Friday, January 14, 2011


A PLACE TO BE. We all must BE someplace. Come with me to the world's most surprising campground---A place where you may camp rent-free ---even build a house--in a super free--almost anarchic-- community. The state of California inherited the land and has chosen to permit unlimited free living. It is a sanctuary for distressed or impoverished or just curious individuals. In succeedings entries I will focus on its Denizens and on its Drama. Now, I acquaint you with its Domiciles. To see the precise location of the Slabs note the tiny town of Niland California at the lower east edge of the Salton Sea. Now note the road going east and see where it intersects with the Coachilla Canal---bingo--the infamous SLABS.
Settled myself in on the edge of our "tribal" grounds about dark and noticed this scene in my front window.
Of course I stepped outside to catch the full glory of the moment. My 5 pronged experiment begins tomorrow.
But this first morning, I will amble around to show you the variety of Slab domiciles. This neatly engineered shed with camouflage material for shade adjoins his motorhome.
Territoriality expressing itself here. A year round resident is building a pool. (Odd because there's no running water at the Slabs---nearest faucet is in Niland---4 miles away.)
A classic Teardrop trailer---from the 1920's---minimalism for sure. But note the solar panel for electrical power.
A somewhat isolated 6ft x 12ft home built literally on the sand and shaded against the summer sun.
Can you see this camouflaged tent. Also located on the Slab's periphery and occupied by Leonard's defender--the escapist social worker mentioned in part 1.
Lots of old trailers like these in what I call the spooky zone--thickly vegetated.
A traveling guy and gal set up temporary housekeeping amidst the trash--seemingly untroubled by their unsightly surroundings.
Guy and his wife fenced themselves and their dogs in---with chain link no less. Said he's here for the long haul.
Lots of tents around---reasonably comfortably living if one has water. Many Slabbers do like this guy--buy a 50 gallon tank and pay a small fee for water delivery. Using an average of 2 gallons per day, that is a 25 day supply.
A residence and a business---"Solar Mike" and his wife live here---I judge them to be the Slabs most substantial citizens. He sells and installs solar panels and windmills.
The Slabs most colorful citizen---container charley. (more about him later) showing off his summer nights sleeping loft. The Container behind him is an insulated one shipped in from San Francisco and used as his primary residence. He has claimed a large swath of land and is constructing a museum/estate.
Xanadon't is the name of this quirky structure. Do you get the literary reference?
Inside Xanadon"t --- My friends inspecting.
Perhaps the strangest of all the homes---and occupied by the strangest of Slab Citizens---Will show him to you in the next entry.
This was a sewer holding tank for the military base---made of reinforced concrete. Its current occupant---a character called Moth---apparantly "claimed" it , chiseled a doorway and moved in, decorating his windoless home with odd paintings.


Dixxe said...

I guess sturctual integrity is not an issue a good stiff wind would reduce some of those structures back to a pile of rubble...being from east TN I spent time in what we call a Shack with no elec, water, etc and NO solar panels back then...Life was simple but harder, very few comforts-what about the issue of Law n Order- light of the robbery is it safe to bet eveyone is armed and dangerous now?


We spent 3 nights at the Slabs a few years ago having Solar Mike install a system for us. First day there my impression of the Slabs was scary, but by the time we left a few days later I was already begining to get a slight feel & understanding for the place. The Slabs are like a living mold that will affix itself to you if you do not keep moving. If you type 'Slab City' into our blogsites search bar you can see my impressions of Slab City back then.

john patrick said...

Very interesting. Thanks, Randy!

Steve said...

I love how people stake a life for themselves and defy convention here. Keep it coming and Thanks Randy

Rick Brentlinger said...

Fascinating as always Randy. I'm wondering if you could use a Katadyn or Berkey water filter to purify drinking water from the hot springs?

Interesting place. Are there other places like the Slabs in other parts of the country?

farmlady said...

I have always wanted to see The Slabs but haven't yet. Thanks for these posts and the photos. I find it so interesting how some folks live and why. I think we will see more homestead ingenuity in the next few years because of the economy.

And to Dixxe.... don't assume that everyone who is armed, is dangerous.

Paxie said...

The Teardrop would be a little too confining for me...but the rest? Sure. Well except the old sewer :)

Jim said...

I lived one blissfull summer out in the wild a few miles from Sun River, OR. I lived (or at least slept) in a slide-in truck camper sitting on blocks -- hauled it out there on a borrowed trailer -- didn't even own a pickup at the time). I had a postcard-perfect view out my front window . . . all I had to do was open my eyes -- didn't even have to lift my head from the pillow. I was right alongside a river, never had a single visitor, and though the first three nights were a little scary, I came to realize that I had just as much right to be there as anyone else AND my presence was hurting no body and no thing.
It quickly became *my* place and if I ever manage to find it again, it could become *my* place once more. In many ways, it's the favorite summer of my whole life -- and my place to BE didn't cost me a dime.

ourtakeonfreedom said...

I'm strongly considering Niland as one of our first stops once we're back on the move in mid-March. Thanks for the photos and narrative. It's just added encouragement to see this unique place.

Paulo said...

Hello Randy.. been trying to follow your Blog but when I send an e-mail I received a reply back saying its not a valid e-mail from yahoo.. Question : It looks like your TW is a chev S-10 isn't that a small vehicle to tow your current Trailer ? Do you have a special set up if its an S-10.. How many miles did you travel in 2010 how many miles are on your Truck at this time ?