Taking the road less travelled through New Mexico. Route 52 to be exact, where I came across a Very Large Array and plenty of open pasture. The kind where deer and antelope play. Music by Lisa Loeb
I ended up driving an extra 100 miles or so, much of which by dirt road, just to go see and tour the National Radio Astronomy Observatory VLA (Very Large Array). If it looks familiar to you, this is where the movie Contact was filmed. It’s about 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico, in the middle of the state. The middle of nowhere. I was able to see the array move a little while I was there, which was pretty impressive. Its active 24/7 with visiting scientists from all over the world.
Yes, there’s even a library of sorts in Slab City that seems to be organized by some nearby residents. Open 24/7, and you simply give or take whatever you want. I spent some time thumbing through some romance novels and conspiracy theories, which this place is pretty big on.
After arriving Slab City and reconciling my apprehension, I got to work searching for a place to camp with adequate Feng Shui and a buffer zone. After getting the truck situated, it wasn’t but a few minutes later that an older gentleman wandered over from the trailer parked a few hundred yards away. Roger must have noticed me taking some pictures of our surroundings as he came to me looking for help with a digital camera that was recently given to him. We quickly got to talking and was delighted to find such a friendly neighbor in this strange world I entered. I soon met his wife, Gloria, and their little poodle, Molly as well. They’ve been coming here to vacation for many years, and I was fascinated by their desire to do so. High School sweethearts with a big family.
Roger was quick to offer up all kinds of helpful hints and directions around the area, like how to find the “golf course” and how to not get shot. Meanwhile Gloria saw to it that I knew their entire family history and all the latest gossip. However, it wasn’t until they taught me to play dominos that our friendship really blossomed. That first night, they showed me how it was done, but for all their generosity, Gloria sure did talk a lot of trash. The next afternoon, they kindly invited me over for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a rematch. But this time, I crushed the lovely old married couple.
I was very much looking forward to seeing Slab City and glad that I made the trip. This abandoned WW2 Army base, and its remaining concrete foundations (slabs), now resembles something more like a Mad Max, apocalyptic vacation resort. There are outlaws, vagrants, hippies, loners, lost souls, tourists, retirees, and yes, even Canadians, many of which are squatting in dwellings and vehicles barely fit to called such. Some folks simply tell me they like it because it’s free—both literally and figuratively, I presume. I saw some pretty strange stuff, the ingenious and the desperate. No sewer system, no water, no restrooms, power or sanctioned services of any kind. Though I could, standing atop Salvation Mountain, get a faint cell phone signal. There was a distinct odor permeating this place, despite the wilderness surrounding it. Seemed like you might want to be careful who you talked to, but then again, that’s exactly what you should do. There’s some interesting stories to be heard here. Unfortunately, my time here was much too short. I enjoyed my best nights sleep in more than a month, and now look forward to coming back.