Driving down a two-lane highway whose dips send your stomach somewhere in the vicinity above your lungs, alongside an accidental lake that is saltier than the ocean, through a landscape that can only be described as lunar, you know there’s a good chance things might turn weird — if they haven’t already.
There are, I’m convinced, certain little pockets of America that attract the eccentric — the sort of people who march, to use a cliche, to the beat of a different drummer, or, given how alien and variable their rhythms may seem, perhaps to no drummer at all. They are like highly spicy food: You can avoid them and play it safe, or you can dive in, which could leave you dazzled, or possibly being asked for some spare change.
Which brings us to the Salton Sea.
It wasn’t the first oasis of oddness we’ve encountered on our cross country (twice) journey. Butte, Montana was surely one; along the southern coast of Oregon we unknowingly stepped into another. But unlike those places, the Salton Sea gives you fair warning.
Heading south on Highway 111, the salty lake stretches out to your right, while to your left there’s the jagged outline of bald and craggy mountains. It’s a bumpy, bouncy road, dotted with boarded-up businesses and lonely trailers, punctuated by small towns, recreational areas and wannabe resorts, and populated, in large part, by people who moved there to either get rich or be left alone.
If you ever saw “Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea,” a documentary narrated by John Waters, you have some idea of the place.
I was in more of a hurry than usual — so much so that I didn’t have time to stop at the Fountain of Youth.
I wanted to visit Slab City (that story tomorrow), catch Leonard Knight, founder and builder of Salvation Mountain (tune in Monday), and make it to the Arizona line and get something for Thanksgiving dinner, other than the Reese’s Cups and Orange Crush that served as breakfast and lunch.
So I sped along the highway, from Indio to Niland, portions of which were like a roller coaster ride on the moon. A powerful wind sent me drifting in and out of my lane, and with each dip, Ace issued a “harrumph” from the back seat.
We didn’t see the roadside nudist or the Hungarian revolutionary depicted in “Plagues and Pleasures,” but we did see Lawrence of Arabia, or at least a guy that looked a little like him when he galloped by.
We stopped only once, at a gas station/convenience store where a bearded man walked up to me, but said nothing. He just stood there, for a minute or so — leading me to pop open the back window of the Jeep, at which point Ace stuck his head out and the man left.
Later, we’d get stared at by some recently-shorn sheep, though, in fairness, I had stopped to stare at them first, wondering if they, like me, always think they look funny after getting a haircut.
Much of the trip, though, was along California’s largest lake, which is at once an environmental disaster and a recreation area, drawing about 150,000 visitors a year who engage in boating, water-skiing, fishing, jet-skiing, hiking and birdwatching
The Salton Sea is basically a basin that filled and dried up over the ages, until 1905 when flooding on the Colorado River crashed the canal gates leading into the Imperial Valley. For the next 18 months the entire volume of the Colorado River poured into the below-sea-level basin By the time engineers were finally able to stop the breach — shades of BP! — two years later, the Salton Sea was 45 miles long and 20 miles wide, with about 130 miles of shoreline.)
If that weren’t weird enough, it’s also located directly atop the San Andreas Fault.
To fully understand the Salton Sea, you have to go back three million years, and I’m not willing to do that.
Suffice to say, the accidental lake, by the 1920’s, had developed into a tourist attraction, and was even referred to as the California Riviera. Since then, its salinity has steadily increased, primary because of agricultural runoff. Wastewater inflows have added to its problems, leading to high bacteria counts, massive fish kills and subsequent bird deaths.
I stopped alongside it only briefly. I didn’t dip my toes in, and didn’t allow Ace to, either.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 27th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, california, desert, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, eccentric, ecology, environment, fountain of youth, imperial county, john waters, lake, niland, odd, outcasts, pets, plagues & pleasures, salinity, salt, salton sea, salvation mountain, slab city, tourism, travel, travels with ace, vortex, weird
Leave it to us to be in Arizona when the big news is in North Carolina.
Fearing for the safety of his “dawgs,” a rural North Carolina man called 911 to report he’d had a confrontation with Bigfoot; and the one-sided, slightly slurred conversation with the dispatcher that ensued is worthy of the 911 call Hall of Fame.
Authorities in Cleveland County released a recording of the call, made by Tim Peeler, who claimed to have sighted a 9-to-10 foot tall Bigfoot around his home near Casar.
The area, known as Carpenter’s Knob, is the site of repeated sightings of a similar creature in the 1970s, who locals eventually took to calling “Knobby.”
In the call, Peeler describes a “beast thing” whose presence got his dogs a barkin’.
Operator: What did it look like?
Peeler: It looked like a giant ape with a man’s face. But I was afraid to kill it. And it made a whistling sound. But I just wanted ya’ll to know, I have not shot one or killed one.
Operator: Okay, was there more than one or just the one?
Peeler: Just the one.
Peeler: He was about nine, ten foot tall. With real long arms. And…I’ve had experiences with ’em before in the deer stand. but this one, somehow, I go out there, it gets gone, I come back in the house it gets there again. And my dog’s is just raising… heck.
At one point he asks, “Would I get in any trouble if I shot and killed this beast? This animal or whatever it is? Would I get in any trouble?”
Throughout the call, Peeler seems most concerned about his dogs.
“I got bear dawg, hog dawgs, this thing for some reason tonight is comin’ down messin with my dawgs, tryin’ to get towards my back porch.”
Cleveland County is located west of Charlotte, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, an area that’s no stranger to moonshine. We’re not saying Tim’s brewing his own, but … still. Maybe we’ll try and stop for a visit on our way back east.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 21st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 9-1-1, 911, animals, audio, bigfoot, call, cleveland county, dawgs, dogs, emergency, knobby, moonshine, news, north carolina, pets, phone, police, recording, sighting, strange, telephone, transcript, video, weird
A California man was treated and released after being shot in the back by his dog.
The unidentified 53-year-old man was hunting in Merced County when he set the safety on his loaded shotgun and put it on the ground while he grabbed his decoy ducks, according to the Fresno Bee.
Merced County sheriff’s officials say the hunter’s black Lab stepped on the loaded shotgun, causing the safety to release and the gun to fire.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 1st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accident, animals, back, bizarre, black lab, california, dog, dogs, ducks, game, hunt, hunter, hunting, lab, labrador retriever, merced, news, pets, sheriff, shoots, shot, shotgun, weird
This little fella seems to love the feel of water splashing on his head — at least when he’s in control of it.
When you’re not in control of it, it’s an entirely different matter — torture even.
Take my house. (Please.) Recently a new leak developed. After a downpour, water pours in through a tiny slit in the ceiling, directly above the toilet. That’s very convenient — for I can just open the toilet lid and, except for some splashage, all the water goes right in.
It’s convenient up until the time one needs to use said toilet, in a sitting down manner. Then the options are: get very wet, hold a pot over your head (which is harder than it sounds), or postpone the bodily function until the weather clears up.
The landlord is on the case (it’s a complex roofing issue), but until a solution is reached, I’m faced with choosing between letting water that has collected who-knows-what on its trip across and through the roof pour on my head, holding a pot atop my head while on the pot, or gastrointestinal distress.
To be clear, this is not a drip, but a steady flow, and both letting it land on your head, and trying to catch it in a pot, while in the highly vulnerable squatting position, are more demeaning than you might imagine.
So I went to Home Depot and bought a 10-foot length of plastic gutter, which, if I angle one end against the wall under the hole, allows me to direct the incoming flow into the bathtub.
My bathroom now has a water feature. And I’m back in control. How do I spell relief? V-I-A-D-U-C-T.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 20th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, bath, bathroom, bathtub, behavior, cat, ceiling, control, drip, faucet, funny, gutter, home depot, home repairs, kitchen, leak, leaky, pets, roof, shower, sink, toilet, torture, viaduct, video, water, weird, wet
A woman in Australia who received a $200 citation for unregistered dogs thinks the inspectors who cited her may have been barking up the wrong tree.
The two dogs in Mishka Gamble’s front yard are fiberglass.
Gamble does have a dog, a 15-year old shih-tzu who rarely goes outside, and then only uses the backyard. She thinks the inspectors mistook her fiberglass dogs — a Staffordshire terrier and a blue heeler — for the real thing.
Gamble told The Cairns Post she was shocked when she received a notice saying she had seven days to pay $200 for the registration of two dogs. “I certainly don’t have two dogs,” she said.
“I’ve got a fiberglass pig and sheep. Do I need to register them too?”
Earlier this month, the Cairns Regional Council came under fire for its dog audit after issuing 61 advisory notices to homes that, it turned out, didn’t have dogs. One resident was given a notice for having a cat bowl in the yard.
Gamble said she had since registered her “real” dog.
(Photo from The Cairns Post/CHRIS HYDE)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 15th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: australia, cairns, citation, dogs, fake, fiberglass, fibreglass, funny, issued, lawn ornaments, mishka gamble, news, regional council, registration, statues, ticket, weird