Salton Sea and Bombay Beach, California

Happy New Year to all! Many miles behind the wheel and busy activities have kept me away from the blogging scene of late, but I’m back! This past Christmas I was back in the San Joaquin valley of California to spend time with family and friends.

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It was tons of fun and great to be surrounded by good company. This trip ended up being one of the most memorable for me and a great one to close out 2013. Here are many of my little cousins anxiously awaiting to see what lies beneath the wrapping paper on Christmas Eve.

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Here’s a photo of me, cousin Lola, Grandma “B,” and Nathan. Nathan is a quite a talented guy who has had a hand in the visual effects in many popular movies/shows. Those include, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Smallville, Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, and Night at the Museum just to name a few. Check out the full list here.

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The TL has been performing great and I’m still learning about new tricks it has to offer. I’m growing more and more comfortable with the navigation system. I only yelled at it twice this trip!

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Indio, CA, has become one of my routine overnight stops to the ‘valley. It’s not what you’d call a halfway point, but I like the location and the surroundings. Here I was driving around downtown at night and just had to nestle in with some of the fancy boys to take a few pix. Behind the TL is a Porsche Boxster and a BMW M5.

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Overall mileage for this past visit to California and back was 2,445. I spent well over 40 hours behind the wheel, but I have to admit, they were all very pleasant. The format of this post will seem a bit scattered, but it’s because I have so much to cover!

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The only hiccup for the TL was a wheel bearing which decided to start singing a melodious song while I cruised at highway speeds. I took the TL to Fresno Acura in Fresno, CA. There I was given the red-carpet service. They diagnosed the problem right away and got me out fast even though I was a “walk-in.”

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Large glass doors leading to the service bay allowed me to view my car being dismantled.

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While the wheel bearing surgery was taking place, I took a look around the lot and showroom.

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In addition to a new 2014 MDX, a few TLs, they had this very tidy TSX Special Edition in Bellanova White Pearl. If the TSX offered a 6-speed manual with the V6, I would have seriously considered that as opposed to the TL. Sadly, the 6-seed is only  available with the 2.4L 4-cylinder.

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After a few hours, she was all ready to go. Warranty fully covered the repair, so I just signed and drove away.IMG_1166

On the way back to the hotel, I hit 30,000 miles! That’s a good 5,554 miles I’ve put on since the purchase date in mid-November.

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The return leg of the trip is the main focus of this post. I made a bold move this trip and did something I’ve been wanting to do for years…like the past 10 years. I made the decision to see my Mom in LA. I had lost contact with her when I was seven years old and haven’t made any attempt since then. That’s a good 20 years! In the end, the visit went very well and I’m glad I did it. Here I am about to exit to Pasadena where I was scheduled to meet her and my three half-brothers.

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Here’s a group photo of all of us. Jerry, me, Mom, Jeffrey and Jonathan. I’m looking forward to keeping ties with them and future visits!

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The next day, I made a slight detour southeast from LA to the Salton Sea and Bombay Beach before heading home. I was already getting a little worn out, but since these sights were just a few hundred miles out of the way, I just couldn’t pass up.

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The Salton Sea is a fascinating geological site. It is regarded as a shallow endorheic rift lake and it’s located in the Imperial and Coachella valleys. It was created in 1905 by a massive flood caused by the Colorado River, and many attempts have been made to make this an exotic desert oasis. Sadly, those attempts have failed, and it shows. Even so, it’s still regarded as a Class I recreational area for fishing, swimming and boating. Believe me, after seeing what I did, I wouldn’t even get my feet wet in the water. It takes up roughly 525 sq miles of the land and like Death Valley, this “sea” is 225ft BELOW sea level!

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With the squawking of the seagulls, pelicans, and the smell of the salty water, I felt like I was right at the Pacific coastline.

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When I looked up the details on the lake, I was really surprised at what I had found: Large quantities of fish die in this oxygen-depleting combination of sun and salt environment. In 1999, nearly 8 million fish died in one day! There also was an article back in 2012 saying a lingering stench in LA air was tied to the rotting fish of the area here. To top that off, many species of birds have been dying of type-C botulism from the consumption of ill fish. What looks like sand on the shore here is actually layers and layers of bones and barnacles of the expired fish. Luckily, the time I was here I didn’t experience any of the odor.

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Here is a photo I snatched from google showing the extent of the problem.

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Despite the aforementioned, there were many birds active on the water. I took out my zoom lens to capture a few in action…

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Most of the stops along the shore looked post-apocolyptic!

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It looked like at one time, someone had big dreams of developing and turning this land into some prime real estate near the water’s edge. Check out those prices…$59K!

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Many predefined lots are surrounded with expired palm trees and weeds.

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Several miles down the road, I came to Bombay Beach. This is regarded as the lowest community in America at 223ft below sea level. (Does this mean I’ve just driven on the lowest paved road in America?) There are many small little communities along the Salton Sea’s coastline, but this one stood out the most. It has to be the most depressing and unwelcoming community I’ve been to. Evidently, Bombay Beach was somebody’s dream of paradise back when the town was established in 1929. However, the rotting smell of decaying fish and birds, constant flooding, and the unpredictable future of the lake made investors leave the scene without turning back. The population as of 2010 is 295 (2010 census).

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Driving through this community gave me a real uneasy feeling. Graffiti, collapsed buildings and many unhappy glaring looks from the few residents who still live here. I felt very unwelcome.

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An example of how many buildings stand today.

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Prime “fixer-upper!”

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The residents built a dike seen here in attempt to keep the overflowing lake from entering the community.

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I found a spot where I could drive up over the dike and I got the shock of the day. This was a dried wasteland of salt-encrusted ruins. It is quite obvious why this part of town was abandoned years ago.

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I used the backup cam to carefully position the TL for this shot.

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As I left the area, I started to drive through the remainder of the community.

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Many instances where you’ll see a perfectly sound structure next to a pile of rubble.

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If any of you have ever seen the movie, The Hills Have Eyes, you’ll know why I just wanted to book it when I saw that title written on a side of a house!

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As much of an adventure as it would be to explore some of these abandoned homes inside and out, there was just too much of an unwelcoming feeling for me to be comfortable doing so. Many homes here had boarded up windows. With temperatures reaching 115˚F consistently during the summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if residents do that to keep the A/C in and heat out.

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After Bombay Beach, I decided it was time to make a straight shot to home. So I hopped on I-8 east towards Arizona where I’d pick up I-10 near Tucson.

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Of course, I had to grab an In-N-Out burger before I crossed the New Mexico border.

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Hope you all enjoyed the trip and my first year of blogging! I’m looking forward to 2014 and all the miles that will come with it. See you then…

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8 thoughts on “Salton Sea and Bombay Beach, California

  1. My husband and I took a side trip to check out the Salton Sea when we visited Palm Springs in 2012. It was one of the most depressing places that I’ve ever visited. Just plain icky! You’re lucky that you didn’t experience the odor, because the rotten smell was my biggest take-away from the experience. That and feeling a crunch beneath my feet to realize I was walking on fish bones. We actually saw a family fishing and having a picnic on the beach.

    A few months after my visit, I picked up Marissa Silver’s book “The God of War”. It’s a fictional book about a family living in the Salton Sea community. Great book, but as you can imagine, completely depressing. It’s hard to imagine that the area was once a haven for the rich and famous!

    I enjoyed reading about your trip!

    • pawela says:

      Hi Karen,
      “Icky” is sure an accurate description of the ‘Sea. I’m glad I didn’t experience the odor too! I’ll have to look into the “The God of War” book you mentioned and see how it compares to the real thing. I’m always looking to experience fascinating places like this and hope I can find more as I cover more and more ground in my free time. Glad you enjoyed reviewing my trip!

  2. tysonhugie says:

    Jason, this post is awesome for so many reasons! First of all, you reconnected with your mom after 20 years?! Oh my goodness, congratulations on that. I see the resemblance! Hopefully you will continue to keep tabs on her and your half-siblings. Glad to hear that the Fresno Acura dealership took decent care of you while you were sidelined with a bearing repair underway.

    I have been wanting to get out to the Salton Sea & Bombay Beach for quite some time. I loved the pics you got of the TL with some of those salt-encrusted ruins. I don’t think I’d be able to resist the temptation to go exploring in some of those abandoned “fixer-upper” homes. I plan on visiting Salton this summer, so I thank you for having done most of my research for me 🙂

    I do have to burst your bubble on just one thing: The lowest elevation paved road in America is in fact in Death Valley. But, what do you say we plan a trip out there this summer – at the hottest time of the year – just to say we’ve done it? I’m game!

    • pawela says:

      Thanks, Tyson! Yes a lot happened in the week I was on the road! I’m very pleased I was able to do everything I did. I’m still finding typos here and there on this post. I KNOW when you get down to the Salton Sea you’ll have a polished post ready for us with many cool pix of you exploring those abandoned homes. Feel free to snatch what info and background you can on it.

      Bubble is busted but for the good! Now I’m targeting Death Valley for this summer…gotta experience it in its prime! Yes, I’m down and why not make it a plan to be on the lowest and highest paved roads in America for 2014?! Also if we do Death Valley, why not work in Salton for ya?

  3. clymerdude says:

    Congrats on Mom! That’s awesome man!

  4. Ayla Vickery says:

    I’m crazy but I’m buying property in that desolate wasteland. Yes, it stinks, but something about that post-apocalyptic feel of the place draws me in.

  5. […] may remember my last visit to Salton Sea back in December of 2014. Although not much as changed, it still is quite an unforgettable place. A […]

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