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When I first saw Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, I instantly recognized how it got its name. I wasn’t sure whether to be grossed out by the sight of so much used chewing gum or amazed that so many people had contributed to this representation of public art. My reaction was mixed — a bit of “oh, gross” and a lot of fascination.

For reasons known only to college students, San Luis Obispo (home of California Polytechnic State University) sports a brick alley between 733 and 734 Higuera Street that has been (literally) gummed up since the 1960s. A visit here will give you something to chew on.

This sticky landmark is worth the drive. Walls on both sides are covered with thousands of pieces of chewed gum in a rainbow of colors. Perusing the walls is akin to a treasure hunt. I’m awed by the myriad examples of gum art. I discover hearts, peace signs, names, flowers and faces.

If you feel inclined, leave your mark on this zany wall. There are several gumball machines on Higuera Street. Just chew and apply.

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Comments

Bonnie Maffei Aug. 11, 2009 @ 11 a.m.

Don't wait 20 years to visit Bubblegum Alley, you may not be able to squeeze through!

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angelp Aug. 11, 2009 @ 1:20 p.m.

Don't lean on the wall even for a second!!

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magicsfive Aug. 12, 2009 @ 9:45 a.m.

it is fascinating and colorful for sure...but it literally stinks lol...but i wouldn't have missed it and contributed my own piece of purple gum :)

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Josh Board Aug. 12, 2009 @ 10:24 a.m.

I'd rather have walls filled with this, than the occasional piece I step on when I'm out somewhere.

Does anyone remember a roller coaster called The Gold Rush? I think it's at Magic Mountain, but not positive. When it first starts, there's a section that everyone has put their gum on. It always had about 100 pieces and was gross. And, I just figured at one point, I'd hear a story in the news about a teenager trying to put their piece of gum on it, only to have their arm chopped off as they reached out of the roller coaster.

Speaking of which...how fun must it have been for those folks on the roller coaster up north? They were stuck, almost upside down, for four hours. And you know what the got for that inconvenience? Two tickets to come back again.

Thank you very much.

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Russ Lewis Aug. 12, 2009 @ 12:12 p.m.

Too bad you know about this now. I wandered into it a few years ago when I was up in SLOtown and had no clue whatsoever that it existed. Suddenly, there it was, these two huge pointillistic murals on opposite sides of me, tons and tons of bubblegum on the walls. One of the most surrealistic things I've ever encountered.

You gotta wonder how something like that gets started. Does someone think it up and publicize it? Does it spontaneously begin growing on its own?

San Diego's equivalent would be the Painted Freeway (52, I think, near UCSD), where art students filled bags of paint and dropped them off the backs of passing pickups. Matthew Alice wrote about this.

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