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PARKER: Living outside the lines

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
February 09, 2015 - 9:24 AM

When was the last time you stepped into a different time zone?

Maybe it was when you managed to score tickets to the last hot music festival and heard a band you’d never seen before play a song that took you all the way back to 1972 even though you were born in the eighties. Maybe it was when you decided to stay at an Ace hotel and saw that fashion has come full circle since Fleetwood Mac did their Rumors tour. Maybe it was when you found your old Sweet Valley High books. Whatever it was, I bet it hit you hard and fast and awesome.

The same way I got taken right back into the era of free love and natural deodorant when my boyfriend Steve and I drove ourselves into southern California in search of a place called “Salvation Mountain.”

I know it immediately sounds like the world’s worst tourist attraction ever, but Salvation Mountain isn’t actually a tourist attraction. It’s a mound of dirt, protruding out of the southernmost Mojave desert, that is surrounded by every single bad dream you ever had regarding, or in, the 1960s.

Quite literally, after driving south of Palm Springs on highway 111 and passing several border inspection stops and shanty beach towns, you will reach a town deep in the forsaken and forgotten part of the state where “God lives” and “Repent” signs stand in place of mail boxes.

I’ll admit it — I didn’t take us into the most popular tourist area. Steve was looking for a California staple (fish and chips on the beach most likely) and instead I gave him a pile of earth dedicated entirely to being washed clean of sins and a thing of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer. I’ve never claimed to be the best tour guide, but I’ve always wanted to go to Salvation Mountain.

When you reach the town of Niland, California and turn left on Main Street you start to wonder what kind of horrible, horrible mistake you have made. If you’ve watched any sort of cold case, real life CSI show you would totally understand what I mean by that. You’re thirty minutes away from an unpopular Mexican border crossing and in the heart of what some might call the most alternative place of American living.

Tents start to pop up — canvas tents, home made teepees, garbage bag tents, tents made out of the trunks of 1960s station wagons — and so do people. People tanned darker than Jimmy Buffet after he started seeing all the royalties from Margarittaville. People who probably haven’t seen a Wal-Mart in thirty plus years. People who actually know how to drink the sacred water from the Cacti I try to keep alive on my windowsill.

All of a sudden you drive from the middle of nowhere into the middle of 1969.

“You mean near the place with all the hippies?” the tourist agent asked Steve as we were searching for it on a map. “I’ve never heard of it.

There are times in my life when I ask myself why I don’t just stay in between the lines — why I don’t go to the tourist attractions and the swimming beaches the car rental lady suggests and stay at the Hiltons that have at least four stars on Trip Advisor. Lord knows I’d have fewer panic attacks.

But then I remember that inside the lines doesn’t take you back to 1969 — to a place in the desert where love shows up in the middle of wreckage with an army of aging granolas leading the way. Inside the lines doesn’t change the way you view things.

Inside the lines may keep you away from bed bugs and border patrol, but outside the lines gives you access to a time machine.

— Andria Parker is a 20-something blogger from Kamloops

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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