CLUI Bus Tours Probe L.A.'s Hinterland

Three bus tours organized by the CLUI took tourists into the desert regions surrounding Los Angeles, as part of the CLUI's exhibit called Hinterland: A Voyage Into Exurban Southern California, which was displayed at the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibits (LACE) gallery in Hollywood, May 29 to July 6.

1117 Tourists travelling through the hinterland while excerpts from Antonioni's desert movie epic "Zabriskie Point" plays on monitors overhead. CLUI photo

THE SERIES OF DAY-LONG BUS tours took tourists into the area outside the urban zones--the hinterland--to visit sites selected for their unusual and expressive qualities. Due to the spread-out nature of the hinterland, the tours covered as much as 500 miles and lasted ten hours. An extensive program of videos related to the sites and regions being visited helped provide context for the tours, and to fill some of the time in-between sites. Interpretation of the sites was provided through a narrative prepared by Matthew Coolidge of the CLUI, and by "local briefers" who came aboard the bus whenever possible.

Tour 1, entitled Antelope Valley: The Cradle and Grave of Aerospace, visited some of the major, and minor, aerospace facilities in the Antelope Valley, north of Los Angeles, including a tour around the perimeter of Air Force Plant 42, where the Stealth Bomber is made, and a visit to a "secret" radar-cross-section test facility, used to develop radar-evasive military aircraft.

1130 Tourists milling around the Aviation Warehouse Inc. yard, at El Mirage, CA, where aircraft parts are stored and used for films. Pieces from this yard have been trucked all over the country and used in over 300 feature films, including Speed, Hero, and Con Air. CLUI photo
At the" grave" end of the aviation spectrum, the tour bus visited an aircraft scrap yard where an unusual collection of parts of all sorts of aircraft are used as props in films. Tourists walked through the yard, guided by a "local briefer" who pointed out fragments of aircraft that were used in various notorious Hollywood movies. The tour continued to Edwards Air Force Base, the active and historic military aviation R&D base where the sound barrier was broken for the first time, and across the runways of Mojave Airport, where airliners as large as 747's are stored and cut up for scrap.

1118 Giant Rock, a stop on the second Hinterland tour, was the site of many UFO reports, and is the former home of the Van Tassel Family, as well as a current hipster rave site. It is said to weigh more than Los Angeles' City Hall. CLUI photo
Called The Desert Proper, the second tour took place two weeks later, and went east of the Great City, to a remote desert art-deco pumping plant along the Colorado River Aqueduct, to an abandoned mine, being considered as a massive dump for Los Angeles' trash, and to various unusual spiritual sites, such as the Institute of Mentalphysics, the Integratron, and Giant Rock, a location with a rich history of unusual uses, including as a major UFO site in the 1950's.

1119 On the Salton Sea tour, the bus stopped at
Salvation Mountain,an impressive landmark next to Slab City, where Leonard Knight has been painting a hillside for twelve years. CLUI photo
The third and final tour went "south" (the other two went "north" and "east" of Los Angeles, respectively), circumnavigating the Salton Sea, an unusual inland sea, that formed by accident in 1905, filling up a dry valley to become California's largest inland body of water in just a few years. The tour, entitled The Salton Sea and Imperial Valley: Inundation and Desiccation, examined a number of the unique land uses that have materialized along the salty and hot shores of the sea, including a massive geothermal power complex, a chemical waste dump, a former nuclear weapons lab site, and numerous crumbling resorts.

The luxury motor coaches used for the Hinterland tours were provided by Sunrise Plaza Charter Services, and departed from and returned to the LACE gallery, where tour participants could view the gallery exhibit of one hundred 11 by 14 inch color photographs, before departure.

All three tours sold out rather quickly, and the CLUI is considering organizing another tour series in coming months.

1131 Cocktails were served to Hinterland tourists at the on the last tour, an abandoned yacht club on the north shore of the Salton Sea. Hors d'oevres included a variety of smoked, salted, and dried fish. CLUI photo