There’s no denying it; Americans have become slab-happy.
First came the “The Slabs” in Niland, California, an abandoned military base of empty concrete foundations and desert refuge for squatters and snowbirds out by Salvation Mountain.
Next came imported, chopped-up Berlin Wall sections in the early 1990s. Slabs from the Wall — magically imbued with Cold War strife and USA-planted seeds of freedom — soon became attractions all over America, even if the connection to the Wall was a little strained.
The newest manifestation of Slab Culture: museums displaying slabs from old roads. We first noticed it at Daytona USA, whose exhibits include a hunk of the highway on which the race used to be run.
Now a Spokane, Washington museum has preserved a hunk of old US 10 after it was torn up for repairs. US 10 isn’t celebrated like certain other roads — and it isn’t particularly historic. But it ran through Spokane, and this hunk had the date that it was poured engraved into it. “The numbers,” according to an article in the Spokesman-Review, “have been outlined in blue to make them easier to see.”
Rome had its Appian Way. Are we seeing an emerging “Slabbian Way” — crumbling chunks of infrastructure awaiting enshrinement in museums?
And do you want to devote another second to thinking about slabs?
Funny you should mention slabs, especially “The Slabs” where Salvation Mountain is located. I was just now watching the fantastic movie Into the Wild which features location shots of The Slabs, Salvation Mount and Leonard Knight! Perhaps the museums are simply, like everyone it seems, short on cash so they are displaying slabs of road. At least they can get some environmental kudos for not allowing this material to hit the local landfill!
We second that plug for the documentary “Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea” (available on DVD). Fun interviews, a good chronicle of the Salton Sea history, and plenty of picturesque, briny wanderings. After watching it, you’ve feel like you’ve been living there for decades!
I recently met a couple living south of San Francisco who have a slab of the golden gate bridge in their driveway. It serves as a bridge over a massive drainage ditch between the road and their home. The slab was found at a salvage yard, and it was supposedly removed due to earthquake damage. They left the lane markers in place as proof of its origin.
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