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Riding Shotgun with a Real-Life Mad Max

Deep in the California desert, at a post-apocalyptic gathering where anything goes.

By | July 13, 2016

For Mike Orr, a.k.a. “Sweet Lips,” escapism comes in the form of Wasteland Weekend: an annual four-day post-apocalyptic festival held in the Southern California desert that attracts thousands of people from around the country. It’s basically a giant celebration of end-of-the-world culture, where, per Sweet Lips, “people can do whatever they want.” This includes everything from hand-to-hand combat to burlesque to bonfires that set the night sky ablaze.

But most of all, people come to Wasteland for the cars  —  DIY war machines that look as though they’ve rolled right out of “Fury Road.” For his part, Sweet Lips is in a constant competition to outdo himself, always imagining, devising and constructing a junkyard monster that’s bigger and better than the year before. His main ride at Wasteland is a Camaro, the grill of which is adorned with a near life-sized mermaid (Sweet Lips rescued it from an aquarium where a bunch of turtles were constantly trying to hump it). And at the most recent Wasteland Weekend, he refurbished the hulk of the Exxon Valdez from the Kevin Costner bomb “Waterworld” (he bought it for $1). In other words: There’s nothing he won’t do to push the limits of Wasteland revelry.

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This story is republished from MEL Magazine. MEL aims to challenge, inspire and encourage readers to drop any preconceived notions of who they’re supposed to be.

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