I was still a few miles from the first point on my map, the old yacht club at North Shore Beach, when I saw an abandoned concession stand. I pulled onto the cracked pavement of the empty parking lot to get a closer look.
|The sight of this place awoke in me a primal craving for ice cream.|
It was tightly boarded up, so I wasn't able to glimpse the inside.
Not long after I got back on the road, I came to a lonely intersection with an abandoned auto repair shop and liquor store.
The repair shop was locked and the windows were boarded up pretty tight, but the liquor store was wide open, with no fences or signs to deter trespassers. There was more to the building than I had first realized. The ground level was divided into a liquor store and a video rental shop.
The shelves, counters and refrigerated cases were still inside, but badly mangled.
The place was pretty torn up, probably by scavengers looking for copper, but it seemed like it had once been a great setup for a person just out of school looking for easy work and a place to stay.
I imagined evenings spent hanging out with friends, drinking and enjoying the summer weather, climbing out onto the roof to enjoy the view.
I arrived at the North Shore of the Salton Sea just as the sky had begun to darken. I drove past an abandoned motel, but didn't explore the grounds.
As if the signs weren't an effective enough deterrent, a dog barked frantically at me from one of the dilapidated houses down the street.
I parked the car and walked around a bit.
Further along the shore I looked for the abandoned yacht club, but was surprised to find that it had been renovated and converted into a community center.
A man and woman sat on a bench overlooking the water while two little boys ran and played on the manicured lawn. It sucks that I'd never get to explore the old yacht club, but it's nice to see a long abandoned site cleaned up and put to constructive use in an area that so badly needed it.
I watched the sun set over the silvery waters while smears of purple and orange sky blanketed the horizon.
In the 1950s and early '60s, people had high hopes for the Salton Sea area. As California's largest lake, it was a popular resort destination, its shore punctuated by beaches, marinas, and a handful of major settlements.
Half a century later, quite a few artifacts from that optimistic era still remained. And the high salt content of the sea had weathered them in interesting ways.
I can only imagine how disheartening it must be to watch your neighbors and friends move away. And to watch helplessly as the windows of the empty homes are smashed and the walls tagged with spray paint.
The people who still lived there surely had interesting stories to tell, and I wanted to hear at least a couple of them before I moved on.
It was completely dark outside by the time I rolled into Bombay Beach. I decided to check out the Ski Inn, one of only two bars in town.
|Here's what it looks like in the daylight. I'm pretty sure its claim of being world famous is a bit of an exaggeration.|
There were about half a dozen people at the bar when I got there, and that number kept pretty steady until closing time. I sat down at the bar next to a guy in his late 50s, eating dinner and reading a book. We got to talking and he told me he's an avid road tripper and had been driving all around the country since he retired, checking out the most interesting bars and restaurants in every town he stopped at. He had a spacious van with a tall ceiling, a bed, and a Yeti cooler, which he raved about. He said he paid $400 for the cooler, which can store ice for nearly a week. He was an interesting guy, who had lived in Rhodesia for a few years in the early '70s.
I talked to a few locals, all of whom were quite friendly. One woman who looked to be in her 70s, but had the energy of someone much younger, talked about how much she loved living in Bombay Beach. She found it peaceful and enjoyed swimming in the salty water and watching the beautiful sunsets.
The bartender told me of some nearby places I might want to check out, and then gave me directions to a spot along the shore where I could park for the night. Miles from any major city, the night was black and I could see every star in the sky. Satisfied with Day 1 of my road trip, and excited for the days to come, I slept well that night.
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