Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Coachella Valley


Our site at Cathedral City
After leaving the gravel pits near Five Palms Oasis, we hooked up with Kay’s daughter who flew in from Minneapolis.  Jill spent four nights with us at our site in Cathedral City, CA – just outside of Palm Springs – at a 55+ RV park.  We arranged to get into the area a couple of days before she did so that we could get our home decorated for Christmas (and enjoy their hot tub).  We were so excited about her impending arrival.  Once she landed, her drive from the airport to the RV Park was only about 12 miles which really made it convenient for us to spend as much time with her as we could.  This was our first visit to the Coachella Valley, encompassing Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert and Indio.  Jill was pretty comfortable in this area since having visited her in-laws when they lived here a few years ago.  She rented a car at the airport so that we could drive in comfort – a rest for the Jeep – and enjoy a little bit of “spoiling” time having someone drive us around.

Out Welcoming Bear all decked out!

Our first impression of this area is that there are a lot of people who live here that have money (both new$$ and old$$).  The streets throughout Palm Springs and of the surrounding desert communities are all well-manicured, very lush with beautiful palm trees and splashes of color from the flowering trees and literally no type of litter anywhere.  For us, “It’s a nice place to visit, but we wouldn’t want to live here.”  There is definitely a wide variety of places to go to for eating, shopping or just sightseeing.  Anyway, Jill needed to be pampered while she was here – and it was even a little pampering for us too after coming off boondocking at the gravel pits – so we hope that you will enjoy our adventures here in the Coachella Valley, California.We all were in agreement that we wanted to see Joshua Tree National Park.  The Park protects 794 acres – nearly three-quarters of its designated wilderness – where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge.  It is very interesting to learn that the eastern half of the park (below 3,000 ft.) lies within the Colorado Desert.  The western half of the park (above 3,000 feet in elevation) is Mojave Desert Habitat.

Literally, a sea of wind turbines - EVERYWHERE!

Stopped for some coffee at the café outside of Joshua Tree NP


Our "chauffeur"

Pretty spectacular rock formations

Known as the park namesake, the Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia, is a member of the Agave family.  The tallest Joshua tree in the park looms a whopping 40 feet high and is estimated to be over 100 years old and resides in the Queen Valley Forest.  Since these trees do not have growth rings like you would find in an oak or pine, it does make aging difficult. 
Joshua Tree's everywhere!

A must see destination within the Park (and only on a clear day, we’ve read) is to see the vista from Keys View, perched on the crest of the Little San Bernardino Mountains which extends beyond Salton Sea to Mexico.  It was definitely worth the extra 20 minutes drive from the Park entrance.  From an elevation of 5,185 ft. you can overlook a breathtaking expanse of valley, mountain, and desert.  The highlight is to look for the San Andreas Fault in this valley.  You definitely will remember this experience . . . stunning!

The Fault lies between the dark ridged mountains

Jill & Kay trying to stay warm at this elevation.

You don't take a picture like this everyday.

What better way to spend a Thursday then to have dinner at one of the popular Mexican restaurants in Palm Springs – Las Casuelas – and then take in a night street fair featuring arts, crafts, food and entertainment.  They call this the Palm Springs VillageFest and it is held every Thursday on Palm Canyon Drive.  The three of us walked the strip where Jill bought us a couple of acoustic guitar CD’s by a local fellow, David Wayne.  She knows we love this kind of music.  The food at Las Casuelas was delicious!  It was absolutely beautiful evenings as we sat outside on their patio – under the Palms – listening to the restaurant entertainment perform music from the 60’s.

We'll toast to that!
This is what Kay had!

Jeff's looked equally delicious, don't you think?

Jill's, sweet corn tortillas. . .yummy!

The following day we took in one of the most unique adventures – an engineering marvel featuring the world’s largest rotating tram cars – which transported us on an exciting excursion into nature.  The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway took us on a spectacular 10-minuite, 2-1/2 mile trip which began at the Valley Station (elevation 2,643 ft.) and transports you to the Mountain Station (elevation (8,516 ft.) 

Entrance to the Tramway

A total of 5 Towers to get us up and back down.
While we were going up - this car was going down

What a stunning view. . .WOW!

Looking into the San Jacinto Mtns

Just us "snuggling"!
I had to close my eyes.....didn't want to see snow!

Jeff & Jill enjoying a cup of java at the top



The ride to the top was incredible.  Up top we were able to view the scenic Mt. San Jacinto State Park (pronounced “hacinto”).  It would really be awesome to come back prepared to hike any of the 54 miles of trails available within these 14,000 acres of pristine wilderness.  We did learn that there is a specific tree here called the “Jeffrey Pine”.  How about! 
Jeff is on top of the world!

Dinner back at the RV was Italian Spaghetti, fresh French bread, salad and some delicious wine, before we headed out to catch a movie, “American Hustle” – funny and very entertaining.  We both highly recommend it.

We had to get Jill in this pic for our grandson!

It's movie time!  Where's the snacks?

 Another day of fun found us at the College of the Desert Street Fair.  (Note:  Known by the locals as “COD”)  For more than 25 years, the Street Fair has been a desert cities weekend institution, where locals and visitors alike start their day with an open-air shopping experience which can house more than 300 vendors, arts & crafts, a farmer’s market, live entertainment and refreshment stands.  The funds raised provide student scholarships and financial aid.  The weather was perfect and we did come away with a few unique purchases.  Great fun!

Fresh produce and Medjool dates
New jewelry called, Steam Punk
More food to taste!

Now we are down to Jill’s last day with us.  It was a Sunday and what better way than to go out for breakfast to a very popular restaurant, the Sunshine Café.  The food was absolutely delicious and well worth the 15 minute wait, especially for the freshly squeezed orange juice that is served.  So with tummies full we took in a stroll through a small street fair, stopped at a very delightful park and then headed in the car to check out a 1930’s General Store Museum and, of course, take our picture at the Marilyn Monroe statue.

You stand in line to take your turn at a picture!

Then back to the RV so Jill could get ready for her trip back to Minneapolis that evening.  Our next step was to pack up and leave the Palm Springs area the following day.

Besides being sad that Jill was no longer here, we were also sad to leave our little friends - the Costa’s Hummingbirds - that frequented our feeder that we had set out, but our next destination on the open road was calling us . . . the Salton Sea State Recreation Area.  Who knows what we’ll find there?

Take a good look at his beautiful "helmeted" head.

Hugs to all . . .
Kay & Jeff

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Exploring California ~ Metal Sculptures and Apple Pie

NE of San Diego County is the village of Borrego Springs, which is surrounded by the 600,000 acres known as the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  We had an absolutely beautiful day to take in the spectacular mountains that border this park and to experience the awe-inspiring metal sculpture displays of prehistoric animals by Ricardo Breceda.
Dennis Avery, philanthropist and landowner of Galleta Meadows Estates in Borrego Springs, envisioned the idea of adding free-standing art to his property with the original steel welded sculptures created by Ricardo.  Pieces include mammoths, camels, turtles, wild horses and giant sloths all that began in 2008 when Ricardo was commissioned by Avery, of the Avery Label fortune to begin to create his pieces on Avery’s three square miles of underdeveloped property throughout Borrego Springs

This collection of 129 figures is called “Sky Art” by Avery.  I think you’ll enjoy the 350 foot sea serpent as it appears almost lifelike to burrow and emerge from the desert sand.  The serpent cost $40,000 and took 4 months to craft – and then another 3 months to erect it in Borrego Springs.

From a distance they look almost real.

The "Little People"

Do you think I've gotten too much sun?

Magnificent Sea Serpent

We feel right at home with this fellow!

Grasshopper & Scorpion - before the battle.  Who will win?

Pre-historic turtle

Who's that human in the desert?  Run!!!

This one was Jeff's favorite - a Willy's Jeep

Another fun piece of trivia about Borrego Springs is that it is called a “Dark Sky Community” in California – meaning no big box or chain stores, and a slower, uncomplicated and scenic community.  It sounds perfect for those looking for a slower pace to their lives.  Now, we just have to get past the $4.00+ gas prices that exist in California!  Now, road trip through the mountains for dessert!

Starting the trek through the Vallecito Mts.

Quite a few hairpin turns where speeds of 15 mph were posted.

This stretch of road proved to be the greenest with all of the trees

This was the road that we took to a small town nestled, in the California mountains, known as Julian - where fall is apple-picking time.  I’m sure that we’ll make your mouth water when you take a look at these delicious pies – Original Apple, Dutch Apple Crumb, Natural Apple, Apple Mountain Berry, to name a few.  The Julian Pie Company started in 1986 and now ships pies throughout the US.  After tasting one of their pies (with your choice of ice cream) we can definitely understand why they are a favorite in this area.

Are you drooling yet?  Ice cream was cinnamon or vanilla....yummy!

This tree's red berries reminder me of a Holly tree.

Santa outside of the Bakery

So, with tummies full of sweets, it was now time to head back.  The mountain road through the Vallecito Mtns was breathtaking by Jeep – probably white knuckle time if in the RV – as we ascended to over 4,600 ft for some pretty awesome vistas – before descending back to sea level for the ride to Brawley. 

What an awesome day trip with our new friends from Kelowna, British Columbia.  They are: Louise & Glenn and Richard & friend, Marilyn (with her cat named, Buster, who weighs in at 22 lbs).  Each of us will be going our separate ways for the Christmas Holiday but I know that we will definitely see each other real soon.  It has indeed been a pleasure to meet new friends and will cherish the memories here at the gravel pit near Five Palm Oasis.
(l-r) Glenn, Marilyn, Louise, Richard, Kay & Jeff

And, we couldn't forget about Buster!

Our Travel Plans:  We leave the gravel pits here near Brawley, CA on Monday, 12/16 toward Palm Springs.  Kay’s daughter, Jill, will be flying out for 5 days to spend with us, so we have a reservation at an RV park that will have all of the necessary amenities (electric, water, etc.).  We are looking forward to spending some time with her, but wish that the grand kids (who will be in Naples FL during that time) could be with us too.   After that . . . we will still stay in California for a while as we explore the open road.

Our Holiday greetings to each one of you is for a blessed and beautiful day.  Merry Christmas and remember to live the moment!
Hugs to all,
Kay & Jeff
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year