Category Archives: California

California Part I: Indio

We spent our entire “month of California” in one spot, and we caught some grief from several friends about our choice of locations while we were in the Golden State. People wanted to know why we weren’t going to the wine country, or to see the Redwoods, or someplace by the ocean, or to San Diego. The truth is we could have spent an entire year in California and not seen it all… kind of like how we could do this entire expedition in reverse for four more years and not see anything we have already experienced on the Lower 48 in 48 Tour.

Back in 2013, when we were in our first state of Louisiana, I had to come to grips with the fact that we weren’t going to see everything there was to see. If we tried, we would end up exhausting ourselves and missing the point of our trip. Our motto for the Martin’s American Adventure remained in tact: see what we see and make a list of things or places we missed and might like to visit in the future. This approach allowed us to have experiences that were meaningful along our path, and not feel like we were in a race trying to scratch off as many parks or museums or monuments as we possibly could before our time ran out. We felt like this was the most civilized way to immerse ourselves in an America we wanted to observe and learn more about.

We selected the Coachella Valley as our destination for several reasons: it was a direct and fairly reasonable drive from Las Vegas; winter is “high season” in the desert; we could conveniently head east back to Texas on I-10 or I-8 when it was time to leave; and, neither of us had ever been there before. We only wanted to make one stop in one location during our last month of our tour because, frankly, the novelty of our adventure had worn thin. We had our eyes and hearts set on getting back to Texas and starting a new life that entailed living in a traditionally constructed townhouse.

As it turns out, we got lucky with our decision. The long-standing drought that had plagued California for years was abated while we were visiting the 31st state. Severe rains and flooding were rampant from San Diego to Sacramento, but nothing ever got too dramatic for us in the desert. It seems like the mountains that surrounded us diffused the weather systems before they ever reached us with full force. We were grateful to be outside of the locations that were getting drenched on a daily basis (we had all of that we could take back in Oregon).

There were a couple of routes to choose from as Mike planned the drive from Las Vegas to Indio. We could have traveled directly south on Highway 95 out of Vegas and down to Blythe, CA to 1-10, and turned west into Indio. Our Captain wasn’t interested in driving on any more stretches of narrow, shoulder-less, two-lane highway with no median, where he had to worry about oncoming traffic crossing the center line and hitting us head-on.  (He concentrated on avoiding that scenario on the road from Reno to Las Vegas and his brain was tired of going there).

The second option was to travel south on I-15, over the the Cajon Summit, down into San Bernardino, then get on I-10 and head east into Indio. I wasn’t a fan of this route because it involved a long and steep downhill grade. This stretch of interstate around San Bernardino is also famous for its high winds, turbulence and fog. You might understand why I preferred the Highway 95 route, but when we pulled out of Vegas on December 27th, we went to Indio via Interstate 15. (On a side note… part of the Interstate we traveled over at the end of December was completely washed out – down the side of the mountain – a couple of months after our trek).

That day wasn’t the best of travel days (for me). The germs among the throngs of Las Vegas’ holiday crowds had contaminated me and I woke up that morning with a terrible sore throat. Google maps told us to expect a 4.5 hour trip. We ended up making it in about 6, pulling into our spot as dusk started to cast dark shadows on our new campground. Mike felt fine and did a great job of driving the Monaco through the heavy traffic that congested the roads all the way to Los Angeles. It was a long day for him too, though. I think we were in bed immediately after plugging in and walking the dogs.

The Coachella Valley spans about 45 miles from Palm Springs through Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta and then to Indio. Each community is situated beside each other along a linear track with little or no distinction between city limits. About 100,000 snowbirds flock to the area each winter. Conventioneers and tourists bring in about 3.5 million more people annually. The socio economics of the area are interesting because even though it is really one big metropolitan area… money is the main thing that divides the communities. Palm Springs is THE place with all its Hollywood history and mid-century architecture (if you want to “be seen” you head to downtown Palm Springs and hang out on a patio somewhere). Palm Desert is pretty ritzy too (the famous El Paseo shopping district is a cousin to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills). La Quinta and Indian Wells are resort havens. Indio is sort of the worker’s neighborhood. It is the least opulent and closest to the abundant agricultural industry that surrounds the Salton Sea.

The next question we got alot was “why Indio” (as in… why are you staying in the slums of the Coachella Valley)? Well, because RV resorts 35 miles up the road in Palm Springs were quoting us prices of $3,000 per month. We got a bargain at Indian Waters RV Resort for $1,300 during the month we visited. The general average of monthly rent costs on our trip so far had been about $500 or $600 – so we were still splurging.

As it turns out, we loved the spot Mike picked for us. The park was fairly large, which meant there was plenty of room for the dogs to get a walk without leaving the premises – if we felt lazy.  The landscaping was well manicured. Our power and water all worked fine. The staff organized so many activities, it was sort of like a camp for adults. In the winter. With lots of alcohol. There were two pools (each heated to a different temperature), a hot tub, a ping pong table, a billiards room, pickelball courts, bocci ball lanes, outdoor firepits, horse shoe pits, and other amenities I can’t think of right now. Each day we could take advantage of yoga classes, toning and strengthening classes, water aerobics, volleyball in the pool, movie night, poker night, billiards tournaments, happy hours with line dancing, free waffles and OJ every morning. You get the idea. We were not bored.

Most of the guests at this resort were folks from Canada that came down to the same place and stayed in the same spot each winter. They were all good friends and the parties seemed to rotate from rig to rig each evening. They were all very friendly too. We immediately felt welcomed into the tight knit community and that was nice. I forged a friendship with our neighbor Linda from Ontario, and we did a couple of fun things together. My aunt Sharon’s neighbor, from Lake Oswego in Oregon, had a second home in La Quinta, and I was also able to get together with her for a couple of happy hours. We felt like “locals” by the time we left.

Our month passed by very quickly. I was sick for about the first week, then I made Mike sick for another week or so. There was so much going on at the RV Resort, some days we never left. On the days we did get out, we (I) shopped; Mike hit golf balls at a nearby driving range; we checked out some local restaurants and bars in the area; I went to a couple of art festivals; we spent one day driving through Joshua Tree National Park; we drove down to the the Salton Sea; I went on a few hikes; we spent an afternoon roaming around El Paseo Drive; we spent a day fishing and hanging out Lake Cahuilla State Park; we took advantage of the Senior Discount on a dinner buffet at one of the casinos; we rode the aerial tram up to San Jacinto State park and watched sunset fall over the valley; and Cessna became a regular patient of a vet down the street. It was a busy month!

Starting our descent of Cajon Summit on 1-15. At this point we were at an elevation of about 4,200 feet. A couple of hours later when we arrived in Indio, we were at -13 feet! (yes, negative 13). I was not enthralled with this leg of our drive… although the views WERE nice.

Our spot at Indian Waters RV Resort.

The spots at this park were fairly spacious.

We had a view of the dog park out our front window.

It was impossible to get bored at Indian Waters. In addition to ping pong on the patio, there was a billiards room behind one of those doors, and a work out room behind another. Those are just the activities “in the picture”.

Two swimming pools (each heated to a different temperature), and a hot tub too.

The most extravagant Christmas Light display on our ENTIRE adventure. And this photo was taken AFTER the new year!

The only English speaking mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Indio was not until noon.

We loved seeing random hot air balloons float over our campground on a regular basis.

There were lots of Farmer’s Markets in the Coachella Valley. This one was in Palm Desert.

I cannot personally say that the hikes in the area were “beautiful”, but they were challenging and I liked that. Other folks thought the scenery was gorgeous. To each his own. I’m just not a desert kinda girl.

I love stumbling upon cairns along hiking trails.

This lush green golf course was such a juxtaposition against the harsh terrain of the desert landscape.

A panoramic view from “The Cross”.

Do you see the tiny little hikers making their way up the hill to where I was at “The Cross”?

I loved this sculpture outside a gallery on El Paseo.

We stumbled upon this fun interactive chalkboard while walking the dogs along El Paseo.

El Paseo is like the Rodeo Drive of the desert. We had a beautiful view from the upstairs patio at Tommy Bahama. I guess that is why we lingered there for about 3+ hours one afternoon!

Good Morning!

Another Farmer’s Market in Old Town La Quinta.

St. Francis of Assisi had an earlier mass in english, so I ended up attending church there instead.

Poor Cessna has been battling a problematic cyst on her back for about a year now. After it was treated by yet another vet, we couldn’t properly bandage it. She had to wear this t-shirt while the wound was messy. She didn’t really like having a wardrobe. This dog prefers going au natural.

The Salton Sea is located directly on the San Andreas Fault. The surface of the water is 235 feet below sea level. It is actually five feet higher than the lowest point in Death Valley. It is the largest lake in California.

The last dollar bill we signed and left on the wall of an establishment was at the Ski Inn near the Salton Sea. Now I need to backtrack through my notes and figure out exactly how many dollars we left across this country. Anyone up for a scavenger hunt?

This little guy was the mascot of our RV park. He was very social.

The main road in our campground.

The dog park at the campground was also a drainage ditch. After it rained, it became a dog lake.

Lots of art in the Coachella Valley. This was an art festival in downtown Palm Springs.

Who doesn’t love seeing a big bright rainbow?

We went to watch the Texans play their last game of the season at a new place called Big Rock Pub. The service was dismal, but the decor was worth seeing at least once.

Gillian and I met in Harrah’s Blackjack Dealing School the summer before our senior year in college. She went to UC Davis and we, of course, came from UT for summer jobs. During my California stop we both drove about 1.5 hours to “meet in the middle” for a long overdue visit. Although we were able to set aside time for a 4-hour lunch, it still wasn’t long enough for either of us.

No explanation necessary. (And this is NOT the lowest point in North America).

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway climbs 2 1/2 miles through Chino Canyon to Mount San Jacinto State Park.

Tourists were sunbathing at the bottom of the mountain. Up top they were traipsing through the snow!

Mount San Jacinto Selfie.

Of course Mike took a photo of the airport. The horizontal highway in the distance is I-10.

The world’s largest rotating tram car. Manufactured in the Swiss Alps, of course.

Wacky clouds.

I bought tickets to a George Benson concert at one of the casinos in the Coachella Valley. When the date of the show arrived, Mike was fighting the flu. Luckily, our neighbor, Linda, went with me instead.

Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area, just south of La Quinta. Mike’s last fishing excursion on our adventure.

Cessna taking in the views of Joshua Tree National Park.

I knew there would be Joshua Trees in the National Park, but I was not prepared for the majesty of the rocks!

Joshua Tree family selfie.

Rock climbing is a big deal in Joshua Tree National Park. I was just trying to fit in.

Smiling fish rock.

Hook ’em horns! Do you see it?

A panorama from Keys View in Joshua Tree. The best vista in the park.

The San Andreas Fault is down below us. If you look closely, you can see the Salton Sea at about 9 o’clock in the photo (about 100 miles away by car).

More random cairns in Joshua Tree National Park.

Teddy Bear Cactus. Cylindropuntia bigelovii. Don’t touch. But I do love the gradations of color in each plant.

An oasis in the desert. Literally.

The Southwest Art Festival in Indio is held at the Polo Grounds during January each year. It is tied with St. George, Utah as the best art show I have ever attended.

Last night out on The Martin’s American Adventure. My Aunt Sharon’s neighbor, Dixie, (who also owns a home in La Quinta) to my right. My wonderful next door neighbor (at Indian Waters RV Resort), Linda, on my left. THAT was a fun night out… didn’t feel so hot the next morning when we fired up the Monaco and started our trek home. Just sayin’.

It was painfully obvious that Mike and I were both anxious to get on back home when we confided in each other that we thought the balsamic vinegar on this plate looked like the shape of Texas.