Is this the most unique place on Earth? Part 2

February 10, 2020
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When I’m not DJing on Cincinnati’s Mix 94.9, you can find me traveling the world and sharing my journies here.

This is the second half of our epic trip out west.  If you missed the first one, check it out!

After our incredible experiences in Winslow, AZ, we set out for Sedona, AZ – the prettiest hour long drive we had during our trip.

In Sedona, we rented a 4×4 for a half day and explored the trails on our own. We definitely got lost at least once when I took a left down what I thought was a trail but turned out to be a dry creek bed.

As a result of the measures taken by the people of Sedona to reduce light pollution (we’re talking so dark you can’t see your hand in front of you) it’s also the first time I had the chance to see The Milky Way.  Just outstanding.

We spent another day hiking and enjoying the town then headed to Phoenix, AZ to break up the 5.5 hour drive to our next stop in California. It was a goal on the trip to see an “arms cactus” aka the saguaro. 

 

Goal achieved. Plus, we spent the night at another casino with a hilarious slot machine called Corgi Cash. 

Travel tip: So this is our third stop at a casino with a hotel in a week’s time.  Why?  Because casino hotels often have amazingly low rates on weekdays.  Plus, sign up for their players clubs and you can find yourself receiving free or discounted meals, free casino play (which can equal cash), and other perks.

When we checked in, I do something I often try when there is a potential for an upgraded hotel room.

  1. I smile, am super polite, and friendly.
  2. I add a little cash between my driver’s license and credit card when checking in. Sometimes referred to as “The $20 Trick”, this often works at many hotels where front desk staff have the discretion to offer complimentary upgrades.

In this case… whether it was the smiling, tip, or the fact it was Christmas Eve – we got hooked up. Big time.

Pardon the potato-quality photos, I was so excited about the floor-to-ceiling windows, two bathrooms, a separate living room, bar, a TV that popped out of the foot of the bed, and the jacuzzi tub… I almost forgot to take pictures!

We want to head back to Phoenix to check out the Cincinnati Reds spring training in Goodyear, AZ. (And might have to follow that up with a non-stop flight to San Francisco or Denver to see the Reds take on the Giants or Rockies!)

The next morning, it was Christmas Day and we set out toward California with the song “California” by Phantom Planet playing at full blast.

 

We wanted to check out a place known as The Salton Sea.

Looks beautiful, right?

However, when you step out of the car and get a little closer, you discover that The Salton Sea is actually:

  1. Like saltier than the Pacific Ocean
  2. Is surrounded by what were supposed to be beach resort towns
  3. The government has described the smell as “objectionable”, “noxious”, “unique”, and “pervasive”.

In the 1950s, cities like Bombay Beach sprang up enticing the wealthy with lakeside land. Unfortunately, in the years following, pollution, saltiness and a lack of oxygen in the lake caused fish to die off. A lot of fish.

 

As a result, many people left. The result is a really unique landscape of buildings that nature has taken over.

Artists add their touch to the remnants of a structure adjacent to The Salton Sea.

But it’s not all bad news.  The Salton Sea also provides a home for a diverse array of birds and is a stop on the famous Pacific Flyaway. There are efforts underway to restore the Sea and reduce the pollution.

There’s also that place we mentioned earlier just down the road that is the most unique spot we’ve ever visited in the United States.

Salvation Mountain is an art project in hte middle of California's Sonoran Desert.
That's Salvation Mountain, an art project spanning over 25 years right in the middle of California's Sonoran Desert.

Welcome to Slab City. Situated just outside the town of Niland, CA, Salvation Mountain stands at the entrance to this off-the-grid community.

Even if you’re not the religious type, the sheer size and magnitude of this project is impressive, as is the story of the man who created it.

Beyond Salvation Mountain lies “The Slabs”.  Named after the slabs of concrete left after the demolition of former World War II military housing, folks from across the country have settled into a unique community and way of life.  The town has no running water, power, or city services – so the residents who live there get creative by using solar panels and bringing in supplies from a nearby town.

It was such a wonderful experience and the artwork was impressive, especially considering everything had to be hauled out for miles to the remote desert.

We departed Slab City and arrived in Huntington Beach, CA to soak up some sunshine.

It was such a wonderful experience and the artwork was impressive, especially considering everything had to be hauled out for miles to the remote desert.

We departed Slab City and arrived in Huntington Beach, CA to soak up some sunshine.

We took some time to explore the pier, walk the beach, and enjoy the shops and restaurants – especially this:

Nutella, bananas, tucked between two waffles with powdered sugar - oh yes.

After enjoying some beach vibes, we headed toward Los Angeles.  First stop, the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

My grandparents were massive Perry Como fans.  We were surprised to discover that The Rugrats have their own star!

We visited Beverly Hills and the famous Rodeo Drive.  We tried to head to the Griffith Observatory, but after two hours of authentic L.A. traffic – we called it a day and headed to the hotel.

The next day, we headed back to Vegas to fly home, but not before we saw a sign along the freeway that read: “Calico Early Man Site”

You gotta stop for that, right?

We put our rental sedan to the test down gravel roads to find an active archaeological site and home to what may be some of the earliest tools discovered in the US.  But that depends on who you ask.  This Gizmodo article highlights the argument on both sides.

Unfortunately, you can’t visit this site right now as the BLM has closed it until further notice citing “safety concerns.” Loose rocks or missing railing?  Nope, this article says that the Hantavirus could be present.  Alrighty.

And with that, we were back to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport and on our way back to Cincinnati.

Three states.

1,411 miles.

A hundred memories.

What a trip. 

Book a direct flight from CVG Airport to more non-stop destinations than any other airport in the Tri-State region and start planning your next adventure!

I’ll see you in the air… and on the road!

-Jay

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