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Indybay Feature

5th Annual New Year Hitchhiker Happening

Date:
Friday, December 28, 2007
Time:
12:00 PM - 12:00 AM
Event Type:
Party/Street Party
Organizer/Author:
Morgan 'Salman'
Email:
Location Details:
3 miles east of Niland in Southern California, Slab City is a vagabond/ snowbird community by the Salton Sea. Directions and maps can be found on the included weblink at digihitch.

On December 28th, 2007, hitchhikers young and old will be thumbing into the California desert to swap stories and tips from the road. Hippies, hobos, punk-rockers, military veterans, and other modern nomads will come together for the 5th year in "Slab City," an off-the-grid community of snowbirds and seasoned travelers near the Salton Sea of Southern California.

"It's a non-denominational gathering," says Morgan Strub, creator of digihitch.com, a popular website devoted to hitchhiking and vagabonding with over 10,000 members around the world. "We gather to celebrate road culture, make new friends, and share tips to help us all travel safer and with a stronger sense of purpose. We're a pretty diverse group of people, but it's our urge to explore outside the norm that brings us together."

Revelers are reportedly making their way to the event from as far away as Canada and the U.S. East Coast. Martin, a longtime member of digihitch.com and hippie-era hitchhiker is known by username, Kahliah. He sent this message on the website before leaving from Ohio on December 18: "Heading off toward Slab City this morning a day late, was way too cold Monday hahahah. See you in Slab City..."

Kat, a mohawked man in his twenties, plans to drive from Iowa. He has toured with punk bands and logged his share of miles by thumb, but is now 'rubber tramping' in a vehicle he calls "vanarchy," picking up hitchhikers along the way. He's been coming to Slab City for the last three years, staying for part of the winter as many thousands of others do- in makeshift mobile homes, conversion vans and even late model RVs.

Redford will also be returning to Slab City for his 3rd hitchhiker happening. At 6'7" tall, he is an imposing figure by the side of the road, but this 30-something chef puts drivers instantly at ease with his smile and stories from 50,000+ miles of hitchhiking North America. He has thumbed from up near the arctic circle of Alaska all the way into the heart of Mexico. On his digihitch member profile he writes, "Started on a two month vacation/hike. Now 47 states, 7 provinces of Canada, 12 states of Mexico before trying for the world."

Rex aka "Scrappy," a Vietnam veteran, world traveler, and featured writer on digihitch, will be attending for the first time. His more than two dozen stories published on the website have inspired many travelers this past year. He plans to hitchhike out from Central Arizona shortly after Christmas.

The New Year's gathering, called a "Hitchhiker Happening," is a volunteer-based, non-sponsored event and no one profits financially.

"We encourage everyone to pitch in what they can, and to give back to the Slab City community in one way or another," says Strub, known on digihitch by his road name, "Salman" -- a reference to Jack Kerouac's character, Sal Paradise, in "On the Road." Morgan began promoting hitchhiker happenings in 2002 via digihitch.com. He has thumbed over 35,000 miles in the last 18 years, most recently to attend the National Hobo Convention in Iowa, and see the Kerouac exhibit in Lowell, Massachusetts, last August. To date, he has helped coordinate over a dozen events across the USA and Canada, often with no more than 10-30 attendees.

"This year will see a lot more people out there. We've avoided hype and most media attention in the past, but now everyone's been googling our Slab City and Chris McCandless pages, curious to see the place featured in the 'Into the Wild' movie," Strub says.

Chris McCandless had hitchhiked to Slab City in the early 90s, before his fateful trip to Alaska, as written about in the book, "Into the Wild," by Jon Krakauer. Now a major motion picture of the same name, the movie -directed by Sean Penn and starring Emile Hirsch- includes pivotal scenes at this desert community. Several "Slabbers" (as locals are often called) also appear in the film as extras, including 'Builder' Bill of outdoor music venue The Range, and Leonard Knight, creator of Salvation Mountain- the unique art landmark featuring gospel messages made with over 100,000 gallons of paint.

"Slab City is a one-of-a-kind destination," Morgan Strub says. "Everyone should see it at least once. You don't have to be a hitchhiker to come. But if you are or once were, find our camp out near Salvation Mountain, scrounge a seat, and swap some road tales."

EVENT DETAILS:
The event lasts December 28, 2007, through January 2nd, 2008.
* Bring a sleeping bag and tent/tarp and expect primitive camping conditions.
* Musicians are encouraged to bring an instrument and jam with the band at The Range, a no-permit, outdoor music venue.
* Artists are invited to come and create free-standing art or reclaim unused structures for art. Looking for team interested in creating a free-standing installation for hitchhiker tribute.
* Ages 18+ recommended at hitchhiker camp unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Hitchhiker-friendly directions and maps to Slab City - and hitchhiker camp- at gathering.digihitch.com/slabmaps.php
Added to the calendar on Wed, Dec 19, 2007 3:36AM
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