I mean, when you start the day at a 277-mile long canyon exposing 2 billion years of the Earth’s impacted history, there’s not much left in the universe that can impress you. At least, not until you drive by Bedrock City, a Flintstones-themed campground situated in Valle, Arizona, an unincorporated town that’s not drawn on any map.
OF COURSE we pulled over.
From the outside, you can’t see in, just the cold expanse of a lonely parking lot and kitchen smoke billowing beyond the sign that calls out the Bedrock Gift Shop and Diner. Upon entering, you’re greeted with a nativity set (no explanation) and a hanging rack of obscure Flintstones memorabilia that isn’t personalized for the attraction. There’s a woman behind the counter. She says her name is Landa Speckles. She looks tired, not from lack of sleep or the stress of a long workday, but tired of us. Already. And we just walked in.
Landa waits for me to talk first. “Umm.. Hi. How does this work?”
She talks past me – I mean – in my general direction, but staring blankly into the space behind my head. Landa’s half-answering, driveling off a rehearsed bit about the park and what it entails. It’s the slow season, so the train isn’t running (there’s a train?) and the theater is closed. But we are more than welcome to see it. Thanks, Landa.
$5 a head. Are we in? Yes, we are in.
She opens the rear door. “Exit back this way when you’re done. Have fun.”
“What abou–,” but she slams it behind us and now we are in a different dimension. We’ve landed in Bedrock.
Okay, it’s not another world. It’s the same flat dirt lot that the gift shop stands on. We can still see the naked yards beyond the property, the forsaken rusted cars left like carcasses, loose garbage blowing like tumbleweeds, and the dry wind sweeping across the land. But we also see this:
And then this.
And then this!
Bedrock City has been here for something like 40 years. I imagine it started off with all the right intentions. When we ask Landa about it later, she replies half-heartedly, “We’re big fans of the Flintstones,” and falls flat after that.
Each hut or house is plucked straight from the cartoon series. The stucco is haphazardly plastered across the homes, which only enhances their caricaturized quality. Each Flintstones cast member has his/her own establishment. This is the interior of the hospital:
Welcome to the Bedrock City Jail:
with the random pirate jailbird guy in his Caribbean lair:
Some more neighbors:
At the very back of the lot is the school, with a chin-up bar and the school bus parked outside:
It’s trippy how they dress the insides of the huts. They’ve gone through all the effort of keeping the building true, but then they’ve limped through the furnishings. Anything leopard-print or dinosaur-related gets included, whether it has to do with the Flintstones or not. Lots of wood 2X4s hammered together to keep the prehistoric vibe.
The only other patrons were hipsters on an ironic kick, and these giant 14-year-old boys. They were each 8 feet tall and wearing funny things on their heads.
After a while, Bedrock City went from being eerie and strange to downright fun and playful. By the end of our visit, I had to wonder, why hasn’t there been a music festival here yet? Or at least a daytime rave or mini Burning Man. It was charming in a way, the last vestiges of the classic roadside attraction. The final throes of the Americana road trip. It was both sad and comforting to know that Bedrock City might not be here in a few years’ time. After all, the cartoon property itself last held relevance in the John Goodman movie series. That was exactly 20 years ago.
Out of everything we saw, this was my favorite piece of Bedrock City. Dino’s bone:
Inside Fred’s house (not sure why he doesn’t live with Wilma), the record player he spins.
Pebbles’ corner. Bam-Bam sits on the other side of the wall:
The rhino ribs are stripes painted on chopped logs:
The watermelon? Seeds painted on a chopped log:
I’m guessing some of this stuff was made with a chopped log:
And at the very end are the “Goatasaureses.”
Why these are incorporated is anyone’s guess, but does anything make sense at this point? I mean, when you enter the premises, aren’t you agreeing to suspend reality to experience an unauthorized Flintstones park off the side of the road in a town that doesn’t exist? For 5 bucks?
So, yes. Yes, goats make sense.
Thanks Bedrock City!
That was different and unexpected and odd. Which is what made the whole experience so special.