If you are a fulltime RVer and you have experienced the weirdness of Quartzsite, Slab City needs to be next on your list of places to visit when escaping winter’s freezing chill. To get to Slab City, you must first reach Niland, California on Highway 111. Once in Niland, follow Main Street east. Cross some railroad tracks then enter some open country for a few miles. You’ll see an abandoned military guard station painted with a greeting: “Welcome to Slab City.”
Slab City is a “culturally enhanced desert boondock city.” I found those words on the Internet. My words cannot be so brief or eloquent.
In Slab City, a door bell for one RV is a large bell with a hammer salvaged from a train. On an addition, a giant Teddy Bear keeps watch from a roof over a sled that will never be used in this desert town. Well used seats at The Range entertainment stage show their wear so bring your own chair. Empty wine bottles planted upside down make a fence around the Library. And, if you’re lucky, you might boondock next to a defunct slab from a military building long gone – a concrete patio!
Some RVs come to Slab City for a few days like Ed and me. Some just will never leave because their bus conversion’s engine is missing. One year- round Slab City resident constructed a privacy wall from the dried leaves of a palm tree. Nearly everyone has solar panels for power. Many mobile people come from Canada or Utah staying until April when the snow melts up north. One dear lady originally from Ohio told me she’d been coming here for over 20 years and wants her family in Ohio and daughter in Massachusetts to see where she lives. Her RV is parked next to two vehicles permanently decorated for the Christmas parade. I told her I‘d post photos on the Internet since she was limited to the capacity of a disposable Polaroid.
If you are single, there’s a part of Slab City just for “Loners.” The drinkers and party crowd have a designated area called “The Oasis.” And, “The Travelers” hold socials and potlucks on weekends.
The Schwan’s representative delivers meat and ice cream in this boondock city. And, if you are walking along the road, folks going to town in their cars assume that’s where you are going too and offer you a ride.
Military desert Humvees will not stop and offer you a ride. It’s best to stay out of their path. They roll by kicking up a cloud of dust from the active military base which adjoins Slab City. Day and night, it’s common to hear artillery fire as soldiers shoot practice rounds. We were warned that some explosives rock the RVs but “never fear” said our new neighbor Larry. “The military are good shots and have never taken out an RV yet!”
At night, coyotes and wild dogs howl at the moon. In the day, you can sometimes here the rush of water flowing in the Coachella Canal.
Slab City is a busy place. Invitations to events are posted on the Community Bulletin Board. We missed last weekend’s Prom. There had recently been a Dog Show too. A Slab City resident named Carol proudly showed me a trophy her dogs won. She entered all three – a boxer, another which looked like a cross between a German Sheppard and a coyote, and a tiny black and white spotted dog named Chichi. Chichi must have behaved better for the judges than she did when posing for me. Or maybe, she charmed the judge by touching her nose with her tongue.
February 4, 2009