Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Red Hill Marina

"Where the heck are we?  Is this the end of the Earth?"

"No, not really, but it is the southern end of the Salton Sea."

"Where are all the people?  Where are the birds?  Where are the boats?  This is a marina, for god's sake.  Where's the water?  What kind of place is this?"

"My kind of place, Mimi."

"And where's your travel buddy?  Did he leave you alone?  Again?"

"He's off scrambling around those red rocks up there."

"Isn't he a little old for that?"

"Ssshhh.  Don't say that around him, please.  And besides, I'm not alone.  I have you."

"You know, I'm really starting to worry about you a little bit."


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Salvation Mountain

This outsider art masterpiece was the one and only bright spot to my Salton Sea visit.  A 50 ft. high mountain built with clay and painted with bright primary colors, it can be seen nearly a mile away.

It is the creation of artist Leonard Knight who found Jesus late in life and dedicated years and years to getting the simple message that "God is Love" to anybody who wandered by and wander by they did.  When we were there a week ago, hundreds of other pilgrims had also managed to find the road outside of Niland to end up at this strange and whimsical altar.  We climbed the yellow path to the top.  We took pictures.  Read all the biblical passages.  Shook our heads in wonder.  We left, a little sad, learning that the 80-year-old artist was in a home and would probably never return to his beloved mountain again.

Museum Interior
Such massive folk art installations are quirky, utterly individualistic, and therefore, short-lived.  Salvation Mountain, as you see from the above sign, is indeed worthy of protection and preservation.  Friends of the artist, as well as volunteers, are doing their best to maintain it, but it is a never-ending task.  All paint is donated and hundreds of cans clutter the site.  Salvation Mountain was born out of a passion from one man.  It is his and his alone, and as much as we love it and wish that it will last forever, it won't.  I urge everyone who loves folk art to make the effort to see this amazing place.  But go now! 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Salton Sea

The Salton Sea in California's Imperial Valley has to be one of the strangest places I've ever visited.  I wanted to like it.  I tried to like it.  But couldn't.  Decay.  Abandoned buildings.  Dead fish.  Algae abloom with stench.  It is a place that never should have been.  It has no soul.
 With that being said, I am glad I finally saw the place.  Its existence is a strange tale, as well.  It is really an extension of the Gulf of California, although landlocked. Two thousand years ago, however, the lake was huge and beautiful-- full of fresh water, providing fish and abundant wildlife for the Cahuilla natives.  Over the centuries it began to shrink and occasionally dried up during drought-stricken years.   The basin was therefore below sea level.  In 1905, it was a very wet year and the mighty Colorado River could not handle the additional rainfall and melting snow.  Down, down, down it flowed, breaching dikes and canals used for irrigation, flooding valleys and finally filling up the Salton basin, making it once again the largest lake in California.  There were massive waterfalls during the year and a half it took to fill up the sea.  What a sight that must have been! 

Because the lake is located along the path of the Pacific Flyway, thousands of birds spend the winter here, including many endangered species.  There is abundant tilapia in the lake, the only fish species able to thrive here.  There is no outflow to the ocean so the lake has become very salty, saltier than even the Pacific.  The only inflow is from a few nearby rivers and runoff from agriculture.   However, tilapia cannot survive cold temperatures so there are big "die-offs".  The shores consist of old barnacles and the recent dead.  The birds don't seem to mind the stink one bit, but we could not get the smell out of our nostrils for two days!  The ranger assured us the fish were safe to eat, but talking to a few locals about it, they said, "No way.  I eat no fish from the Salton Sea."
In 2003 the California legislature passed the Salton Sea Restoration Act, but I'm not too optimistic.   With the plight of our economy and budget restraints, who knows when it will happen.  I'd like to think we could restore it to its former glory.  Evidently, in the 1950's and 1960's, this was a hotspot for fishing and recreation, even more popular than Yosemite Valley.  It had a soul.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mimi Visits a Wind Farm

Mimi and I stopped at the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm just outside of Palm Springs to get a closer look at these giant windmills.  We have passed them many times going to Arizona.  This is one of three major wind farms in California.  The wind blows 300 days a year here.  The San Jacinto Mountain Range provides a wind tunnel that keeps the blades moving, and at times it can nearly blow you off the highway!  This wind farm has close to 4000 windmills and provides enough electricity to power Palm Springs and the entire Coachella Valley.

Electricity generated from wind power is pollution free.  It is renewable and easy to install, and there is enough wind in the United States to power the entire country.  The downside is the need for lots of land, but it seems to me we have it.  We're a pretty big darn country! 

Mimi insisted on wearing my Trina Turk black lace jacket.  After all, Palm Springs is Trina Turk country!  She paired it with a light weight Eileen Fisher dress, staying cool and comfortable in the desert.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Concrete Dinosaurs

When the boys were little we always stopped at the Apatosaurus Toy Store on Interstate 10 just as you're leaving Cabazon, California.  They loved climbing into the dinosaur's big belly and picking out toys.  It kept them entertained during that final boring four-hour leg to Phoenix.    This time, it was my travel buddy who wanted to stop here.  He's a dinosaur afficionado who can rattle off the names of the dinosaurs from the Triassic to the Cretaceous Periods.  He has seen every movie and documentary available on NetFlix.   And Jurassic Park?  I think he's seen it twenty times!

We were thrilled to see that the little park had expanded to include even more dinosuars and robotic ones at that!  With no kids in tow, we could spend hours here!  So off we went to buy our tickets for Mr. Rex's Dinosaur Adventure.
While my travel buddy was happily roaming the garden paths shooting away with the camera, I went into the gift shop to see the robotic dinosaurs, and I started to read the exhibit's posters.  "It has been calculated that it would take 30,000 years for the earth's atmosphere to reach equilibrium.  Evolution teaches that the earth is millions of years old.  But the Earth's atmosphere has not reached equilibrium yet, showing the earth is not even 30,000 years old."    What in the world?  I looked at the books on the shelves.  They were selling titles such as Universe by DesignThousands . . .not Billions, and The Six Days of Genesis.  I had better divert my travel buddy from coming in here!!
Too late.  He had been up into the T-rex's jaws and inside the big fellow's belly were more posters.  He came out laughing.  "Did you know that cave men and dinosaurs lived at the same time?" he asked.  "And that there's proof because of dinosaur cave paintings?"  I searched his eyes for disappointment.  "And not only that, but dinosaurs aren't really extinct because in 1933 there were fifty-two separate sightings of a big monster in a loch.  Wow.  Imagine that."
"Well," he concluded.  "These creationists have proven a point."

"What's that?" I asked.

"There's definitely  not enough science being taught in our schools."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

London Bridge Reincarnated

Travel is recreational and educational.  At its best, travel can take you through a worm hole to a different time and place.  Walking across the London Bridge in Lake Havasu, Arizona, is such an experience.  If it hadn't been for a crazy rich guy who wanted to lure people to his new retirement development, who knows what would have happened to this beautiful old bridge.  It was, after all, falling down.
Who cares if it was a public relations gimmick.  Who cares that it was really the second London Bridge built in 1831 and not really that old by European standards.  It still crossed the River Thames at one time and its history is filled with centuries of gore.  At its southern gate in the Middle Ages, the heads of traitors were dipped in tar and impaled on spikes for the world to see.  Among its most famous were the heads of Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell.  

Unfortunately, the new bridge began to sink into the river and by 1924, the east side was a good four inches lower than the west.  The engineers who built it did not foresee the weight of 20th century traffic.  Enter Robert McCulloch who bought it from the City of London in the 1960's,  had it meticulously dismantled and shipped to Arizona via the Panama Canal.  At Long Beach, the stones were put on trucks and hauled to Arizona.  The bridge was reinforced with concrete and has been reincarnated into a modern version of its ancient self.

I think McCulloch did an excellent job.  The old bridge blends so well with the new city on Lake Havasu.  My travel buddy and I spent a night at the London Bridge Resort and traveled through that worm hole crossing centuries and oceans, from the gritty, dark, historical city of London back again to sunny, warm modern day Arizona.  Now that is traveling!