1) Dogs Surfing
So yeah, dog surfing is a thing. I don’t think it’s going to be the next Olympic sport but it’s entertaining as heck. I mean dogs, surfboards, wipeouts, AND fashion. Here Derby the surf dog is looking cool with his matching mohawk and sunglasses. You don’t want your dog looking droopy and surfing goofy.
2) Grandparents on the Ropes Course
Don’t get me wrong. This is awesome. I want to be this guy when I grow up. Still balling and taking names. What makes him more gangsta? This is their 30th wedding anniversary celebration. Just picture yourself saying your wife to a ropes course for any wedding anniversary, let alone the big 3-0. #MadRespect.
3) Ruby Falls Waterfall
Deep inside Lookout Mountain (Tennessee / Georgia) is Ruby Falls. Here, Leo Lambert proved why he totally rocks. No pun intended. Ok… A little pun intended. You see, he loved visiting Lookout Mountain Cave as a kid, but the man (re: railroad company) build a tunnel through and sealed it off. Not to be dissuaded, he built a company to dig an elevator shaft to the cave. He busted through and the cave was all messed up from train soot but the story didn’t end there.
On the way down, 260’ under the surface he busted into a small side passage. Being a badass, he immediately set out in the wet, 18” high passage and explored for 10 hours. The next day, he came back with his wife Ruby to show her the falls that bear her name today. Not only was he a badass, he had a great woman. I wonder what they did for their 30th anniversary?
4) Ricardo Breceda Sculptures
As soon as we saw the statue gardens outside of Borrego Springs, we knew we had to make the pilgrimage of strange. They were awesome. 50’ dragons, giant insects locked in mortal combat, and mystical dinosaur creatures dotted the desert for reasons that all boiled down to just looking cool. That alone would have made this list, but there is actually a storefront off California highway 79 that you can pick up one of these bad boys for yourself. Perhaps they would make a good anniversary gift.
5) Salvation Mountain
In 1956, a displaced band of wanderers and vagabonds came upon the ruins of Camp Dunlap in California Desert. They knew that enough psychedelic drugs could take the edge of off 120 degree heat so they made this place their home. This monument was created by Leonard Knight who came to Slab City / Niland Arizona in 1984, but the story doesn’t start there.
Leonard saw a balloon flying over his home in Burlington Vermont in 1970. Adorning the balloon was the Lord’s Prayer. Being a deeply religious man, he thought this was the perfect way to spread the word of God and his love of God. He spent the next 14 years trying (and failing to) build a balloon. Defeated, he decided to stay for one more week in Slab City.
That week turned into months, and then years. Day after day, he drug dirt and rubbish out of the dump and constructed the first Salvation Mountain. Turns out he wasn’t that good at building mountains either because it collapsed in 1988.
What Leonard lacked in balloon and mountain building skills, he made up for in moxie and inspiration. He learned from his mistakes and built that second Inspiration Mountain even bigger and grander than before. He also built a network of supports to carry on his dream. They donated over 100,000 gallons of paint to decorate and upkeep the massive work. They also donate their time to keep building and preserving Salvation Mountain.
6) International Banana Museum
Staying on the shores of the Salton Sea, we come to this banana bastion of bafflement. Who would make an International Banana Museum and better yet, who would visit? I am still not convinced this is any more than an old timey roadside attraction like the World’s Largest Ball of Earwax but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop. They do have some pretty good milkshakes. I would recommend the banana.
However, words fail to describe what’s going on inside here so I’ll just show some pictures. I added captions but feel free to suggest more in the comments.
“Banana Kitten is Pleased”
“Garfield looks a little too happy”
“I don’t care if it rains or freezes, as long as I got banana Jesus…”
“Hey, where are you putting that banana?”
7) Teepees in DC
As you remember, early in 2017, the Standing Rock Sioux Nation took exception to the Army Corps of Engineers routing a pipeline beside their land and through the water supply without an environmental impact study. It’s hard to spin this with any levity but isn’t it fascinating to see this kind of protest in DC and lucky that we were able to get the shot.
8) Princess Cave Thailand
OK, enough stories about dicks without good punchlines. Here is a dick story you can really enjoy. The legend of Princess Cave goes as follows. A long time ago, there was a wedding party that went south fast. They probably heard about the plan to go to a ropes course on the honeymoon or something. Anyway, the entire wedding party gets to bickering so the gods turn them into various mountains and islands in the area. The princess gets turned into this cave, where to local fishermen insert their phallus to bring good luck and great fishing. I am not really sure about the symbolism here but… It’s a dick cave.
Full Story: Exploring the Andaman Sea: Phuket, Phi Phi, and Railay
9) Workout Parks in Thailand
During our visit to Thailand, we kept seeing these workout parks. Finally, we asked our guide what the scoop was. It turns out the king wanted his citizens to be healthy, so he ordered one of every piece of gym equipment. Then he asked his engineers to make them on a mass scale and put them in public parks so everybody can work out. It’s a great idea, but the functionality just isn’t there.
Full Story: Exploring the Andaman Sea: Phuket, Phi Phi, and Railay
10:) Toon Bodyslam
Now don’t go Googling this (or the DC Picture) and telling me that we’ve dipped into 2016. I just don’t care. I need 17 things or I’ll have to re-write the post title. It’s easier to just re-write history. Toon Bodyslam made an epic run across Thailand for charity. He raised millions of dollars that went to hospitals across the country. He rocks.
Now what makes this strange is that his run exactly coincided with our bike tour down the coast. Every night, we would see his fans gathering and our guides were excited to follow his progress. He was always staying at a hotel just down the street from us. Finally on the last night, he went running by us as we were having breakfast.
We can bike faster than he can run, so we caught up by the time he reached the finish line. We passed by rows and rows of Thai people cheering at the finish. So we just waved as we passed. I wonder if somebody in Thailand has a picture of us on their Instagram with a question “who are these white people?”
11) Doug Aitken’s Underwater Pavilions
The City of Avalon on Catalina Island has a mighty fine dive park. Famous artist, Doug Aitkens built a series of three underwater domes to be installed in the park. They are artwork meant to be experienced. They are suspended from the seafloor and you can navigate through the shapes, surrounded by mirrors. It was pretty dang cool but I don’t think it’s around anymore.
Full Story: Taking the Plunge – Our First Solo Dive at Catalina Island
12) Diving at Aquarium of the Pacific
If you are a well qualified diver, you can dive at Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach California. This gentleman decided to do his dive dressed like a pirate – hook and all. I could almost hear him gurgling “Ahoy Matey” through his regulator.
13) Mexican Water Parks
Don’t I look cool here? Sailing through the air with an intent look on my face… Down in Tijuana, they have a really fun water park called El Vergel. It has great food, cheap drinks, and slides that just couldn’t exist in America. My first thought when I saw the massive Slip and Fly was that it didn’t look safe. You climb like 100’ in the air and then slide down the hill on a slip and slide. A ramp on the bottom launches you into the air and you get a good bit of airtime. Then I saw the ambulance parked under the ramp and two lifeguards on duty and surmised it must be perfectly safe.
You can see from the movie, it wasn’t that safe and I wasn’t that cool.
14) Lucha Libre
Staying in Tijuana, we come to a night of Lucha Libre. If you ever get a chance to go, jump on it. This was good, clean fun. Actually, it was kind of messy with copious amounts of drinking but still fun and probably safer than the Slip and Fly.
Things got really messy when a Luchadore broke out his signature move of hitting people with fluorescent light bulbs. But they did give me this bitchin’ mask and let me play in the ring after the match so they make list list at #14.
15) Dia de Los Muertos
OK, there is a theme here. If you want to find a little strange, go to Tijuana. No wait… That didn’t come out right…
Moving on, Day of the Dead is pretty dang cool in Mexico. Here we are on a tour where we were serenaded at the Gil Family Crypt. The young Gil daughter wanted to marry her lover but her father forbade it. She perished from grief and she is remembered on Dia de Los Muertos by young lovers and romantics throughout the city. In Mexico, the dead aren’t scary. This is a holiday to remember, visit, and gain favors from those who have passed on.
16) Catavina Gas Stations
Mexico Highway 1, the Baja Highway, is one of the most notorious roads in the world. In the days, the heat case rise above 100 degrees. At night, cows come to sleep on the warmth of the road. There are spots where rivers flow across the pavement and others where potholes appear that seem large enough to eat a car. One 400 km stretch is known for having no services. The only town is Catavina, where enterprising locals sell gasoline much like kids selling lemonade.
17) Weirdly Awesome Comic-Con
It turns out that bringing hundreds of thousands of comic book nerds to San Diego is a hotbed for weirdness. That was almost too easy. I didn’t want to take that shot but I was running out of material. Comic Con is wierdly awesome in every way imaginable. It’s hard to get tickets, but even wandering around the outside is an all day adventure that could anchor a trip to San Diego.
Wrapping up the Strange 17
This exercise was harder than I expected. I had to go back nearly 18 months to get 17 Strange Things. I always felt like I was a purvey of weirdness, but perhaps I have been caught up chasing the beautiful and exciting and not just enjoying the exceptions.
I will need to remember to keep the spirit of the strange with me. To let new experiences, any new experiences resonate with me. It’s on these fringes that inspiration and motivation might be hiding.