The muffler man of Mentone, California stands watch over the desert valley from behind a fence in someone’s front yard. The plaque on his middle, like an ersatz giant belt buckle says “Outboard Inn, Mentone Beach.”
With his baseball bat at the ready it seems like he’s ready to rough any wayward trespassers up. Doesn’t he look like the type of guy that might tell someone they’re “cruisin’ for a bruisin’“?
Look at him! You just know he tells dad jokes. Or maybe lights his own farts on fire with a lighter. You can totally see that, right? It’s the stifled, sly smile.
The hot desert sun has bleached this poor fellas irises to a rusty orange tone. Either that or he’s really seen some stuff. It was 2020 when I visited, after all.
The Buyan spends his time amongst other interesting Mentone Beach-dwellers like a soldier in the Giant Chicken Army on the roof (naturally) and a Statue of Liberty head. Not to mention a bevy of outboard motors, antique car wheels, and a mountain of other yard junk.
If you take a look at the Google Maps streetview, you can get an idea of what’s doin’ in that yard. It’s quite something!
Though it was very tempting to try to get a peek over the fence, I heard dogs on the property so I opted to keep my distance. I’m sure they get plenty of visitors stopping for a look, but I wasn’t interested in being mauled. And when visiting these types of private home stops, even though they are a spectacle, I feel it’s important to respect their space.
Thank heaven for the weirdos. They keep life colorful.
Where are those places in which you feel at home, feel like your true self? What do the landscapes that tug at your heart and anchor you look like? Have you found mind-expanding inspiration in a particular environment?
I never expected to feel so inspired by the wide-open expanse of the desert areas in the American West. The vast open area stirs something deep within me. It’s as if the big sky reaches down to the horizon line, follows long-runnin’ tracks across the Earth, up through my feet and straight into my heart.
As someone who fears dark water and not being able to see what lies beneath, at first blush I thought perhaps the scrubby desert-scape is the antithesis of that. Everything is out in the open and available to be drunk in by your eyes.
But this is a trick your own mind plays on you. The dry range holds many secrets in the ripples and folds of its surface. As in so many things, we need to learn to see beyond the way we think something is, to the way it really is.
These photos were snapped along California 62, near what the map said was the “town” of Rice. There wasn’t much doin’ out there – just some train cars, tracks, and a few other odd remnants of humanity. While short on the trappings of society, it was big on thinkin’ room.
In January of 2020, once again my chance to go inside and peruse mountains of banana-themed wares slipped through my fingers. My only option was to slip around the side of the building to see if there was anything… appealing… to look at.
And while not being able to run my fingers across DIY knitted banana cozies was disappointing, seeing the magnificent artwork painted on the outdoor restrooms was a consolation.
It wasn’t until that very moment that I realized how healing a newspaper reading banana with fart-lines sitting on a toilet would be to my tired soul. But, it was.
Look at how happy that guy is. We could all learn a thing or two from him.
After snapping these photos, I… split.
Until we meet again AGAIN, International Banana Museum. Hopefully the third time will be a charm.
Back in olden times when I used to travel (January 2020), I found myself in the scrubby desert of eastern California making my way to the Arizona border.
The winter sun was warm and the sunbleached landscape began to give way to deeper hues as I rode closer to the Colorado River. My plan was to cross the Parker Dam and then head towards Lake Havasu, Arizona for the night.
When traveling, my senses are on high alert. This is especially true after a few days of settling into the rhythm of being in motion and shedding the skin of “real life.” Everything that is new to my eyes becomes exciting – the trees, the rocks, signs, rivers, abandoned structures, just everything. It is all a feast for the eyes which I gluttonously devour.
After seeing the first few signs noting that wild burros might be on the roadway, I was super-excited by the idea of seeing them. You can’t imagine how delighted I was to finally spot a pair strolling on the side of the road.
As soon as they came into view I pulled over. Not much of a burro harasser, I gave them plenty of space and watched as they lazily sauntered along swishing their tails. They didn’t pay much attention to me as I sat wat…
They didn’t pay any attention to me whatsoever and just went about doing wild burro things.
I chuckled to myself as I rode away. Wild burros, indeed.
In December of 2016, I traveled south along Route 111 on my way towards Salvation Mountain near the town of Mecca, California. At the time, the only thing on my mind was racing the setting winter sun so that I could have enough time to visit the attraction.
To my surprise, a muffler man came in to view as I motored along. All decked out in his cowboy finery, he was a handsome surprise.
Fast forward to 2017. The Mecca Muffler Man was sold and removed from his perch along the Salton Sea.
After being out of sight for almost a year, in 2018 he returned to view with a spiffy new paint job in the town of Joshua Tree. You’ll find him now a hop, skip, and a jump from the World Famous Crochet Museum standing outside of The Station.
In addition to his spiffy new livery, he’s also got himself a new name: Big Josh!
Say hello to Big Josh – The Joshua Tree Muffler Man.
Big Josh the Joshua Tree Muffler Man stands outside of The Station, welcoming visitors from far and wide with his rugged, handsome exterior..