Slab City: Off The Grid, Powered By The Sun

A Town For Those Who Just Can't Take It Anymore

By Nathan Holl
Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

If you've ever felt the need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the rat race, if the idea of spending the rest of your golden years cooped up in some cubicle makes your stomach churn, then perhaps Slab City is just the place you’re looking for.Slab City

Located 190 miles southeast of Los Angeles and an hour’s drive from the Mexico border, the state-owned desert community gets its name from the concrete slabs scattered across the desert floor, the last remaining constructs of Camp Dunlap, an abandoned WWII military base.

Dubbed “The Last Free Place on Earth” the area has become a haven for dropouts, an anarchist’s oasis, a Mecca for artists, a rest stop for the wayward, and most recently a refuge for refugees left homeless in the wake of America's economic collapse.

The California desert RV-commune is truly a community off the grid. No road signs indicate the town’s existence. It won’t show up on Mapquest. Residents live without the common amenities of running water, electricity, plumbing, or trash pickup. Those unfortunate souls unlucky enough not to have a shower in their RV bathe in the canal that runs through the middle of the community.

And yet the town isn’t without its charms. Kids can skateboard in the Olympic-sized bowl located just outside the common area. The Oasis Club, one of the town's two-night clubs, offers Slabbers respite from the scorching hot desert sun. Residents can sit down in the shade and enjoy a drink, usually on the house, and once a month the bar’s owner holds a free rock concert for all the residents.  There’s even an 18-hole golf course available to residents, people are welcome to play anytime assuming the sounds of bombs blowing up in the distance doesn’t throw off their backswing.

But there is also a real sense of community that exists amongst the eccentric tenants of slab city. The town has two libraries, open to all residents, and several kitchens that provide free meals to anyone who may want one. It’s a close-knit society that has forgone any sense of modern living and instead has created something of a desert utopia with a Mad Max decor.

Although, there is something else which makes slab city interesting and makes it truly unique from any other town in America. As mentioned earlier, no electrical lines run through Slab City. In lieu of traditional sources of power Slabbers take it upon themselves to create their own electricity.

And being a resourceful bunch they use the most abundant source available to them, the sun. Temperatures can reach nearly 120 degrees in the barren landscape, and annual rainfall in the town is minimal.  Which is why if you take a stroll through Slab City you’re likely to see solar panels hooked up to the roof of nearly all the resident RVs.

Nearly everything in Slab City runs on solar energy and that’s how the slabbers like it.  Which makes sense when you consider the independent nature of its residents. And maybe there is a lesson to be learned in Slab City’s resourcefulness, if these people so far removed from modern society can find a hassle free way to make energy work, why cant we?

Clearly Slab City isn’t for everybody but I feel the sentiments of Tiny Williams, a full time resident of Slab City, sums up the feelings of most of the residents aptly when describing her glass garden: “I’ve taken the old junk and garbage, and things that nobody wants and I’ve made a beautiful piece of shit out of it.”

Until next time

Nate


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