I am writing tonight, sitting in front of our hotel room, in Palm Springs, CA. The swimming pool is ten feet ahead. On the other side of the pool a group of people are sitting, chatting, around a small gas powered fire pit.
Back home, there’s a dense fog advisory. Here, the stars are blazing.
Wow, it’s nice. But first, our trip.
You don’t get to Palm Springs by dark without leaving Connecticut before dawn. Helaine’s alarm was set for 2:00 AM. We pulled out of the driveway around 4:30 AM.
We’ve planned stays in both Palm Springs and Las Vegas, so we flew to Vegas first, rented a car and drove the nearly 300 miles to the Springs.
The fight itself was uneventful. Much of the Eastern United States was partly cloudy with a distinct haze that dulled the view from 36,000 feet. It was as if the Midwest had been rendered slightly out-of-focus.
Before takeoff, and a few more times during the flight, the pilot told us it as very windy in Las Vegas… and it was.
We made a very steep descent into McCarren Airport, probably to avoid the turbulence until the last minute or two. As I looked out the window, the right wing vibrated up and down like a guitar string after it had been plucked.
By the time we were rolling on the runway, the passengers had broken into a round of applause. I’ve always wondered if they can hear that in the cockpit?
The Las Vegas airport has a brand new rental car facility, a little farther from the terminal than were the cars were before, but containing all the rental agencies under one roof. Helaine found a great deal on the car, and since I had a “Dollar Express” card (though I hardly ever rent cars), we headed downstairs and were in our red Dodge Charger with Nevada plates in about ten minutes.
It’s strange to arrive in Las Vegas and immediately turn south, away from the Strip, but we did. I-15, the highway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, was loaded with cars as we left the city behind and were soon in what’s surely some of the ugliest territory in the united States.
The speed limit on I-15 is 70 mph, but I assumed I’d be doing 85-90 mph. Not with this traffic. I settled back in the pack and held on tight as the strong winds pushed the Charger back and forth in my lane (and sometimes out of it).
Our plan was to stop in Baker, CA, right at the edge of the Mojave Desert and not far from Death Valley, at The Made Greek Cafe. It’s a place LA-LV commuters have always known about, now made famous after a piece on Food Network.
The Mad Greek is about as tacky as you can get, but my souvlaki was pretty good and the strawberry shake was to die for.
There’s not much in Baker, other than the Greek’s. The main drag runs parallel to I-15. Down the block is the World’s Tallest Thermometer!
Back in the sixties, a radio preacher named Curtis Springer put Baker on the map. His headquarters were at Zzyzx Springs, but his mailing address was Box B, Baker, California.
From Baker, we headed through the desert to Barstow and then Victorville, where there’s both a Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans Drive!
We slowed down entering the Cajon Pass, a steeply descending and curving stretch of highway that gives truckers fits and made Helaine a little uneasy too.
On the radio, we’d heard about a small plane crashing in the center median of I-15 and sure enough, like some trophy deer head, the tail section (along with the last few digits of the plane’s registration number) sat on the edge of the breakdown lane, slowing traffic as everyone took a look.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. We got a bottle of water in Loma Linda as we continued on I-215. By San Bernadino, the flora had changed. It began to look like Southern California with tall palms spotted across the landscape. The ugly desert had turned into the pretty desert.
We took the ramp onto I-10, saw the beginning of the huge windmill farm that straddles the opening of the Coachella Valley, exited onto California 111 and pulled into Palm Springs by late afternoon.
I’ll write more about this hotel, the Desert Riviera, in a few days. Least it to say, for Helaine and me, this is quite a departure. The hotel is a very small property – only ten rooms built around a swimming pool.
It is run by a husband and wife and their sister. It has been lovingly restored to 50s retro chic.
The only downside right now is a problem shared by all the hotels in the Springs. There’s a motorcycle convention in town! I believe it’s a “I used to be wild, but now I ride on weekends because I’m a grownup,” group and not Hells Angels and Mongols.
On the other hand, every few minutes a throaty and noisy Harley rumbles it’s way down Palm Canyon. I’m tired enough to know I’ll sleep through it.