Desert Rain

Jumping cholla at Desert Hot Springs 2007

Joshua Tree 1-2-2008 12-33-31 PMRain in the desert is a good thing.  After months of drought, brilliant sunshine to a fault,  temperatures that can reach 120 degrees, I would imagine that local folks in the Coachella Valley are drinking in this storm and loving it.  I used to love the rain those long decades ago when I lived in Southern California.  I played in the washes as a kid, filled with wild rushing chocolate brown water, leaping among the boulders and pretending I was Davy Crockett in a storm.  I lived through all that somehow, and my daughter would gasp in horror if her kids tried the same thing.

I’m not so sure I will live through this storm, however, without some serious self talk.  It is raining just about everywhere in the west, or at least anywhere we could manage to get to in our eleven days of MoHo time.  It is snowing hard in Klamath, the power probably is out often enough to be a pain, and the satellite will no doubt need a bit of brushing to keep the channels up and running.  Here in the desert, we don’t have to shovel the rain.  We are somewhere new, seeing new sights, (through the rain of course) but new sights.

Miracle Hot Springs Pools Desert Hot Springs December 2008

DSCN0267 Yesterday we drove east through Indio, (in the rain) to visit the Oasis Date Farm.  We read a couple of reviews on the internet that made us laugh out loud.  If you find those reviews, read them for entertainment, but don’t let them stop you from going to the original.  The place was small, charming if not fancy, and I tasted at least a dozen kinds of dates and had a classic date shake.  I’m not sure just what I think of the date shake, but the date palms are beautiful, stately and graceful, with a history that goes back 5,000 years and a sex life that seems to need the constant intervention of dedicated date farmers to function.  I took a ton of photos, including a really cute one of Mo and Abby, and lots of graceful fronds against the dark skies.  We drove back west to the larger, more fancy Shields Date Farm and as nice as it was, we were glad to have experienced the Oasis, even though it was many more miles east.

 Blazing sun and cloudless skies Desert Hot Springs 2008 December

DSCN0283Our evening was filled with fun and friends and truly good food, sharing dinner with Laurie and Odel at the Fisherman’s Market in La Quinta.  I was surprised at the reasonable prices and the truly fresh seafood.  The menu was huge, with almost limitless choices, and I settled on a plate of Mahi Mahi, Salmon, and Shrimp, all grilled and teriyakeed to perfection.  Not quite Key West, but close. I took more photos. including a really great shot of Laurie and Odel.

The rain pounded all night long, and the thick dark clouds made viewing the full eclipse of the moon impossible, even though I was awake at midnight, at the time of the most shadow.  Yes, there are internet photos, my daughter took some great ones, other bloggers are posting as well about the beautiful night sky show.  That’s great.  Glad I didn’t take a photo.

This morning I went for another great long swim in the steaming pool, with rain falling on my face.  It was wonderful.  Thought about taking a photo of that as well, and almost ran back to the MoHo for the camera, fantasizing water level shots with the cloudy sky above the steam.  Sure glad I didn’t.  Later this morning, we drove over to the Sands RV Resort to play some great table shuffleboard with our friends and forgot to take some photos.  Good thing.

Clear blue skies in Joshua Tree NP December 2007

Joshua Tree 1-2-2008 1-37-15 PMThis evening, settling in to the twilight, I carefully took the SD card out of the camera, selected all the photos to move, and somehow hit a key, an unknown key on the LEFT side, NOT the delete key, and BLIP!  Gone.  Every single photo, just gone.  How the heck does that happen?  Of course, they are nowhere, into the ethers.  External stuff doesn’t delete to the recycle bin, we all know that.  I have no idea where they went, but they are truly gone. 

Ah well, I have entirely too many photos anyway, something like 43,000 just here on this computer since 2001 or so.  Who knows what I will find hiding there someday, but it won’t be photos of the Oasis Date Farm or Laurie and Odel at dinner.

Desert Modernism in Palm Springs

DHS_Trip_18 (8) I suppose that our foray to the local Wal-Mart in Palm Springs shouldn’t quality as a step into Desert Modernism, a new phrase that I just found to describe all the flat, square buildings around here.  I kept saying to Mo, “This reminds me so much of my ugly, cement childhood in the suburbs of LA. Lots of flagstone, flat roofs, square facades, dull colors.  The worst of Frank Lloyd Wright on steroids, surrounded by graceful palms.  As we drove down Gene Autry Trail I kept wondering why everything looked this way, why it all looked like we had stepped back into the 50’s.  The more we drove, the more I realized that all this squareness was actually on purpose.  Even new buildings, new apartments, had that “look”.  Hmmm.  Later, hunting desperately for a dog-friendly hiking trail in Palm Springs I happened on the phrase: “Desert Modernism”.  It’s real, and Palm Springs and the surrounding towns are very proud of it.  Palm Springs has the largest concentration of mid-century modern architecture in the country. I guess that explains it.  Maybe my escape from mid-century LA basin life many years ago to the rich northwest world of Craftsman and cabins ruined me for appreciating this particular style.

DHS_Trip_18 (12) But back to Wal-Mart. All I can say is “Ugh”!! The store here is so huge I couldn’t find the exits and the bathrooms were horrendous.  It’s sometimes really easy to catch the mixed up lists of needs at a superstore, but maybe not quite worth it.  Somehow I expected better in this upscale area.  The Wal-Mart we visited in Minnesota was pretty darn nice, and almost as big.  We won’t go to this one again, that is for sure. After adding to our supplies at this scary place, we continued driving along HWY 111, the main route through the desert towns here in the Coachella Valley.  Upscale is definitely an understatement here, and the El Paseo shopping area was not exactly the place I wanted to be in my denim shorts and Keen sandals.  As we sat in traffic among the Mercedes, Jaguars, BMW’s, Mo suddenly said, “What in the world is THAT car?”.  Turns out it was a Maseratti.  I don’t think I saw one in real life before.  We were glad we had at least washed the Tracker before coming to town. The rain held off all day but the skies were threatening, and our plan for the day was to explore the area, check things out, get our bearings. 

DSCN5984 Home at Catalina RV Park and Spa looked tremendously welcoming when we finally arrived, still frustrated with no internet connections, but at least Mo had the news and I decided to try out the swimming pool.  Our park has a truly wonderful pool, large and crystal clear, with a hot spa adjacent that is probably close to 104 degrees.  The night was chilly, with wild white clouds obscuring the moon and revealing it in turn, but I thought maybe the pool would be warm enough to swim, since it appeared that steam was rising from the water.  Ahhh!!  I was enveloped by a balmy 93 degrees of pure mineral spring water that is pumped from the parks own well at 130 degrees and cooled with fresh water to a safe level.  The large swimming pool has no chemicals, and neither does the spa.  All the water is naturally changed several times a day by the influx of fresh water.  Unlike many hot springs, this water is full of minerals but has no sulphur, another great thing since there is no bad smell at all.  I floated on my back and watched the moon and stars come and go amidst the clouds and let all the frustrations of the last couple of days slip away.

DSCN5982 This morning we woke to more heavy clouds, and threatening rain.  Reading about the Street Fair at the College of the Desert was interesting, so we took off to try out the local fairs.  By the time we got there, the rain was a bit heavier, but not so much that we couldn’t walk without umbrellas.  However, many of the vendors were giving up.  It wasn’t such a bad thing since the fair turned out to be just a tacky as many flea markets, and our only purchase was some great lettuce for tonight’s salad and some dates. By the time we got back home the rain was coming down hard in Palm Springs, but once again it was dry where we are camped. 

The park here is quite nice except for the lack of Wi-Fi connectivity. We paid the fee to supposedly connect, but the only time I have been able to actually get to the internet was before 6am this morning.  After six, all came to a screeching halt.  You all know how frustrating that can be!  Instead, as darkness falls, Mo and I are sitting here at the Starbucks in Desert Hot Springs, listening to Christmas music and trying to catch up on all things internet.  I am still searching for dog friendly hikes and Christmas lights.  Tomorrow evening is a real treat, when we will meet Laurie and Odel for dinner at the Fisherman’s Market in La Quinta.  The sun will come out eventually, I am sure, eventually.  In the mean time, all I can say is that I am glad I am not camping in a tent.

Traveling south to Desert Hot Springs

DHS_Trip_18 (16) Rain in the desert is often lovely, except when I have dreamed of blue skies and warm sun and planned a major MoHo run south to find it.  We have had snow and dark skies in Klamath for several weeks now, and my week in Florida was challenged by 20 degree weather.  A long trek to the Coachella Valley should be the remedy.  I think the weather forecasts show a bit of a break next Thursday.  Last night, however, the skies were beautiful, with soft shades of pink and rose among the gray, cream, and yellow lit clouds.

DHS_Trip_18 (2) A quick run south, leaving behind the cold and snow of Rocky Point, is only possible because we decided to store the MoHo in Redding this winter.  Enclosed, insulated storage isn’t cheap, and we tried for the smallest unit possible.  We also decided to forego winterizing thinking that the temperatures in Redding rarely drop below freezing.  The water tanks were all empty and the lines emptied out, but we didn’t do anything else before parking in mid November. It was with a bit of trepidation that we opened up the big sliding door.  Everything turned out just fine, with the trickle charger keeping the battery charged up and the house batteries were still even on 12.6.  We brought along a couple of gallons of water to fill the tank and everything worked just fine.  Although next time when we pull into the storage spot we will have some pink stuff in the drains, at least.

DHS_Trip_18 (5) See that gorgeous sun in the photo above?  The trip over Mt Shasta on I-5 to Redding was gorgeous once we left the icy freezing fog behind in the Klamath Basin and Highway 97.  Little did we know that was the last time we would see brilliant sunshine for a long time.  I am still waiting.  By the time we got to our stop over point in Lodi, the rain was coming down hard.  We hoped to get to the desert with only one overnight stop, requiring 400 mile driving days.  By the time we reached the Flag City RV Resort in Lodi we were worn out. We shared the driving duties, but it still is a very long haul.  Flag City is really nothing more than a reasonably comfortable stopover, with perfectly level cement pull through sites, and full hookups including fast Wi-Fi and cable.  I have no idea what else the park offers because we didn’t care in the least.  The MoHo was stopped, and everything we needed was right inside our cozy home.

On Friday we thought our trip to the desert would be about 8 hours of driving so thought leaving at 9 would be just fine for a 5 pm arrival.  We didn’t factor in the hard, driving rain, or the plan to take HWY 58 through Tehachapi rather than brave LA traffic.  As dark fell on the desert we still had 90 minutes to go before reaching our camp.  We took 247 south from Barstow rather than drive through Victorville and all the traffic there as well. It’s a narrow road with lots off ups and downs, but oh soooo beautiful.  It looked like a lot of BLM land, open and free, and in the coming desert twilight it was all I could do to keep from begging Mo to just head out into the desert and boondock. 

DHS_Trip_18 (7)When we finally arrived at the Desert Pools RV Park, I remembered again why we try to never,  never, never land after dark.  Everything was strange, the night person didn’t have our reservation, and offered to let us stay for one night only “off the road”.  Somehow I had messed up the reservation (they don’t take them) and instead I opted for the “just come in and talk to the hosts and you can stay for two days”.  Dumb.  Of course, the fact that the park had recently disconnected their cable service wasn’t exactly a good thing either.  After a long day on the road we at least wanted Wi-Fi and TV.  Otherwise I would be back boondocking in that gorgeous desert!  Mo is a little bit easier about these kinds of things than I am, and I wasn’t much fun to be around that night I am sure.

DHS_Trip_18 (6)In the light off day, the park was every bit as ugly as it appeared the night before.  The pool was small and brown as were the three spas. We took the dog for a walk and everyone was just so dang friendly!  The night host came up to us and urged us to stay, saying the park was “so much fun with a lot going on”.  I guess we aren’t very social, because that actually sounded just awful to me.  Although the hot cinnamon rolls in the dining room were pretty good. 

Our original plan was to spend six days at the Catalina RV Park and Spa, so we called them hoping for a chance to come in a day early.  Success!  With great relief, we packed up and didn’t even bother to hook up to drive the half mile back to the Catalina.  Through the gate and immediately we could see the difference.  Even though this is a very large park, with spaces fairly close together, there are trees and shrubs between sites, and while our site is on packed sandy dirt, it isn’t so bad that we couldn’t level the rig without blocks.  The cloudy, threatening skies were breaking here and there with a bit of lightness, so that helped my mood a lot as well.  Thank goodness!  Our plan now is to spend the day adjusting to the local area, do some driving around, and just try to catch up a bit. Wi-Fi is still an issue, but hopefully I can find a spot somewhere around to actually get on the internet.

 

Ocala

Ocala_Bel (13) Something magical happens to me when I am in Ocala.  Even though the population of the city is close to 100K it still feels like a small town.  Often when I come here, the weather is wonderful, an incredible respite from cold and snow.  This time I seem to have hit the coldest possible weather, with predictions for the low 20’s tonight and even colder temperatures possible in the next couple of days, with highs in the 40’s. I am leaving on Wednesday from Tampa, and the temperatures predicted for Thursday are back in the 70’s.  Ah well.  I am not really here for a vacation, I am here for my friend.

Ocala_Bel (17)In the five days that I have here, I hoped to be some help to my friend who has been dealing with some health issues. So I am here, driving her to the grocery store, taking her to the parade, where she did a great job walking from the side street parking to the main drag in Ocala.  Yesterday I took her for a drive through the gorgeous back roads along 225A, the secret pathway through miles and miles of horse farms with homes almost as big as the incredible stables, with driveway gatehouses that could house a homeless family or two.

Ocala_Bel (29) But back to that ‘thing’ that happens here in Ocala.  The Ocala parade consisted of almost three hours of floats full of kids involved in every possible activity available, with gymnasts, and dancers, and singers, high school and middle school bands, and so many “miss whatever’s” they needed a dozen cars to carry them all. Ocala calls itself the horse capital of the south, and there was no lack of fabulous horses and horsemanship exhibited in the parade.  Small town stuff at it’s best.

Somehow, here in this town, I find myself slowing to a crawl.  I listen to birds and watch the light play on the leaves.  I watch the skies change from gray to sunny back to gray and sit on the porch watching the rain. Ocala really isn’t a destination, there isn’t much here for a traveler passing through, there is bad traffic down on “200”, there is crime and racism, and grinding poverty amidst huge wealth.  Just a few minutes north of Ocala is Anthony, a bucolic land of open space and huge oak trees where John Travolta and his wife have built their home and life.  John drops into the local Publix now and then and Bel sees him at the meat counter. And everywhere, the trees.  Huge live oaks dripping with moss, and spindly elms so thick you can’t walk, and everything in between.  I love the trees in this part of Florida.

Ocala_parade (7) Today a neighbor of Bel’s invited us to a Christmas Chorale at her church on the “other side of town”.   Another neighbor stopped by yesterday with a small new space heater, worried about her in the cold.

I thought maybe while I was here I could write about Silver Springs with all the Christmas lights, or possibly go out to Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest and write about the Technicolor turquoise waters, trying to find adjectives to describe them.  Instead I am lying low, listening to Bel talk about her life, watching the 3 TV stations available, going to church, watching the birds, and playing with the cats.

From 36,000 feet

Picture 001 At the risk of seeming horribly provincial, I just can’t resist making a post from the sky.sitting here with my laptop open, crammed into a seat so tightly that I can’t get the lid all the way up.  I’m on a Delta flight and I have a wireless connection.  Amazing.  Of course, I can’t turn my phone on, but I can post to my blog?  Ah well, no laughing allowed here.  This is a photo of me taken with my webcam on the laptop.  Of course, there is an adorable girl sitting next to me who will NOT be quiet for even a minute.  I’m hiding behind earplugs while she flirts with the cute guy next to her.  This may seem like a completely irrelevant post, but really, for most of us, isn’t technology shifting and changing exponentially?  Blogging from the air.  I think someone else recently did this as well, Jeanne, I believe, on her way to Tucson.  Now if we could just figure out how to get the computer all the way open so we can see the screen and type at the same time when the person in front of us has their seat reclined.  Too funny!