On the Road (Less Traveled) to EDC
Electric Daisy Carnival is a celebration of art, individuality and discovery as much it is a music festival. If you’re making the trip out to Vegas for EDC, why not take the road less traveled? In the spirit of adventure and experience, we set out to find a few oddball stops along the way, and what we came across was raw, bizarre and beautiful all at once.
The Lore Is Galore
The Integratron | 2477 Belfield Blvd., Landers, CA
George Van Tassel constructed this anti-gravity, time travel/rejuvenation dome after a UFO from Venus stopped by and left him the instructions. Although Tassel is long gone, his spirit and his dome live on. Now open to the public, musicians have used it for recording sessions (it’s said to be the only all-wood, acoustically perfect sound chamber in the US), while hippy folk drop in for sonic meditation baths and yoga happenings. Check the website for a list of activities you can experience under the dome. Hello art, meet science and magic.
What’s So Awesome About A Big-Ass Rock?
Giant Rock | Giant Rock Rd, Landers, CA
The story of George Van Tassel, the Integratron and Giant Rock runs deep, literally Van Tassel lived under this seven-story boulder—in a house dug out under the rock—where the idea of the Integratron came to be. If you believe in UFOs, this is the spot where the folks from Venus made contact. Simply dubbed “Giant Rock,” it’s been used as a hub by thousands of extraterrestrial enthusiasts, researchers and contactees for meetings, but probably not greetings. Located just northwest of the Integratron, there are small handmade signs pointing the way down the dirt road opposite the entrance to the dome.
While You Are Here: We suggest going to Joshua Tree National Park, where you can check out Gram Parsons’ Death Hotel, the infamous location where the rock star’s dead body was torched by friends so it couldn’t be shipped back east for a proper burial. Hungry? Head south to Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. Part BBQ joint, part music venue, this place has hosted everyone from Arctic Monkeys, Spiritualized and Grizzly Bear to Vampire Weekend and Robert Plant.
Get Your Snake Oil Here
Zzyzx, California | Zzyzx Rd, Zzyzx, CA
This onetime desert spring and 1860’s Army outpost has been used over the years as a place to hydrate, but the story gets interesting after kook radio evangelist Curtis H. Springer turned it into home base for his national radio show and a place to hock his medical nonsense. He even went as far as creating imitation hot springs, which he heated with big boiler tanks. Springer was literally dubbed “King of Quacks” by the American Medical Association, and was ultimately taken out Eliot Ness-style by the IRS. Today the oasis at the end of the road is a favorite spot for biology students studying wildlife in the area, and Springer’s old buildings still stand.
While You Are Here: If you’re headed west on the 15, there are some worthy spots in the Yermo/Barstow area. If you’re looking for grub, Casa Jimenez is a Mexican joint with a gaggle of dead stuffed animals as décor. Peggy Sue’s Diner also doubles as a Dinosaur Park. Calico Ghost Town and Vehicles from Hell are worthwhile. Head down Highway 40? Stop at the Bagdad Café. Yes, the same truck-stop café the late 80’s film of the same name took place in.
It’s Crazy and We Love It
Elmer's Place “Bottle Tree Ranch” | 24266 National Trails Hwy, Helendale, CA
Of all the folk-art oddities discovered on our trip, this one on Route 66 between Barstow and Victorville ranks high on the list. A guy named Elmer converted his entire front yard into a weirdly amazing Mad Max meets Willy Wonka, cactus-filled art installation. When light shines through the colored bottles as you’re standing in the middle of his yard, it’s a kaleidoscope of awesomeness. Other than cacti art, the yard is full of odd pieces of junk metal, road signs and rusted out relics of Route 66’s past. There is nothing run-of-the-mill about this destination. Make the stop.
While You Are Here: Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe in Victorville is a great stop for lunch. For a little inner peace and balance, check out the Miraculous Giant Healing Buddhist Statue off Highway 395. Can’t imagine there are many Buddhist meditation center in the middle of the desert. The 15-acre area seems to be under construction, but it’s still a great place to kick back for a few minutes and recharge.
Don’t Let The Word “Beach” Fool You
Bombay Beach Salton Sea | 9500 Avenue E, Niland, CA
The Salton Sea in its peak, during the ’60s, was a thriving marina, complete with boats, vacation homes, and celebrity sunbathers, but today it’s a half-flooded, surreal yet calming wasteland encrusted by salt. Looking out across the ruins at all the bones of dead fish scattered along the shoreline, it’s hard to comprehend that people still live here. But yes, a few hundred do. Not sure you’ll actually figure out why once you visit, but if extreme levels of urban decay ring high on your fun meter, this place is the equivalent of gold. By the way, if you happen to play GTA V, yes this is “Sandy Shores.”
While You Are Here: Make a stop at Salvation Mountain. It’s hard to explain the feeling you get as you look out at what Leonard Knight created in the middle of the desert. The guy had a vision and just went for it.
The Creatures of Galleta Estates
Sand Dragon of Borrego Valley | Borrego Springs Rd., Borrego Springs, CA
This is what happens when a wealthy landowner, Dennis Avery, discovers the work of metal sculpture Ricardo Breceda, and falls in love. Avery commissioned Breceda in 2008 to turn his land into a gallery of sorts. The original idea was to have only animals native to this particular part of the desert (from millions of years ago), but they eventually ran out of species so they started exploring mythical creatures like this 350-foot dragon. The land is dotted with about 150 works in all, but this Tremors-like sea serpent is by far the most formidable.
While You Are Here: Not a whole lot else to see while you’re driving through this town. If you’re headed west after this stop, there is an odd statue of Bigfoot dubbed the Ranchita Yeti.
Psychedelic, Spiritual and Symbolic
Roy Purcell's Rock Murals | Mural Road, Chloride, AZ
It’s not every day that you can see a set of murals painted in 1966 that spans 2000-square-feet of rock face. Artist and writer Roy Purcell dubbed his mural “The Journey: Images From an Inward Search for Self,” no doubt because of the heavy mix of psychedelic meets spiritual meets symbolic artistry. The Internet says that Purcell has since returned a few times to touch up his original work, which explains why the colors are so bright and vibrant today. You’ll need to drive about a mile out of town to see his work.
While You Are Here: Since you’re in Chloride get out and have look around—it’s a diversion spot in itself. Founded before the turn of the century, Chloride is an old mining town that reminds you of a ghost town except for the fact that there are actually people living there. The whole place screams days gone by. If you’re going to see the rock murals, leave enough time to roam around. Many of the residents have turned their front yards into junk art sculptures, and they’re scattered all around town. Also check out the Ruins of Santa's Land right off Highway 93 just south of Chloride. Defunct since 1995, the Ruins of Santa’s Land is a tale of Christmas sorrow originally built to be a yuletide-themed destination to rival the Magic of Walt’s Kingdom. There are still a few remnants of what was once meant to be, but the now abandoned town is a skeleton of its former self.
Parallel Parking in a Parallel Universe
International Car Forest of the Last Church | Crystal Ave., Goldfield, NV
If you doubt that the desert is full of colorful characters, stop by the “International Car Forest of the Last Church.” This wacky creation is not to be confused with the cars in Texas. The vision of Mark Rippie, we stumbled upon this installation as we made our way around Area 51. The installation is comprised of trashed cars, buses and trucks that look as if they fell from the sky and became buried in the ground. Rippie did this with the sole purpose of inviting artists to leave their mark on the vehicles—blank canvases as it were. There are about 40 vehicles in all spread out over a half a mile on the other side of a hill off the freeway. It’s not visible from the road, so as soon as you get into town you can take one of the dirt roads east. Look for a giant bus sticking out of the ground.
Ghostly Forms and A Pixelated Female Effigy
The Last Supper & Giant Pink Woman | Hwy 374, Rhyolite, NV
There’s more than one thing to discover off this section of freeway dubbed, “The Gateway to Death Valley.” The first thing you’ll see are the Goldwell sculptures, particularly the giant, pink 8-bit inspired woman, titled “Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada.” Built by Belgian artist Dr. Hugo Heyrman, the sculpture is made of cinder block and stands an impressive 25-feet high. Then there’s the “Last Supper” installation by another Belgian artist, Albert Szukalski, which was built in 1984, and another he later created called “Ghost Rider,” which depicts a man getting ready to ride a bike. There are also a bunch of pieces by artists from around the world scattered about.
While You Are Here: Up the dirt road from the modern wonders is an original gold mining town that went bust in the early 1900s—way before the bizarre collection of art started to appear in the desert. An old prospector built a house in 1905-06 out of 50,000 bottles—mostly beer, the only material he could find locally. The house was abandoned along with the rest of the town when the gold ran out in 1912, but was given a facelift in 2005 in the name of preservation and now sits behind a fence. Dubbed “The Ruins of Rhyolite,” the town comes complete with a huge train station (that oddly has no tracks leading up to it), along with a bunch of shells that was once all the main street buildings. Also worth a stop is the airplane wreck in front of a brothel sign just off Highway 95.
The Castle Built On Lies
Scotty's Castle | Scotty’s Castle Rd, Death Valley, CA
Wild West meets roaring ’20s meets depression era ’30s sums up this spot. The story goes that Scotty from Death Valley convinced a wealthy tycoon to invest in a gold mine, but there was no gold to be had. The massive house still stands and is now open for tours. This is one of the more “touristy” destinations in our list of things to do and see, but don’t call it a trap.
Valley of Fire | 29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV
It’s out-of-control beautiful. When the sun hits the red sandstone rock formations, you’ll understand why it’s called Valley of Fire. If you’ve got a bit more time and want to experience one of the most amazing Mojave Desert landscapes around, do this spot. It’s about an hour northeast of Vegas, and like Red Rock, there are a lot of trails to explore, but you can simply drive through the park and have an amazing experience via the road that connects the east and west entrances. If the drive back to Vegas on the 15 is looking like a parking lot, you can take the Lake Mead route back in.
Red Rock Canyon | Scenic Loop DR., Las Vegas, NV
A quick 17-mile car ride west of Vegas and you’ll think you’re a million miles away from the Strip. Once inside the park, you can take a 13-mile drive called “scenic loop.” You can also rock climb, ride a bike or go hiking, but the desert sun is pretty harsh come June, so if it’s too hot to enjoy outside activities, there are plenty of spots to chill and take in nature along the drive.
All photography by Robert Kerian
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