Blog: Palm Springs

Burt Ross

Okay, I lied again. A few weeks back, I told you I was planning to go to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, but when it snowed there, I was forced to stay right here in Malibu. The first part of what I told you is true—it did snow there, and I did cancel the trip. The part about being forced to stay in Malibu is, well, let’s just call it a deviation from the truth. No sooner had I cancelled one trip, than I booked another—this one to Palm Springs.

This blog is starting to sound like a travelogue, but since most of what I write about is what I observe, then if I like to travel, which I do, a travelogue is what you get.

I had always confused Palm Springs with Palm Beach. I think there should be some kind of law that limits to one the number of cities in the U.S. of A. which begin with “Palm.” For all I care, the mayors of Palm Beach and Palm Springs can duke it out to see which one keeps the “Palm.”

I left on a weekday morning and it only took me two-and-a-half hours to drive to Palm Springs. Going the other way, the traffic traveling west was virtually not moving. I would be surprised if those poor commuters ever made it to work. You sure don’t want to be headed into LA on Route 60 during rush hour.

My bride suggested I might want to bring bottles of water since I was supposed to be traveling through the high desert, but as I passed cities like Riverside, it seemed like I was never more than 20 yards from a Denny’s. This so-called desert had little in common with the Lawrence of Arabia’s waves of sand desert I had seen in the movies.

Before I reached Palm Springs, I noticed a tall concrete structure rising from the desert floor. From a distance it looked like it could be at least 10 stories high without windows. Perhaps it was a vertical prison.  As I got closer I finally detected windows and finally an oversized sign, which announced, “Morongo Bingo Next Exit.” I was sorely tempted to alter my travel plans and to sit down for a round of bingo (I think “round” goes with golf, not bingo, but I like the concept of a “round” of bingo). Sometimes in life you just have to forego temptation, so I left “Morongo Bingo Next Exit” for another day.

I stayed at a funky place in Palm Springs called “Hotel California.” The staff at this 14-room boutique hotel was so friendly I thought somebody might be putting me on. (This is a classic example of New Jersey cynicism.)

I drove through the main part of town and it reminded me of Palm Beach but without the ocean or humidity—fancy stores and lots of old people. I sat down at a restaurant and for the first time in years I literally lowered the average age of its patrons. Walkers and canes were a common sight. I felt invigorated and young again.

I took a ride to Joshua Tree National Park and on the way stopped at an oasis in the desert. (That is always, by definition, exactly where an oasis should be located.) There grew a forest of desert fan palms—the only native palms in California, or so my guide said. 

For some reason, I was absolutely taken by them as I walked through a grove of these unusual specimens. On the top of the fairly tall palms was traditional growth, but much of the tree was covered by what looked like a hula skirt. Had the palms started to sway and dance, it would have been the perfect day.

I left the oasis and, within a half an hour or so, I was in Joshua Tree Park. If you don’t like Joshua trees or big rocks, you have gone to the wrong place. I saw many people rock climbing, and if there is one thing I am certain, it is that none of them had a Jewish mother. Even women were participating in this so-called sport, which just goes to show the fairer sex is becoming as insane as we men are.

What would possess somebody in their right mind to dangle by a fingertip or two is beyond my comprehension. I assume these adventurers like to jump off bridges in New Zealand, also.

I returned to Palm Springs and had dinner at Le Vallauris, a French restaurant with mouth-watering dishes. The very thought of it makes me want to return, but I know there are many other people who would prefer to hike in Joshua Tree, get bitten by a rattlesnake or scorpion, dangle from a rock high off the ground, or play bingo at Morongo. I’ll eat my escargot, thank you very much.