Salvation Mountain and Slab City

15 December 2014. Filed under category Travel.

Sometimes, you just need to get in a car and follow a rumour. That is what Don and I did when we followed a random lead about a strange place out in the Californian desert called Slab City and the nearby Salvation Mountain. After getting directions from a leopluridon, we found it.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Imagine an old semi-crazy man finding nothing at all in the desert and deciding that this is the perfect spot to build an adobe mountain. Add to that 40 years (years!) of hard labour, several Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of paint and a devotion to God that borders sanity and you get Salvation Mountain.

Mr Leonard Knight built a mountain and covered it in brightly coloured bible verses. He also dug out little caves, and covered the cave walls in bible verses. He built a strange forest and… covered it in bible verses. He also parked several vehicles, cars, RVs, diggers etc, and covered them in satanic… no wait, bible verses, both inside and out. He lived out here, for forty-years, doing this.

Sadly, Mr Knight died last years, so I didn’t get to meet the man, but I am sure it would have been an experience. I am deeply impressed by what he did, and as Don said, I sure hope he managed to go to Burning Man sometime because this project of his is right in the spirit of Black Rock City.

Slab City


“Look at you, in your Starbucks sofa with your skinny latte and skinny electronic tablet computer thingi, grabbing a break from the hamster wheel of corporate ‘civilization’ before you head back to the Man and roll over like whipped dog and whimper, ‘please let me serve your mighty corporation so I can earn some bills to pay off some other bills in my endless cycle of meaningless comfort!’. Yeah, you! You’ve forgotten what it is to be your own man, to boldly put down a stake in the ground and say, ‘this is mine and fuck you if you try to fuck with me I protect my own and who needs punctuation when your holding a goddam shotgun’, then flick the finger at ‘civilization’ and their Babylonian services. Come to Slab City and I’ll show you what real freedom is!”

Welcome to Slab City, the most disturbing place you’ll ever visit. The favelas in Rio were doggie spas compared to Slab City. Slabbers (as the Slab City residents are called) live completely off the grid. There is nothing here but snakes, scorpions, sand and unbearable heat. There is no water, electricity or sewage. It is just a desert where, for reasons incomprehensible to rational individuals, hundreds of people decided to live. It is the stereotypical image of meth-swigging, gun-toting hillbilly redneck trailertrash crazies come to life. Only. In. America. It is deeply disturbing.

Slab City

I know, I know. You want me to get to the point. How can you become a Slabber and live out the rest of your life in this rubbish-strewn desert? Easy. Turn up. Pitch a tent or park your car. Preferable position your favourite sofa under a tree. Mark your new land with a fence made from old plates, tin cans or whatever else you can scavenge. Find some cardboard and in big angry letters, paint the word ‘Occupied’, secure your sign to a pole and, tada! You are now a proud land-grabbing slabber! All you have to do now is survive. Good luck!

But it’s not like the … city… is completely devoid of services. There is a library (open 24/7), an internet café and the Mike Bright Memorial Dumpster, none of which I checked out since Don refused to stop and let me take a look. I don’t know why. It was probably safe. Probably.

Slab City Caveat

I try to be charitable about the places I visit, and I dislike ripping into them. But, I also want to be honest about what I experience, and the drive through Slab City was disturbing. But I only spent an hour driving around the place. I spoke to no one and could not possible say I know the place above a shallow first impression. So, if you want to know Slab City for real, go live there. 🙂

Travel Updates

After leaving Rio, I spent a week in the US, mostly in Palm Springs, visiting Don. I then flew to London where I spent a few days of hard-core gaming before flying on to Sweden where I am now writing this on Christmas Eve, next to mum and dad. Tomorrow, my brother, sister and the battalion of nieces arrives.


How long would you survive off-the-grid?

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  1. Steven says:

    As if the bible verse covered mountain isn’t scary enough, Slab City would really make me nervous! I will stick to the safe neighborhoods of Las Vegas and live vicariously through this awesome travel blog. Happy holidays.

  2. Merry Christmas Gustav. I guess you can say you had a glimpse of what one man sees as heaven, and turned around and glimpsed a little bit of hell as well. To each their own I guess.

    Have a wonderful Christmas.


  3. Craig Btown says:

    Wow, I want to meet a leopluridon (thanks for the trip to the urban dictionary). You, my boy, are well on your way to becoming one I think!
    My hamster wheel takes me all over the world, thank you very much Mr. Raisin Skinned Libertarian denizen of Slab City I’m imagining I’m talking to now…as someone with four bathrooms in my house I do admit that each one has rapidly diminishing returns (the bowl of one evaporated last year)…but I must have drunk the kool aid long ago because I’m not attracted to the prospect of s****** on a cactus.

  4. Jameson says:

    These two spots were depicted in the movie “Into the Wild”. Very cool and interesting to visit in person.

  5. Jono says:

    I don’t think there is anything “semi-crazy” about building that mountain and writing all over it. I especially love the line “Jesus, I’m a sinner, please come upon my body.” A bit of divine spaff never did anyone any harm.

    [next album topic: Transhumanism]

  6. Crys Klier-Hoffman says:

    HOLY….. I can’t write the rest of what I’m thinking as it would spoil my reputation as a woman of refinement. ( SARCASM). I’m thinking it though, I’m thinking it as my head nods up and down and my eyes bug out. Now my head is going side to side. I think I need to go lie down.

How long would you survive off-the-grid?

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