; but there are others as well. Your experiences will depend to some extent on which people you encounter, and of course on your own attitudes, openness, judgments, awareness, loves and interests.

Leonard Knight still lives (last I heard) at Salvation Mountain nearby, at least during the not-overly-hot times of the year, and may be open to meeting and talking with you. He is a very interesting man.

You can find some interviews with him on youtube.com.

Good sun protection might also prove helpful.
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Old 04-06-11, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by pathlesspedaled
We went to the slabs. Here is our experience.

https://pathlesspedaled.com/2010/01/the-slabs/

Best,
Russ

Thanx Russ!
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Old 04-07-11, 03:23 PM
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Slab City surrounds Salvation Mountain, a monument in straw bales, adobe, and hundreds of thousands of gallons of house paint that must be seen to be believed. More images here and here.

The Salton Sea is well worth checking out, too -- the half-abandoned towns of Bombay Beach and Salton City are dystopically fascinating.

Niland is only about five miles away; it has groceries and a cafe, but not much else. Brawley, another twenty miles south, has several motels.

Oh, so hot it will be! It's a wonderful, otherworldly place to visit as directly as by bicycle.
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Old 04-09-11, 11:52 AM
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I've enjoyed riding before dawn, especially in desert areas. There's much less traffic. It's quiet. It's a good way to be more in touch with nature. The temperatures are much cooler, and the sun is down. If you can get to sleep early (and perhaps also get a siesta), and get up very early (even as early as two or three), you can get a lot of good riding in. You can also enjoy the sunrise, and the time before sunrise as the sky begins to lighten.

Midday and afternoons, if you can find an air conditioned room, a cool cave or an overhanging rock it can help. Even the desert creatures go underground at these hours.
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