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18 May 2013
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The Salton Sea area’s Salvation Mountain was handmade by folk artist Leonard Knight. That is right—handmade. By himself. Every single line of paint, every tree limb, every handmade flower on the walls, every “Jesus” written on the side of the 50-foot-tall mountain—all of it. Originally from the East Coast, Knight came out here to fly a balloon across the United States that he had made in the name of God, but the materials kept rotting. So Knight moved on to his new project and began to use what natural and materials were available to him. Using adobe clay, hay, water, found objects (such as tires and car parts) and—according to Leonard—a lot of faith, he built this gigantic tribute to God in the 1980s, epitomized by the words "God is Love" standing out underneath a giant cross at the top. Both religious and nonreligious people's faces light up when they…
09 May 2013
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Once I stepped into the one-story building off of Highway 111 near North Shore, I knew I would be going bananas. After all, this building is the home of the International Banana Museum. The first sense that is tested at the museum is smell, as you take in the aroma of banana-nut-bread candles. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but it becomes a welcome cloak as you peruse the collection. Vision is the second sense that is bombarded: It’s hard to describe the sheer amount of banana-related items in that room. Books on bananas, plastic bananas, food with bananas, stuffed toy bananas, stuffed toy monkeys with bananas, Christmas banana trees, banana stickers, jewelry-encrusted plastic bananas, banana snow globes, crème de banana liqueur, banana monkey necklaces, a flute in the shape of a banana … the list goes on. The purchaser of the original Banana Club collection started by Ken Bannister, …
29 Apr 2013
Javier Avila and Calani Raceles are two young men with mental challenges doing the unimaginable—playing baseball. “At first, my son didn’t even want to show up. He couldn’t catch a ball, let alone hold a bat. Through this program, his hand-eye coordination skills have improved, and he can do all those things,” says Enia Raceles, Calani’s mother. “Now he looks forward to each Friday so he can hit again and talk to his baseball friends.” Both Javier and Calani are players in the Challenger division of Coachella Little League. The program is made up of more than 20 physically and mentally challenged young people with disabilities including autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. The division started in 2010 and is the only one in the Coachella Valley. “As the only division of its kind here in the Coachella Valley, we want to teach everyone with a disability that you can…
21 Feb 2013
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In 1952, rural Nebraskans encountered an extraordinary sight: an Army chaplain and his 11-year-old nephew zipping around the state in a silver Jaguar convertible. "People in Nebraska never saw such a thing as an open-topped sports car!" Robert Berlo, the nephew, told me last spring from his home in Livermore, Calif. Berlo didn't inherit his uncle's love of flash: He bought four cars in his lifetime, three of them white Toyota Camrys. But that long-ago Nebraska adventure sparked a lifelong obsession with cartography and a love of stringently organized road trips. "We went flying through this little town called Elm Creek, and I saw a sign on the crossroad that said 'U.S. Highway 183,'" Berlo recalled. "The only time in my life that I've seen an unpaved U.S. numbered highway." It was, in fact, the last U.S. highway to be completely paved. Berlo's uncle planned the trip using a system…

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