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Off-Road Exploration Guide Vol.II: Fat Bikes @ Salton Sea & Slab City

Images & Words by photographer, Jeff Olsen (@jeffreymolsen)

Odds are in your favor that your feet are snuggled in fur and you're cradling a warm dessert fluid. Even here in Arizona, we're pretty damn cozy. Welcome back and Happy New Year. It's time to change gears and get miserable for a second. The good miserable is that you can look back and say, "I'd probably break my arm for that again." Well I can't say that for sure because I didn't break my arm but Chris Reichel (Drunk Cyclist) did and he's brutal enough to probably go through it again. I'd inhale toxic dead tilapia fumes in weather reminiscent of summer bollocks at sauna temperatures again to tell the story. This is not a Christmas story. There's a lot of dead fish and sweaty people and it's in a post-apocalyptic video game town. Full disclosure: you're probably better off getting back to spelling revisions of your next Christmas' wish list: it's Red Ryder with a Y, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle. Santa got no time for spell check. 

After the drive up to Salton Sea from the dunes, we stopped for lunch at what was seemingly the only established human feeding facility in Bombay Beach: The Ski Inn.

This place was a bangin' resort destination in the 1950's on the eastern shore. Kinda like Palm Springs but salinity levels rose killing most of the fish and consequently ended the party by the 70's. But I made an adult choice and got the fish and chips here.

Somehow Chris knows everyone in the weirdest places to ride your bike, or he's a local legend in Niland, CA. He was friends with Ski Inn's one and only bartender, Wendell. I thought the fish and chips were a bad choice, but the ghost peppers he gave us were about as irresponsible as homeless Ron Burgundy drinking milk on a hot day.

This dude also stopped to chat thee DC.

Vice has a great story on Salton Sea. In it I learned that property was so demanded back in its day that real estate agents would fly people up in light aircraft and sell them property from the air without ever landing to view it. 

Photo nerd alert: those of you reading that understand the obsessive sickness that sets in when you come across some perfectly placed fleeting natural light or seemingly undiscovered martian landscape will feel me here. From the minute I first saw the water and hazily invisible horizon, the second hand of my photo nerd clock started blazing around the bezel like the ground was about to crumble under my feet. The gloomy light wasn't going anywhere faster than the 350 some square mile body of saline water could evaporate into thin air. Time was ticking due to the completely unbearably spicy humidity and miserable smell of dead fish.

Mehdi, would you rather live in Bombay Beach for one day or be the chamois of an In-N-Out loaded cyclist for the duration of a summer century? Take a look at some ground detail and decide for yourself.

"You come here often, this watering hole?"

"Um that's a hard crust of toxic algae."

"Yeah me neither."

"So, let's get the fuck out of here?"

Yeah

Chris insisted we'd get weirder and more productive a few miles west in Niland. In Drunk Cyclist we trust.

Salvation Mountain is now mildly preserved by the Folk Art Society of America and for worthy reason. Dr. Seuss and Jesus fans rejoice.

The structure is made of straw, adobe, and mostly a shitload of paint. Saxon, so hot right now.

No arts were harmed in the making of this adventure.

I first became aware of Salvation Mountain and Slab City from the movie "Into the Wild", as I'm sure a lot of you have also seen. If you play Grand Theft Auto V, you can find it in the Grand Senora Desert, which is not a typo for Grand Sonora. I think they cleverly meant "Big Bitch".

Chris tipped us off on a skate park he visited less than year back and suggested it was a good shoot spot. He recalled that he was almost killed by a reckless Dodge Durango driver that bombed into the park and almost ran him over in a donut binge. When we got there, the Durango was posted up as a tabletop. Good shoot spot indeed!

The slabs were originally constructed as Camp Dunlap for the United States Marine Corps. The skate park was a community pool then for the Marines and their families while they were on base. Not sure why there were still helicopters flying over and bombs going off nearby though. Without further adieu, I'd like to introduce you to Slab City Sheriff, Bark Bark, and confidant, "Pubes" who welcomed us so warmly.

What can't the fat bike do?

Any answer is the wrong answer.

Right here is about the time Chris got the bright idea: air out of the pool from that quarter pipe then attempted, cased the top, and fell out of the sky to the bottom. The sound of a large human body falling to concrete from certain height really sucks. He got up, brushed himself off, and oblivious to his freshly broken elbow, encouraged Bryan to do the same.

"What's the worst that can happen?"

Proper

The Monolith stands to die another day.

Hey Bark Bark, now that we're cool n all, think you could call us slabbers too?

"You ain't no slabbers."

Ok that's cool, that's chill. Mehdi, could we get a parting shot?

That's almost perfect, just a little more ass down the center now, thanks.

The day is done, no more light, out of steam, and five hours of driving to get home. Whether it's a broken arm, disgusting clothes, or a thousand photos you leave with, there's few feelings better than fully wasting yourself doing something you love. Now that you've seen what the fat bikes are capable of, we're gonna throw some disc brakes on for the next edition of Off-Road Exploration Guide and shred the Megalith. Stay tuned!


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