Spotted on the Roadside: If the fangs don’t get you, the tetanus will

 

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Installed in 2013, this rattlesnake tops the scales at 800 1200 a lot of pounds and more than twenty feet long (when stretched out, I presume, it seemed maybe ten feet tall when standing next to it). You have no idea how badly I wanted to climb on and take a picture of me riding this snake, perhaps twirling a hat around like a cowboy…or if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably actually do have a pretty good idea. Respect for the artist and the town kept my boots on the ground, because, you know, not everything needs to serve my selfish impulses. This rattlesnake was commissioned by an anonymous donor as a gift for the town, and created by artist Ricardo Breceda, who has a number of sculptures not far away in Borrego Springs, which I meant to go see this trip but it just didn’t happen. Next time!

Spotted on Old Hwy 80 in Jacumba Hot Springs, CA*

 

 

*not visible on Google Maps as it was installed after the last time the road was mapped. You can see how close Jacumba Hot Springs is to the border, though. Close enough that I got one of those “Welcome to Mexico!” text messages from my carrier.

Not the U2 album, the other one: Joshua Tree

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I could feel the judgement in her eyes even though she was too polite to express her exact thoughts. The national parks employee had just helpfully marked a driving route of Joshua Tree on my map and asked if we needed any suggestions for hiking or other activities. “Nope!” “But there are just a few short–” “Nope!” I wanted to tell her that it wasn’t that I was lazy and underprepared, because while both of those things are true, neither has ever prevented me from getting out there before; I don’t really consider it a hike unless there’s a possibility of imminent death. However, I was also smack in the middle of an enormous day trip and simply didn’t have the time to really flirt with disaster in my usual fashion. Then again, maybe I’m growing up a little: before you enter the park, they make it very clear that people have died there from preventable accidents–things like not having enough water or food, so I backtracked just a bit before the entrance, gassed up the car, and bought important survival necessities like two flavors of gatorade and chips with the guacamole baked right inside so I wouldn’t have to expend any energy on dipping. My obituary certainly isn’t going to bemoan, “If only she had dipped a little less gratuitously” unless, of course, they are talking about the decades-long buildup of nacho cheese that is even now slowly coating all of my arterial pathways, waiting for the right time to strike.

Joshua Tree is gorgeous, with a wild beauty you might not even know was there, based on the area outside of the park. Thanks to a number of pull-out areas and parking lots, I was able to get out and wander around a bit even without tackling one of the proper hiking trails or attempting any bouldering. Since it was still spring, I got to enjoy spotting all kinds of teeny-tiny wildflowers blooming in the desert–not the riotous lush swaths of color you get elsewhere, but delicate clusters of petals wavering under the winds and blazing sun. I would like to go back and explore more thoroughly when I have the time–I should probably plan ahead and bring at least two bags of those chips.

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joshua tree (23 of 36)Thankfully, it was not hot enough when I visited for bees to try to drink the water from my eyes or I definitely would have thrown myself off a cliff. Which is a thing they do, and fuck that, fuck that, fuck that.

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joshua tree (19 of 36)The view of the San Andreas Fault/Coachella Valley

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joshua tree (27 of 36)This parking lot was full so I can only assume that you get stabbed in the Hall of Horrors and someone comes and tows the cars away at night.

joshua tree (28 of 36)The world’s tallest Joshua tree.

joshua tree (29 of 36)Skull rock!

joshua tree (30 of 36)It looks a bit less skull-y from this angle, to be honest. Not even worth the effort of picking its nose.

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REPENT!! at Salvation Mountain

 

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In the desert, on the fringes of society, people can get a little…squirrely. The heat plays tricks on the mind. And on the outskirts of the Salton Sea, the situation is even more dire. The Salton Sea was supposed to be a resort town, and experienced some small success in that area, but due to the pollution of the water, increased salinity, and subsequent fish die-off, the whole area reeks of dead fish. The “sand” on the shoreline is ground up fish bones. Entire communities have been abandoned, and the problem is only set to become worse as the water continues to evaporate and more of the seabed is exposed to the air. Nearby, a campground called “Slab City” with no water, sewer, electricity, or garbage pickup is full of people who have been outcast or want nothing to do with the rest of society. Mounds of trash swept around every corner and cardboard signs with messages like “get the fuck out” and “this is what you’ve done to me” don’t encourage one to tarry overlong. And it’s here that Leonard Knight built Salvation Mountain.

Salvation Mountain as it stands today is actually the second one Knight built, the first one crumbling into rubble. Knight took this as an opportunity to rebuild with “more smarts”. More smarts, and more paint: before his passing, he estimated he’s used more than 100,000 gallons building and maintaining the mountain. In his wake, the mountain is maintained by others, lest the scorching desert sun and winds bleach and wipe the entire work away.

Honestly, I found the whole place creepy. The entire area around the Salton Sea feels like a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I already knew I didn’t want to go digging around in what remained of people’s homes at Bombay Beach–I’m no urban explorer. I feel ghoulish going to estate sales, picking through the leftovers of someone’s life, and the prospect of playing modern archaeologist felt worse. Some people still do live in the area, so to tramp through taking photos marveling at the decay and how anyone could live there while vacationing from a good life seemed like grody behavior I didn’t want to engage in. I didn’t know what Slab City was before I drove through it, and after realizing it looked like the sort of place where people wouldn’t think twice about claiming your water, Dune style, I got out and didn’t feel a pressing need to return. And Salvation Mountain? Salvation Mountain feels like nothing so much as the site of a mass cult suicide. The trucks with flattened tires, emblazoned with the word REPENT in two foot tall letters atop what appear to be cages. Rusted out equipment with the word “Jesus” written over and over and over again on them.  And even though the entirety is covered with colorful paint, inside and out, you never forget that you’re walking on and in someone’s art project that crumbled to rubble before, that underneath that bright facade, it all is mud and straw and sticks, and that the whole purpose of the thing might be to bring you into the arms of the lord all the sooner should a load-bearing branch be nudged just so or if you slip on the melting stairs of the yellow brick road. I suppose every time they get someone to pray that they don’t die on site is a small success in connecting that person to the lord, if only for a moment. As for me, I decided not to stick around for any sermons on the mount.

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Spotted on the Roadside: The World’s Largest Paper Cup

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Originally constructed to promote the Sweetheart paper cup manufacturing plant, the world’s largest paper cup now sits beside a furniture liquidator without even so much as a sign to tell the world of the wonder they’re witnessing. At least now I have a photo for reference when I make a hand gesture at the movie theater to tell the employees that I want a diet coke “this big”*.

 

*To clarify, at the movie theater, this size is known as a small, so maybe Riverside doesn’t have the world’s largest paper cup after all.

Spotted on E Citrus St in Riverside, CA

Tios Tacos in Riverside, CA

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“Are we there yet? Did we pass it?” “I’m pretty sure this is one of those places you can’t miss.” I was right. Tio’s Tacos is enormous, spanning the better part of a block in two directions, and would be almost impossible to miss even if you weren’t looking for it. It was actually harder to find the restaurant itself among all of the art installations than it was to find Tio’s Tacos in all of Riverside’s downtown.

A sign on the property informed us: “Martin Sanchez is a proud Mexican immigrant from Sahayo, a small town in the state of Michoacan. He is grateful for this country, the United States of America, which he now considers his own and to which he arrived at a very young age with lots of dreams, and just like many other immigrants who have seen in the U.S. the hope of a better tomrorow. The poverty which he lived in during his childhood gave him the idea of finding a use for the things that have been utilized, and in this country considered useless, then discarded. Although for him and many that come from poor countries, these items are considered treasures; with his ingenuity and creativity, he has rescued them and given them new life. Come and taste the delicious flavor of our traditional & real Mexican cuisine, while you enjoy and appreciate one acre of amazing and beautiful gardens, created entirely from recycled items, waste material, and junk. See for yourself how the genius and profound creativity of Mr. Martin Sanchez, owner of Tio’s Tacos #1, has transformed them into beautiful pieces of art.”

This artist’s statement almost makes me a little tear-y for a number of reasons. I take for granted all of the things that I have access to every day of my life by virtue of being born here, and all the things I discard for whatever reason. I get frustrated with American politics and the state of things and forget sometimes that others can see it as a beacon of hope and opportunity, not just the world’s chest pounding policeman. It makes me extra embarrassed and sad that one of the candidates for the highest office in the land is seriously proposing building a wall to keep out people who want to contribute to the American melting pot, who do view America as that beacon of hope. It’s not Mr. Sanchez’s job to teach me perspective, but I’m glad he gave it to me nonetheless. His artwork reminded me of that of another outsider artist I visited some time back, RichArt, who also made all of his work from repurposed materials.

There was so much to see that even though it was threatening to sprinkle, I wanted to eat outside on the patio to take more of it in while I ate–because frankly, I don’t think it’s possible for me to go to a Mexican restaurant and not eat something, even if it’s just a snack. Jason and I ended up splitting a carne asada taco and an al pastor taco, both of which were so delicious I wanted to weep a little…or was that the rain? I also bought an agua fresca and laughed when the flavor I chose turned out to be their “detox” flavor. Mint, cucumber, and lemon without a whole bunch of added sugar sounded great to me already, there was no need to try and market it as weight loss water. The only detox I’m interested in is the Taco Cleanse…and not that BS taco cleanse where you eat crummy vegan tacos, but a taco cleanse that involves eating al pastor until either I die or I just plain don’t want to eat it anymore. Casa Bonita, you have a serious contender for the most exciting Mexican restaurant in the world…and the food at this one is good. BE TOLD.

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The Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center in Riverside, CA

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Thanks to an unfortunate traffic incident (Traffic? In California? On a Friday afternoon? Nah!), I arrived at the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center a scant thirty minutes before they closed for the day. I booked it into their information desk/gift shop area to inquire about purchasing two adult admission tickets, and was pleased to learn that in the Jurupa Mountains, discovery comes free of charge. I was a little less pleased when the employee recommended that I check out their museum and another chimed in with “You can’t, I already closed it up for today because I didn’t think anyone else was coming.” Your psychic abilities leave much to be desired, sir. And evidently unlocking the door was a bridge too far. It’s fine, the grounds themselves contained more than thirty minutes of discovery possibilities, so I got cracking.

In addition to the closed museum, the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center spans nine acres, acting as a botanical garden, nursery, turtle zoo, and chock full of something that lured me to their gates: dinosaur sculptures. Everywhere, all kinds. The website proclaimed that they have “over ten” dinosaur sculptures, and I was going to do my damndest to see how many I could find.

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jurupa (36 of 36)One. One metal T-Rex having fun.

jurupa (34 of 36)Two. A styracosaurus welcomes you to the land of discovery.

jurupa (2 of 36)Three.  A cross between an allosaurus and a shar-pei.

jurupa (4 of 36)Four. What appears to be a pointing Abraham Lincoln riding a triceratops, which is something I would have assumed I’d remember him being famous for doing in history class, so I guess we know which brain cells the alcohol attacked first.

jurupa (10 of 36)Five. A two-wheeled trike bike.

jurupa (12 of 36)Six. This character reminded me the most of the dinosaurs at Dinosaur World.

jurupa (8 of 36)Seven. A boy and the triceratops he’s clearly outgrown.

jurupa (13 of 36)Eight. A skeletal apatosaurus.

jurupa (24 of 36)Nine. My favorite, hands down. Look at its adorable colorful boxiness!

jurupa (29 of 36)Ten. The rarely seen and presumed mythological honeybuckasaurus, who only darts to the bathroom when he thinks he isn’t being observed.

jurupa (19 of 36)Eleven.  Tail for daaaaaaays.

jurupa (26 of 36)Twelve. A Corythosaurus? Maybe?

jurupa (22 of 36)Thirteen and fourteen, with a bit of eleven in there. Dino convention.

jurupa (25 of 36)Fifteen. Some manner of angry duck-billed dinosaur.

jurupa (28 of 36)Not a dinosaur.

jurupa (27 of 36)Sixteen. The polka dot or modclothasaurus.

jurupa (30 of 36)Seventeen and eighteen. Prime position for a Prattkeeping photo if anyone were still doing those.

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I think it may be time to update their website with a new dinosaur count, because even at eighteen, I’m pretty sure I didn’t see them all. Plus “over fifteen” or “almost twenty” sounds far more impressive than “over ten”. There were multiple areas that were closed off without a guide, I never made it into the turtle area, and nine acres is a lot of ground to cover in thirty minutes, even for two highly motivated adults. There were so many non-dinosaur related things to see as well, and as someone who has ooh-d and aaah-d and killed many a plant, this place was right up my alley. What I’m saying is, I wouldn’t object if my local nursery started filling up with dinosaur sculptures to get me in there a little more often.

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Spotted on the Roadside: Coyote’s Flying Saucer Retrievals and Repair Service in Jacumba Hot Springs, CA

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The truth may or may not be out there, but Coyote not only wants to believe: he’s ready to take action and lend a helping hand if need be. Situated right outside the desert view tower, Coyote’s collection of saucers and little green men beckons passersby to pull over and contemplate the final frontier. Although Coyote wasn’t there when I dropped by, I have heard that he and his saucers are a regular fixture at Burning Man, where he gives people UFO rides across the playa. In other news, I really, really want a flying saucer ATV to put around the neighborhood with. Just because.

 

Spotted on In-Ko-Pah Park Rd in Jacumba, CA

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Desert View Tower in Jacumba Hot Springs, CA

 

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In 1923, Bert Vaughn believed this corner of California was destined for big things: namely, that it was going to become a border crossing area. So, in anticipation of the future economic boom, he bought the whole damn town and set himself to the task of increasing his personal fortunes. One of the ways he sought to do so was by building a roadside attraction as a “monument to the pioneers”, though mostly it was to advertise his bar. Although the town’s border crossing dreams never came to fruition, the roadside attraction did: the desert view tower. Constructed from the wooden remains of an old plank road running over the sand, the tower has seen some updates since then–the lower circular portion was added in 1950 when it changed hands. From that point forward, the tower has remained much the same, even as ownership changed, and is now a California historical monument.

As I approached the tower entrance, I spotted a dog flopped across the stairs, basking in the sun. I didn’t want to startle it by stepping over it, so I tried making some noise to wake it up. The dog could not have been less interested in the prospect of waking up, so I carefully stepped around it and went inside, where I found another super chill dog flopped out on a couch. I don’t know what exactly is in the water of these Jacumba hot springs to make these dogs not even care who the heck is stepping into their abode, but they should definitely bottle and sell it as I happen to know a small dog who could use a little chilling out.

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For a pittance per person ($6.50,  or the cost of one regrettable drive through meal), I got access to the tower itself as well as the at-my-own-risk boulder park next door. Cheap thrills! I singlemindedly climbed all the stairs, ignoring the ephemera on each floor in favor of seeing the view first. After four flights of stairs, there’s a large viewing area, and the option of ascending a much narrower set of wooden stairs with room for one or two people at the very top, and I climbed this as well, cramming ahead of Jason who mostly got a view of my butt. The view was a bit better on the larger platform below, or at least I felt safer looking in all directions without worrying that I’d put a leg through the stairs while distracted, or be knocked off the stairs entirely by the wind. A sign on the gate says that they close the tower when wind speeds hit 110 mph so on the day I visited, it must have been below that threshold, but it was still strong enough that if I faced the wind and opened my mouth, the wind would breathe for me, saving a little mileage on my lungs. (I’m trying to keep them supple and youthful for all of those marathons I won’t be running and/or for when I inevitably run into an organs dealer in a back alley, I would hate for him to get a terrible price on the black market because of all of that time I spent carelessly breathing, the nerve.)

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On the way back down the stairs, I checked out the dust-covered doodads and geegaws lining the cases, but as there was precious little information about any of it to place it in context, I moved on rather quickly, having no patience for the “What inspired them to put this dragon figurine next to this string of christmas lights and Himalayan salt lamp?” guessing game.

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Back outside, it was time to take my life into my hands at the boulder park. On my way in, I encountered a British couple outfitted in safari hats, who excitedly asked me how I’d heard about this place (as they were the only other people I’d seen there, and the reverse was presumably true for them), which sounded a bit like “Oi! This place is brilliant! ‘Ow’d you hear it about, then? Chip chip cheerio, time for a spot of tea!”. You may think this isn’t an accurate transcription of the conversation, but I guarantee they will tell their friends they ran into some Americans who told them that “like, oh my god, I like, totally read about it on the internet or something dumb like that, it’s so dumb, everyone is so dumb” so this cultural conversational mistranslation goes both ways.

The boulder park was constructed during the 1930s, when out of work engineer Merle Ratcliff carved effigies in the stone for the supposed wage of a dollar and a jug of wine a day. That day rate seems suspect to me, but I do like a good legend, so I’ll let it slide. Either way, Merle was an industrious worker, and his carvings are generally whimsical and have stood the test of time. It was seriously fun to clamber over all of these boulders–I felt like I was getting away with something, that someone would pop their head out of the tower and yell “Hey you, get down from there!” No yell ever came, and I happily jumped from boulder to boulder, ducked under others, squeezed through narrow passageways, and warmed myself on a rock like a fat rattlesnake. Thankfully no actual rattlesnakes, fat or otherwise, made an appearance, or there would have been a brand new boulder in my pants.

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desert view tower (14 of 31)Olaf is seriously pissed about something. Maybe about being, uh, frozen in stone. This is a stupid series of jokes, I should let it go.

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This didn’t deserve its own post: Iceland Edition

When I take a trip somewhere, if I don’t do a day-by-day recounting, there’s usually a bunch of tidbits left over that I either couldn’t write more than a few sentences about or don’t have any photos for or would drag out the series far beyond what any human could be expected to tolerate.  All combined, however, they make for something a little more substantial, so here’s yet another one, this time about Iceland.

For my stay in Reykjavik, I was booked at the Best Western. I don’t have any particular distaste for the Best Western chain in general–they’re serviceable if not particularly fancy, the sort of place that you maybe wouldn’t be too surprised to see duct tape patching a hole in the carpet. Frankly, I don’t need for my hotel room to be fancy, it’s the place that I crash out for a few hours in between doing more exciting things, unless I get sick and end up spending much more time there than anticipated. Free WiFi is nice, free breakfast is another good perk (even if I rarely avail myself of the option). This Best Western changed my opinion about Best Westerns. I wish they were ALL like this one. For one, the room was super nice. For two, the tub was super nice. For three, free breakfast is a wonderful thing when food is as expensive as it is in Iceland. For four, their toilet flushed with the force of a spectacular waterfall. For five, they have a kind of duvet I’ve never seen before, one that has the power to save marriages all over the world: split down the middle so no one needs to stab a covers hog in the middle of the night.

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amazing comforter

The one area in which I was a little disappointed was Icelandic TV. I don’t know if my hotel had awful reception or what, but I am very much not into the club scene (as I am old, uncool, and disinclined to pay for bottle service) so if I wanted to veg a bit after everything closes at night (earlier than I would have expected), my options were limited. The news channel was frozen on that same frame for my entire visit.

One morning, I got a bug up my butt about going to see the sun voyager sculpture at dawn. I either severely overestimated the distance or underestimated my walking speed and how much I would hustle in the cold, because I got there a good thirty to forty minutes before sunrise. It was so cold, with strong winds whipping icy water up out of the harbor to sting our faces. I spent a good portion of that time huddling in a bus shelter, skittering out whenever I saw something that might be a bus coming so I wouldn’t inconvenience a driver by making him stop when he didn’t have to. A few other people with cameras showed up just before dawn. We were all red-cheeked and hopeful for a spectacular sunrise.  What we got was not the most spectacular one in the history of time (too much cloud cover that seemed like it was moving out of the way but didn’t), but it was pretty damn good, and worth the effort.

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Afterward, we made our way to the Harpa Concert hall to check it out and escape the cold a bit while waiting for businesses to start opening.

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I don’t know if this is the case everywhere in Iceland, but all of the public restrooms I used were stellar. Super private stalls, impeccably clean, all with those magnificent waterfall toilets, very unlike, say, the terrifying and filthy half-door stalls at Pike Place Market where you can make shame-filled eye contact with someone outside the stall while wiping, which I would only use if my death by exploding bladder was imminent and even then I would think twice.

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I like that construction at the harbor is so permanent that they’ve put it on their maps.

permanently under construction

I have mentioned before that food is really, really expensive in Iceland. One night, sans reservations, we wedged our way in at the bar at Public House. Our meal started off with a shot and a beer, and then we each got a selection of small plates, four each. I got something called the “taste of iceland”, and the two courses I remember were a tiny licorice puffin salad and some lamb stuffed inside a doughnut, the former which was a little weird even for a licorice lover like myself and the later being quite delicious. We both walked out still hungry, and our bill was over $230 USD. Oh, but that wasn’t all. While we were at the bar, a local came in, complaining of the cold, and grabbed each of our hands to show how cold she was. I, thinking this was an opportunity to connect, offered her my already-warmed hot hands packet in addition to a fresh unopened packet to use later, which she was very, very excited about, showing them off to everyone who worked at the restaurant. So far so good, right? Then she started in on a seriously intense speech about how people in Iceland are going to the harbor and killing themselves, repeating to us over and over again “Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.” It was deeply unsettling and I can still hear her voice in my head when I think about it. I’m trying not to think about it.

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public house puffin salad

public house reindeer donut

Baejarins beztu pylsur, on the other hand, is refreshingly cheap, and apparently the must-try Iceland place. It’s a hot dog stand that’s been open since the 1930s, and pretty much everyone stops there to eat eina með öllu (one with everything: ketchup, mustard, remoulade, raw onions, and crunchy fried onions). The lamb-based hot dog is delicious, and all that onion makes your breath truly remarkable for the better part of the afternoon. Frankly I don’t care what the hot dogs are actually made of to make them so inexpensive, whether it’s ground up rats with wooly lamb coats or what, I was just thrilled not to spend $60+ on a meal (another reason I loaded up at free breakfast every morning).

beztu

I’m not sure what Texas-style pizza is but I do wish I had stopped in to find out. Then again, maybe not as their food is decribed as “intestinal terrorism”.

texas pizza

Because I am a mature adult, I spent some time singing “a few times I’ve been around that track/ so it’s not just gonna happen like that/ because I ain’t no hlölla bátar / I ain’t no hlölla bátar

aint no hlolla batar

If they don’t give you a gun with which to shoot your selection on the menu, I don’t even know what to say.

american style

At the hotel, I saw an advertisement for a fish spa, the establishment where a bunch of hungry fish eat all of the gross dead skin off of your feet. This was something I’ve been keen to try for a while, and it’s been banned in the US (as there’s no way to sterilize the fish) so this was my first opportunity and I’d be damned if I was going to pass it up. While it’s true you can’t sterilize the fish, they do have you clean your feet well before you plop them in a tank, washing them and then squeezing on some kind of antiseptic. It wasn’t the super ticklish sensation I expected, more of a pins-and-needles type feeling, except when they squeezed between my toes to get at some particularly tasty foot crud–that was ticklish. My feet were baby soft afterward though that probably has a lot more to do with soaking them in water for an hour and then layering on some thick lotion than the fish themselves. I wouldn’t say that where the fish could hear, though, as I wouldn’t want to crush their tiny spirits.

iceland fish spa

fish spa

I liked how bright many of the houses were, it made the city feel quite cheerful.

  colorful houses

drekkin

street

single gloves speed dating  

This one little pond was absolutely stuffed to the gills with birds one evening. My favorite was obviously this little short-necked dude strutting around like he owned the place.

sunset bird pond   neckless bird

I never did get to try Icelandic meat soup, but not for lack of trying. Everywhere I went, every time I tried to order it, they were out. I’m not certain Icelandic meat soup actually exists.

eat meee  

And that wraps up Iceland! The stuff I didn’t talk about really doesn’t deserve its own post.            

The Blue Lagoon Iceland

blue lagoon entrance

blue lagoon walkway

oooh pretty

people are terrible at following the rules

blue lagoon mist

those are some relaxed humans

About an hour outside of Reykjavik is the most delightful wastewater one could ever splash around in: The Blue Lagoon. No, really, as much as they try to sell it to you as a natural feature hewn by the gods for their personal relaxation, now available to mortals for the very first time, the water that you swim in was first used to create geothermal energy at the Svartsengi plant down the street. Not that it’s a bad thing–the water isn’t by any means contaminated, and it’s not akin to floating in a nuclear cooling tank–it’s just a little less all-natural than they’d have you believe. What is au natural is your ass before you enter the lagoon as they require you to bathe in the nude beforehand. Everyone is given the option of waiting in a rather sizeable line for a private stall, or you can do like I did and say “fuck it, I don’t have any parts they’ve never seen before” and strip down at one of the public stalls. The odds are good that no one was anxiously awaiting an eyeful of my fishbelly oatmeal thighs and even if they were, one eyeful would be plenty. This now marks three continents that I’ve flapped my nude bits around in, which makes for a weird bucket list item, but hey, work with what you’re given, right? I’m coming for you, Antarctica. Last. Brrr.

After I finished traumatizing the other guests, it was time to don my bathing suit and head outside. When I made my reservations, I balked at the extra 15 euro charge for the use of a robe and slippers. When I stepped out into the cold air, robeless, I couldn’t believe how unnecessarily cheap Past Mellzah was in terms of the discomfort Current Mellzah was feeling. The discomfort was momentary, though, and realistically, that robe would have only been useful for the ten steps between the door and the place you hang up the robes and towels, so it really would have been a waste of money and just another set of items to keep track of. Once I hopped into the water, it was allllll good. Water temperatures are in the 100 degree Fahrenheit range, though it’s possible to find hotter and cooler pockets. As someone who personally enjoys parboiling myself in the bath, the water temperature was ideal. I smeared my face with their silica mask and moved off into the mists, where it was easier to relax and pretend I had the place more to myself, away from the shouting bros proclaiming “NO WAY, BRO! YEAH BRO!” and their screeching girlfriends and everyone carrying a selfie stick or a cell phone packaged in a ziploc bag into the water. Seriously? I try to have a “you do you” attitude, but I couldn’t help but judge these people a little (a lot). Is it more important for people to see you relaxing on instagram than to actually relax? If so, your priorities are skewed. No, but for reals, how jealous will people be when they see me under this waterfall? Do my arms look fat? Take another one.

When I was able to ignore the fact that other people exist (GOSH), the lagoon was wonderful. Sipping a cold drink while steam rose up around me and snow dusted down on my hair was extraordinary, one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. Everything surrounding it, from the cattle call lines to get in and the crowded locker rooms to the constant surcharges and upselling was a little less so. For convenience and a last bit of unwinding before a flight, it’s a treat, but I was surprised that even on a weekday morning, the atmosphere can be more “vegas pool” than “relaxing spa”. Especially when someone drops their phone in the water.