The headline of this entry is actually way out in front of the content. I still have a full day to catch up. As far as the blog is concerned, let’s talk Thursday and Palm Springs.
It was breakfast in the room again. And, again, I’m questioning the reviews I read about the Hyatt Suites in Palm Springs. We were so worried about the condition of the hotel, but it was quite nice and the staff was very friendly and helpful. The fact that our included breakfast could be delivered to the room (with a reasonable delivery charge) was a bonus.
The only small… very small… exception is the valet parking. I understand it is run by a contractor and it is not as fully staffed as the hotel, so sometimes we had to wait.
Thursday morning was my time to do something a little unusual – the kind of thing vacations are for. I went 4-wheeling on a quad in the desert.
The back story is, as we first drove toward Palm Springs we passed an area, off the highway, in a desolate desert area on the side of a hill near the wind turbines. There was what looked like a trailer (actually, on closer inspection, it was an old railroad caboose), some off road vehicles and a lot of dust! On the side of the caboose, in big letters, were the words “OFF ROAD QUADS.”
I knew from the first time I spied the place I’d have to go. The big question was when.
Steffie agreed to ride too, though it was obvious she was apprehensive because of a ‘fear of flipping.’ Quite honestly, the place did look a little scary. Little four wheelers, their 90 cc engines whining, were climbing the hills like yellow and red billy goats.
It just seemed like a vacation thing to do.
As we walked onto the lot¹ hand printed signs said to follow numbered signs 1-5 for a pre-briefing. Sign one pointed into what looked like a cave. Inside there was a TV playing a safety DVD.
Though the people on the DVD looked a little scruffy, you could tell they were concerned with safety. Because of the dust, the DVD was pausing and breaking up every few seconds, but the message got through. Each point on the DVD was demonstrated twice – first by a man, then a woman.
I had driven motorcycles before, so I had an idea what to do. This was foreign ground for Steffie, especially the semi-automatic transmission. She watched and as I would later see, the instructions paid off.
We moved on and got a hair net, helmet and goggles. By the time I was outfitted, I looked like one of the villains in the classic MTV video “Take on Me” by A-ha.
We moved on to a final safety lecture as we sat on our quads. More than once the instructor said if you were rode nicely you’d get extra time. We bought 30 minutes, but got 45 minutes.
When it was time to leave, we headed out into the open expanse of the hillside. Steffie went slowly at first, methodically weighing the surroundings before picking up any speed.
It was easy to see Steffie was still a bit uncomfortable, but she pressed on. Slowly we worked our way higher and higher up the hillside – each time screeching down with gravity as our main propulsion.
I’m not sure I would ever do this again, but I’m glad we did it here. My guess is Steffie feels the same way. She’s glad to have what will probably be a once in a lifetime experience for her!
We headed back toward the hotel and after a quick stop turned toward Rancho Mirach and Palm Desert. Steffie and Helaine had heard of more shopping places and didn’t want to leave any stone unturned.
Our first stop was El Paseo. It was a little tough to find, but we made it!
By outward look, this is an upscale shopping street of boutique type stores. El Paseo’s median strip features lots of large sculptures, some serious others more fun. The store fronts are well kept with flowers blooming nearly everywhere.
The problem, I am told, is what’s in the stores. I’m not the expert here, so I’ll tell you what Helaine and Steffie said. The stores had overpriced merchandise but with little style… or bad style. They were very disappointed.
The good thing about shopping is, even when disappointed, there are other places to go. So we headed back up Route 111 and turned into The River.
Like so much else out here, The River is mainly open air between stores. And, again, as you would expect in an area like this, the stores were upscale and attractive. While the girls scouted around, I headed to their Borders bookstore.
Good choice on my part. You can’t have too many books and magazines to read on the long flight back.
Recently, I had noticed the computer section of the bookstores I visit shrinking. There was less and less of what I like to browse… and sometimes buy. This Borders was very large and had plenty of everything.
By this time it was late afternoon, so we headed back to the hotel.
We had heard Palm Springs hosted a street festival every Thursday evening. The main drag… the one in front of the hotel… gets shut to traffic while vendors set up in the street. This was one of those unplanned for fun things that can happen on vacation.
The other unplanned bonus was the arrival of Cousin Michael, Melissa and Max. After our visit to Laguna with them, we all decided it would be fun if they could make it to Palm Springs for dinner. It’s a schlep – over two hours driving, but they decided to come and spend the night at our hotel.
We really didn’t get to spend that much time at the fair, but I did see lots of fresh produce and vegetables, artwork (some reasonably priced… though not all), crafts and some California-centric items, like pictures of your aura!
It was once said that everyone in Palm Springs was gray or gay. That’s not as true today, though both communities were well represented, including a booth for the Caballeros, Palm Springs Gay Men’s Choir, selling tickets to their Barry Manilow tribute show (and singing along with his songs from their booth).
We ended up having dinner at “St. James.” It has a mixed European menu and a very interesting floor plan. The restaurant has all sorts of little nooks and alcoves with tables, giving you a bit of privacy in an otherwise busy place.
I had linguine with shrimp and a white sauce. It was okay – nothing to write home about. It also probably marks my last close contact with pasta for a while.
I can only imagine how much weight I’ve put on during this vacation. I’ve eaten like a little pig. It will all come off over time, but it’s sad.
Was it worth it? Ask me after I’ve been off carbs for a month or so.
I am writing this blog entry from Gate 4A at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank (and later added this photo of our plane as we boarded using the free wireless access at McCarren Airport in Las Vegas). We’re awaiting our first flight, to Las Vegas. Later this afternoon we’ll pick up another plane and head home to Connecticut.
This morning we were all a little tired and a little sad. This was a great vacation. We all did a lot of the things we wanted to do and had a lot of pleasant surprises. The better the vacation, the tougher it is going home.
Later this weekend (hopefully) I will post more photos to my gallery (to see the vacation photos already there, click here) and begin a post mortem. There are all sorts of little stories, too short or out of context for these trip report entries, that I want to write about.
¹ – Though this is the same word, lot, used to describe a movie studio, in this case think of it in the context of vacant lot.