Slab City, CA: A Tourist Spot You May Have Missed

The Good German’s post on hobos and riding the rails reminded me of something I found last year. I had been watching a video about ridin’ the rails when my roommate mentioned this place to me: Slab City, USA:

The winter home for many ‘bago bums and trailer tramps, the slabs evidently heat up too much in the high summer. But each fall this becomes the destination of many former wage slaves who have slipped the shackles of the prized 40 hour work week. Just don’t mind the sounds of occasional explosions on the other side of the hill.

14 Comments on "Slab City, CA: A Tourist Spot You May Have Missed"

  1. BuzzCoastin | Apr 9, 2013 at 9:24 pm |

    I lived in communities like this
    there are hundreds scattered around Der Homeland
    but I’ve found the camera can’t quite catch the experience
    and tends to end up making the experience look crazy & unappealing
    which may be the purpose of this video

    • Lived on the Cutoff in Mississippi myself. It was the same but with golf carts, and a lake, and three bars – so I guess it wasn’t really the same – but it had the same quality. It was great, but until you were there for a while you couldn’t appreciate the atmosphere or what the place had to offer. The big 100 year flood of the Mississippi river really knocked the hell out of it, and tougher regulations on height have pretty much ended the low dollar element. The owners of the campgrounds there don’t seem too bummed about that.

      I got out a year before, so right on time you might say. The heat and humidity will keep the Yuppies (what are we calling them now?) out, but the casino workers who want to save on gas will likely fill the vacancies.

      • BuzzCoastin | Apr 10, 2013 at 12:27 am |

        Hawaii has lots of these kinds of spots still
        especially The Big Island
        where you can really get far off the grid
        most of my home-free experiences were in Hawaii
        Kalalau is my favorite, which where I heard about the other places

        about 10 years ago a well meaning soul tried to film it
        but it didn’t work
        modern people have a bias that equates sight/site with experience
        when in fact
        sight is the least important aspect of that kind of site experience

  2. DrDavidKelly | Apr 10, 2013 at 1:52 am |

    I’ve never lived like this but there certainly seems to be a real sense of community amongst this … well community. Certainly for the most part these people seem to be in pursuit of a good life – one that is swayed more towards pleasure than work, hence all the beer drinking. For me it would be like going to a music festival and living there … it’s a shame the place is such a hole and so ugly on the aesthetics. I could imagine communities with the same esprit de corp in somewhat more conducive surroundings. They would be nice places indeed!

  3. I read about this place in “into the Wild” That book is awesome, btw and completely realistic. I’ve done a lot of the same stuff. Anybody can die at any time. Christopher McCandless lived. There are so many fucking travelers around. I am glad people are finally writing about them. Its huge. I lot of people are saying “fuck Civilization” and taking to the road, if only for a while. I’d recommend it for any adventurous soul. You will find friends, too. Lots of people do it. You feel more isolated working a job.

    • Conspiracy Carrot | Apr 10, 2013 at 7:56 am |

      Great movie, greater book. Chris McCandless fucked up. We all do. But his mistake cost him his life. I think he has a lot of “haters” because most of us are too cowardly to just get out there and say “fuck you, society” and live as he did. I’d like to learn from his mistakes and maybe not make them when I decide to venture off the grid so to speak.

      Here’s another cool little video about people living outside of “normal” society on an island called Lasqueti: A little more my style, but at least Slab City’s here in the States, making it more accessible to me.

    • ParanoidCoast | Apr 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm |

      Excellent book. I found the author’s analysis of Western culture’s imagining of nature fascinating. The author also mentions other cases where people have walked “into the wild” and disappeared, sometimes without a trace. That would be an intriguing topic for a book.

      • Its actually hard to disappear anywhere in America besides Alaska. I think there are only two or three spots more than ten miles from a road in every direction. The thing with interior Alaska is the cold and the lack of biodiversity. Its like a spruce desert.

        So I like to make use of nature nearer to civilized areas. Forage for food in vacant lots, picking black caps and edible weeds. You can carry the wild around inside you, in your attitude toward life, kind of like how cats do.

        Sometimes its nice for aesthetic reasons to make forays into the wilderness. Its very refreshing, especially the quiet. Alaska is a motherfucker, though, you are really close to death all the time there in the winter. In the PNW, you could probably live naked like Bigfoot all year round, eating berries and mushrooms and roadkill.

        The Inuit and Yupik etc. are actually very technological people. They have a natural aptitude for working on engines and stuff. It takes a lot of technology to survive up North. Kayaks are very complex pieces of technology, for example, and the clothing systems were really advanced also. There are no naked savages in the North.

        • ParanoidCoast | Apr 10, 2013 at 1:59 pm |

          I live in Alberta (the Siberia of North America) and all Albertans know how easy it is to die from the cold. It happens to many people here every winter. One wrong turn onto an isolated road and an automobile breakdown can easily escalate into death. My wife and I are born and raised prairie people/flatlanders so we understand unconsciously the risks that climate, weather and isolation bring. I didn’t realize how ingrained it was until my sister-in-law from Vancouver mentioned that she couldn’t live here because winter freaked her out; especially how easy you could die from the weather. In short, one’s attitude towards nature can kill you here.

          • Yeah, I worked outdoors one winter just South of Fairbanks for an iditarod musher and being out in 50 below you really have a sense of danger and alertness.

            But the thing that got me is just how little life is really up there. I mean Moose and wolves and Grizzlies are really majestic and everything, but they are really spread out. Mostly all you see are miles and miles of 20 foot tall spruce trees and a few ravens flying around.

            There is just less people, wildlife is a lot less abundant than you might think.

          • ParanoidCoast | Apr 10, 2013 at 3:44 pm |

            I agree. Your body mass determines the amount of land area you need in order to live and reproduce in northern climates (and deserts/areas of hypoproductivity). The larger your body, the more land you need. That applies to both animals and nomadic people. Quite the opposite in the hyperproductive tropics. Northern Canada and the Arctic Archipelago above the tree line is actually a frozen desert. The annual amount of precipitation is quite low.

          • Yeah, its pretty amazing that people could live up there at all, before the advent of fossil fuels.

            But as far as walking around naked on a tropical island and fishing and eating fruit for a loving, that would be fun too and a lot easier!

  4. 8bit_anarchist | Apr 10, 2013 at 12:51 pm |

    I’ve been there. I live about 30 min.away.

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