It is no secret that Dinah Shore weekend is a lesbian right of passage. Multiple days spent sipping drinks and dancing around the pool you longed to be at while watching the Real L Word. The words lesbian spring break are often used to describe the weekend. While YES, you can absolutely come to drink your face off there is so much more to Dinah Shore weekend. The biggest one for me is being surrounded by the community in a way I have yet to experience.
It was so cool to be at dinner listening to a group of women talk about how they’ve come to Dinah together each of the last seven years. Sure the activities may change but the impact of a weekend surrounded by queer women remains the same. This year Meg and I took an incredible group of girls from all over the country to experience their first Dinah Shore Weekend.
With Meg, being the six-year Dinah Shore Weekend vet that she is, she suggested you taking one day away from the pool parties. A day we could bond with our new friends and let be honest four full days of parties in more than my body can withstand at 32.
The next step was deciding what to do in Palm Springs. The options here are pretty endless. Some of our ideas included visiting the famed Joshua Tree National Park to get that one of a kind Instagram shot. Possibly taking a Palm Springs architecture tour of the stunning homes once owned by Hollywood’s most elite. We even considered just taking a day to explore the world class antique shops and delicious restaurants.
Ultimately we decided to get out of the city altogether, get away from everyone and everything. We had the most perfect road trip mobile, the new 2019 Mazda3. The vehicle has incredible gas mileage making it the perfect to get off the beaten path and down a dusty road like we planned to. All five of us hopped in the deceptively roomy vehicle and punched Niland, California in the GPS. Destination, Slab City, the home of Salvation Mountain and East Jesus, it was time to get lost.
Getting to Slab City
Before I talk about how to get there let’s talk for a moment about what Slab City is. Slab City, often called “The Last Free Place in America” is a community situated on 600 plus acres of public land that was once the Marine Corps Base, Camp Dunlap. Now it’s home to people looking to experience life off the grid and even more people whose luck seems to have run out. Under the beating sun in what feels like the middle of the Sonoran Desert, you’ll see no street signs, no electrical wires or paved roads.
Getting to Slab City starts with a 90-minute drive past the Salton Sea to the tiny town of Niland, California. Grab a bottle of water and use the bathroom before you follow the tire tracks in the dirt leading to Slab City.
Marking the entrance of Slab City, you’ll see that brightly colored Salvation Mountain. The way the pastel colors jump out against the desert sand make it a magical place to photograph. Literally, a man-made mountain constructed using latex paint, cement, and hay bales. The project took its creator, Leonard Knight almost two decades to complete. Over time the materials used changed and the mountain started gaining some notoriety.
There is no doubt it was built out of a deep love for religion. With large visible Bible scripture, visible as soon as you pull up. Visiting is encouraged but there are a set of rules you’ll be expected to follow when visiting this monument. The biggest of those rules is to stay on the winding yellow path as you climb your way up. Stray too far and you’ll absolutely be told about by the artist friends stationed at the bottom.
East Jesus is a few minutes down the road and there is no hesitation to tell you they’re the opposite of Salvation Mountain. Within the first few moments at the outdoor art installation full of funky and weird you’ll realize East Jesus it the opposite of Salvation Mountain. While the name is deceptive there is nothing religious here. The coolest part is that East Jesus is always growing and changing. Everything here has been recycled and repurposed multiple times each chance seemingly breathing new life into an old item.
There is a tour guide of sorts at the gate and they will ask you for donations at the end. While you’re there though you’re totally free to get creative with everything on the property. It’s neat to think about a world without waste would look like. Both spaces are really unique but I had to most fun discovering all the details of East Jesus.
Back to Dinah Shore Weekend
As we climbed back into the Mazda3, drained by hours of exploring in the sun I realized this was the experience I was looking for. These moments were what I’d hope to gain from Dinah Shore weekend. I wanted a weekend to bond with queer women. A weekend to share stories, experiences, wins, and losses of life as a queer person. I found those moments under the desert sun and in the back of a Mazda, cursing through the desert.