Living it up in Palm Springs, California, October, 2004

Click on the small pictures to see larger ones.

Al and the Sock Monkey cordially invite you to join us in our gracious room at Ruby Montana's Coral Sands in beautiful, sunny Palm Springs. Yes, that's right, former playground of the stars, cheesy game-show holiday destination, our nation's repository for over-the-hill Hollywood's lovely Palm Springs, that's "Hawaii" for those who hate to fly. As October dawned upon us in Seattle, we quickly realized that we were running out of good weather. Winter loomed, the apples were falling off the trees, and the cats were spending less and less time outside. All these clues added up to one thing: we needed a final get-away vacation. We needed to bask in the sunshine just one more week before accepting the bitter gray that is Seattle in the winter. Where to go? The Bahamas? No, too far away. Hawaii? No, too expensive. Hmmm. What to do?

Then a light bulb went on and I could see to log on to the internet. A vague voice at the back of my head reminded me that the owner of my favorite Seattle store, "Ruby Montana's Pinto Pony" had moved to Palm Springs and opened a 50's and 60's themed motel. I quickly located it on the internet at and called the next day for reservations. A few weeks later, we were off! We departed on a Thursday, squired to the airport in style in a Town Car. Security was a breeze, we sipped white wine on the plane, and before we knew it we had landed in Palm Springs's lovely open-air airport. The weather was, as the locals say, deeee-vine.
It was warm and sunny, and we smiled at each other as a soft breeze curled about our faces. We picked up our rental car and found our way to the motel. It was everything I had hoped it would be! Lovely! The rooms are small, but there are only six of them and they all have full kitchens, which meant we were able to lay in some groceries and stock a bar for the next five days of paradise. I also had restaurant recommendations from my boss at work so, well armed, we hit the pool.

Al's ready for dinner!

inviting, non?

view from my office

flowers by the pool
Al spent most of his days soaking in the water while I set up shop under the dried palm cabana and worked on uploading the pictures from my trip to Moab to the site. The Coral Sands has wireless internet access from just about everywhere so we were quite at home and I got a lot done. Al kept the drinks flowing and at night, under the stars, we stayed up late swimming and chatting with our host and the other guests.

c'mon, dive in!

Al in floating bliss

Yes, he says, the
water's fine

So I joined him!
We continued smiling for five straight days, as we sampled the pool, the shopping, the restaurants, and the museums of this strange place. Somehow, our minds reconciled the palm trees to the surrounding desert and we felt like were at a very chic oasis. The streets positively glowed with leftover glamour from Hollywood's heyday. Of course, I had to buy a book with maps to the stars' homes. Bob Hope, John Travolta, Don Adams, Elvis Presley, you name it and they either live here or have lived here. The whole Rat Pack crawled the Canyon Avenues looking for their next hideout from the paparazzi. In order to blend in, I bought a silly straw purse with big cloth flowers on it. Grandma would have liked it, I just know. I carried it everywhere, and it became our calling card that screamed "TOURISTS!". But I didn't care. We were in on the joke.

Goofy purse, eh?
One of a kind!

go on, pardner,
have a seat!

No calls, please

hope that duck's
not too thirsty
Eventually, though, I grew restless and when Saturday turned out to be slightly overcast (which, in Palm Springs, means there were two clouds hovering over the gorgeous San Jacinto Mountains), we planned a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park. It's only 40 miles or so away and given the California speed limits, we were there in less than 30 minutes. Along the highway, we passed a field of wind mills churning gracefully in the wind. The park was terrific - what can I say? It's truly breathtaking. There are two desert systems that meet right in the park and you can sure tell when you cross from one system to another. It would take days and days to see everything so we limited ourselves to a short 1.2-mile hike to Baker Dam. As we wound our way through the northern part of the park, a storm threatened us from above. But it turned out to have business elsewhere and we didn't get rained on after all. There were some odd-looking rocks along the way, and even some petroglyphs.

all the rocks you
could ever want

and all the cactii, too!

will we get wet?


snort, chortle!!

weird magma rock

petroglyph panel

another panel
The park has a field of Choya (or "cholla") cactii that surpasses anything I've ever seen in Big Bend. There were thousands of them. How I would love to be there when they are all blooming! There were also some of the fattest barrel cactii that I've ever seen. I bet they were two feet in diameter and 3-4 feet tall. Big, hulking cactii that you do *not* want to mess with. And, of course, there are the astoundingly tall Joshua Tree cactii. Everywhere. According to the Visitor Center, these cactii were named "Joshua Tree" by the pioneer Mormons because as they crossed the mountains, the cactii resembled the bibilical Joshua welcoming them to the promised land.

Cholla as far as the
eye can see

and then even more

making electricity
for FREE

spare a dime?
Some kibbles, then?

Al on the rocks.
Ha! Get it?!

the lone flower

more boulders

cool hole-y rock

I'm ready for my
Al, your friendly tour
    It turns out, though, that you don't have to go out of town in order to get some quality hiking in around Palm Springs. There are four canyons of the San Jacinto mountains that are accessible right from town. The land is owned by the Agua Caliente Indian Tribe so you need a guide to hike in them, but they are striking canyons. We didn't have time for the 8-mile hike so we took an unguided 1-mile walk in one canyon. The trail followed a creek that snaked down from the hills and the palm trees and ferns along it were amazing. I'd love to go back and hike the other canyons!
All too soon, though, Monday hit us and we had to go back to the airport, change into our jeans and jackets, and return to Seattle and "reality". Oh well, we felt lucky we'd had such a great end-of-summer trip. And the next week, I was off to Big Bend with my sister! Unpack, then re-pack, and catch yet another flight. It's the story of my life!

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