Yes, Mecca is the name of a small agricultural town at the north end of the Salton Sea. Passing over a wide concrete irrigation channel, it was clear how integral this body of water was to the survival of farmers and cities to the north and south. Groves of grapefruit, lemon, oranges and palm trees stretched to my right while my vantage point on the hill offered a glimpse of the blue sparkling waters to my left. A few lemons had rolled close to the road so I pulled onto the shoulder and gleaned a small Vitamin C rich snack for later. Mecca was mostly a ghost town of trailers, boarded shops and a distant highway diverting traffic to a bustling super-gas-station packed with RV's, desert sleds, dune buggies and long trailers with all manner of OHV's.
I enjoyed oatmeal and coffee as the sun rose to warm the box canyon. The scooter purred as I suited up and began chasing my shadow down the narrow sandy canyon amid the cool shaded cliffs and warming washes, growing ever closer toward Mecca.
I collect water, gas up and promptly exit the busy parking lot for the 65 mph Highway 86 headed south down the west side of the Salton Sea. Located directly on the San Andreas Fault, the Salton Sea is actually 234 feet below sea level and saltier than the Pacific Ocean! The modern sea was created in 1905 by a fluke of engineering when a cut was made in the bank of the Colorado River in fear of silt buildup. This inadvertently overwhelmed the canal, followed by the unabated flow of the entire river into the basin for two years until being restored.
I turned off the fast-paced highway into the impoverished town of Salton Sea Beach. Bumping over the cracked and weathered asphalt, I observed the small 1960's era homes in various conditions from well kept and maintained to abandoned foundations on dusty lots. The few locals I saw eyed me with suspicion rather than returning my wave. Many homes had VW Beetle dune-buggies or desert quads parked under lean-to car ports. Dusty lawns and few trees hinted at the water crisis and lack of suitable drinking water. Weaving through burned out trailers and graffiti covered abandoned structures, I reached the empty beachfront.
The rotten dock anchored 50 feet from the shore hinted at the fluctuations and decreasing water level from variations in agricultural runoff, drought and irrigation demands. Pelicans graced the surface and gulls scattered in a bustle of squawking white. Glancing down at the crunch of my dusty boots, I realize I am walking on a beach of fish skeletons and calcium bleached white by the sun. Dead fish ring the shoreline closer to the waters edge emitting a noxious odor reminiscent of an oceanside cannery on a hot day.
The water that once appeared blue and beautiful from a distance reveals itself as a brown concoction of algae, dead fish and floating waste. Submerged tires and discarded furniture litter the shoreline in this, the most apocalyptic beach I've ever visited.
In May 2014 I quit my job to ride a Honda Ruckus over 69'000 mi and counting. Wild camping most nights and cooking most of my own meals, I keep the costs low and the landscape changing.