July 31, 2014

I Said I Wouldn't Go Back

...unless it was to bring a group.

Photo by Todd Eric Andrews

So I returned to the ghost shipwreck, despite the arduous hike to it, despite the hot summer weather and the sun beating down.

I had first visited the wreckage of the Shipwreck Dominator during LA's annual May Gray season, a cloudy, overcast marine layer that the drought took away from us this year.

That meant I had the chance to return with some better lighting and lead my own group.

I saw things I hadn't seen before.

The dead, empty lobster shells along the rocks are a reminder of the impact that the Dominator's wreck had on the environment of Rocky Point...

...when it's wheat cargo absorbed the seawater and expanded into a gloppy oatmeal, attracting the flies which attracted the lobsters which attracted the fishermen.

You can still see a few fisherman (and their poles) down there these days...

...and although the tide was a little higher this time than last...

...I think I still discovered new pieces of wreckage that I hadn't seen before, perhaps brought in with the tide and never taken back out to sea.

Although it's not far, it's not an easy walk out there...

...and two people didn't make it all the way. But it felt like we had all really experienced something together, despite our sore ankles, fatigue and sunburn. And we were all grateful for that, and for the chance to make some new friends who share our love for adventure and discovery.

For the official event recap on, click here.

Related Posts:
EVENT: Shipwrecked! With Obscura Society LA
Photo Essay: Hike to a Ghost Shipwreck

July 29, 2014

Photo Essay: Palm Springs Country Club, Abandoned (Circa 2009)

I remember this day, and this place, well. I don't know why I haven't written about it til now.

I've got Palm Springs on my mind. I miss the desert. I miss traveling. I miss the danger and the openness and not caring how how it got.

On this day in July 2009, it was reaching peak summer heat in the low desert. I swear it was 125ยบ out. I hadn't been that hot since Morocco.

I'd acclimated to the desert pretty well over the past three weeks that I'd been there, managing to entertain myself on a daily basis and work freelance, even finding the perfect thing to do for the 4th of July – a Palm Springs baseball game and fireworks. In fact, I found myself more and more frequently in Palm Springs rather than Joshua Tree where I was staying, despite the fact that it was 10 to 15 degrees hotter down there in the Coachella Valley.

When I opened up my rental car door, on one of those rare days when I actually used the A/C, the afternoon air burned my skin upon contact, like it feels when you stick your face into an open oven door to check on something you're broiling at very high heat. I was certain I was going to be cooked out there, but I'd been looking for some solitude in Palm Springs, and I thought I'd find it at the abandoned country club.

Palm Springs has plenty of abandoned gas stations and warehouses and other roadside relics, but this was something I could really explore on my own for a while.

If I didn't get caught.

If I could stand the heat.

I remember sailing kind of quickly through the property, eyeing the trucks that were parked next door, attuned to the sound of workers nearby. I was wearing a dress and carrying a tiny camera to look innocent enough, but I was an inexperienced urban explorer, and worried about getting into trouble.

I was an inexperienced urbex photographer, too, and although I got a couple of lovely shots, many of them are purely to document the area and aren't exactly artful. Maybe that's why I didn't post them at the time.

If I'd had longer there, I could've done better.

But, five years later, it's an interesting flashback for me artistically....and emotionally.

Since the gate was locked, I think I got in through the broken fence.

The photo of the golf score card was the only one I'd published previously (on my photo blog).

It was amazing to find any signage or ephemera not pillaged by scavengers.

There were these memorial plaques at the foot of some of the palm trees.

Public records indicate that Rudy Santoyo died alone in Palm Springs in 1997 at age 74, with no family. But he had his golfing buddies.

The architecture of the club was typical Mid-Century Palm Springs.

There were no cars...

...but clearly the "No Trespassing" signs had been ignored...

...and not only just by me.

Anyone know what this place looks like now? I found some photos online circa 2011 when it was still abandoned (and weirdly grassy) but haven't been able to figure out an update over the last three years...

July 28, 2014

Photo Essay: Bugattis, Rusted & Restored at Mullin Automotive Museum (Updated for 2024—Permanently Closed)

[Last updated 3/5/24 12:13 AM PT—Mullin Automotive Museum founder Peter Mullin passed away in 2023 and the museum closed permanently in February 2024. Some of the cars from the collection will be donated to the Petersen Automotive Museum, which Mullin also founded, while others will go to other collections.]

I've made my way around a few car museums...

...but I'd never seen anything like what was at the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard a couple weeks ago.

During a show devoted to the art of Bugatti, the multi-generational manufacturer of high performance automobiles, I got to see the aerodynamic 1939 Type 64 Coupe...

...which Jean Bugatti never got to build (or drive) before he died. Mullin had the chassis displayed lifted off of its frame so you could see the intricacies of the design details from the inside-out.

They even displayed the coachwork buck, with all of its wooden ribs (looking a bit more like a musical instrument than a car), which was used to manufacture the Type 64 for the exhibit.

Who knew Bugatti ever designed an airplane?!

But the real point of interest for me...

...was the Schlumpf Reserve Collection... example of a new trend in car collecting...

...which is not to restore the car...

...but merely stabilize it and preserve it in the condition it was found and acquired.

The Schlumpf Collection, originally located in France, features several Bugattis (some very rare) frozen in time...

...from when the cars had been stored in a barn for over 20 years... to the elements...

...having been seized by the French government when the Schlumpf brothers had to flee Switzerland in 1977.

Today, it is the largest collection of unrestored classic cars in the world.

They are rusted...

...and dirty...

...their paint peeling...

...and faded...

...their canvas torn and roofs collapsed.

Each one shows the toll of time in its own unique way.

Eventually the rights to the majority of the collection were reverted back to the Schlumpf family, though the brothers had all died by the time of the court decision.

Peter Mullin was able to acquire 17 Bugattis...

...though the original collection was more like 450 models.

Even more intriguing... the museum's own "shipwreck" Bugatti...

...the 1925 Type 22 Brescia Roadster...

...which was abandoned by a lake by a broke playboy trying to return home to Switzerland from Paris, without money to pay for customs at the international border.

The law required Swiss officials to destroy the abandoned car after a couple of years, so they just pushed it in to the lake, attached to chains in case they ever needed to pull it out.

Unfortunately, the chains broke, and the Bugatti plummeted to the bottom of the lake, 173 feet below the surface, too deep to go in the pre-SCUBA era.

After being rediscovered by divers in 1967, the roadster stayed submerged in the lake for another forty years, until being lifted out of the lake in 2009 – nearly 75 years after its disposal there.

For people less interested in the grit and grime of delicious abandonment...

...the exhibit had plenty of shiny cars with a new paint job, like the 1936 Type 57SC Atlantic...

...the 1951 Type 101C Cabriolet...

...the 1931 Type 54 Roadster...

...the 1922 Type 23 Brescia Two-Seater...

...and a rare glimpse of what the sunken and dredged Brescia might've looked like before swimming with the fishes.

It's a little sad that none of these cars will ever run again, but even those in their unrestored condition show off an amazing sense of industrial design and style – one that was shared by multiple generations of the Bugatti family, each with their own unique take on everything from the traditional racecar to the everyday sportscar.

My visit was supposed to be during the last weekend of the Bugatti exhibit at the Mullin, but fortunately it has been extended until December, giving more people a chance to see this intriguing and rare collection.

Related Posts:
Life Is a Highway
Photo Essay: The Cars of the Nethercutt Museum & Collection
Photo Essay: Hike to a Ghost Shipwreck
Photo Essay: The Rusty Ruin of Antique Machinery