health care, road trips, tech talk, occasional rant

long way home from Irvine

Sunday – 4/13 – Irvine to Desert Hot Springs = Hot tubbin’ with the masses

Life is good in the OC, but it sure ain’t for me. My peeps from the 80’s were excellent and it was very cool to catch up with them, but being there reminded me of the vague sense of wrongness I felt the whole decade of the 80’s. The fundamental problem is that there should not be so many people living in such a dry, desolate place using up water like they are on the misty heaths of Scotland.  Reno is in the high desert, but from my house I can  look west and see where my water comes from and I can step on my balcony and watch the Truckee River flow by, so it doesn’t feel so wrong to be here, and besides, the place isn’t growing like a tumor, at least not in my neighborhood… Northern California gets plenty of rain – I could walk to the reservoir where my water came from, so it didn’t feel so wrong either.

The the other layer of wrongness comes out when driving. Face to face, people are people (even self-entitled Californians :), but getting cut off by too many tinted-window Beemers and Escalades on the Costa Mesa to Laguna run tends to sour me on humanity. Mill Valley was money-soaked, but still it had a slightly shabby, comfortable feel to it, maybe because I could walk everywhere. Everything here is new,new,new and shiny and perfect and soul-less, and you have to get into your late-model import to get to go anywhere, and I just don’t like it, okay?!?!?

But enough hatin’, back to the positivity. I hung with Bob and Julie all morning at their lovely house on the hill till 2-ish when I busted out to start the long way home. Today is a perfect mid-summer beach day accidentally plunked down in early April, so I drive down the Pacific Coast Highway through Laguna Beach to Dana Point. I am really glad I did, although I didn’t stop even once stick a toe in the surf (see rant above). Back in the 80’s, whenever possible I would drive this route instead of I-5 to get back to Encinitas, and those little beach towns are surprisingly unchanged from 18 years ago. The very act of finding a parking place would have killed the afternoon, and for some strange reason, I was more excited to get to the desert than to deal with the OC beach crowd, tanned and hard-bodied and havin’ fun though they were.

At Dana Point, I hopped over the Santa Ana Mountains on the Ortega Highway to Lake Elsinore, getting passed by about a hundred Sunday afternoon motorcycles.. Dodging more motorcycles, I cut across to the 215, north to the 60 cutoff (Pomona Expressway – with a very interesting set of hills called the Badlands on the map) to the 10, to a left on Palm Drive, go 5 miles straight up the incline, and boom, there I am at the Desert Hot Springs Resort(DHSR).

Regarding the DHSR, I paraphrase Mark Twain:

Any resort I can afford will be full of people I don’t want to associate with.

The physical setting is wonderful. About 5 miles north of I-15, with the entire Palm Springs basin spread out before you. In that neat way that desert basins have, the entire 50 by 150 mile basin is quite flat, but not quite horizontal. It tilts upward at a slight angle that gets steeper towards the upward edge, and the DHSR is at that edge, so from its south-facing balcony you feel like you’re at the upper corner of a very large tilting tabletop; it’s an amazing vista; you can see the gondola to Mt San Jacinto, all of Palm Springs, probably Coachella, and almost the Salton Sea.

The DSHR is your basic rectangular two-story motel, each room has its entry door on the outside and a deck or patio facing inward, but the big deal is that the courtyard contains a lap pool and 6 different sizes and temperatures of hot tubs with natural water straight out of the aquifer, exposed here because we are sitting directly on the San Andreas fault (“in 130 million years, DHS will be a suburb of Oakland”). There’s a seedy restaurant and a much seedier bar and enough all-around cheeziness to rival a down-on-its-luck Circus-Circus. There is not a single sign anywhere suggesting that one shower before soaking in the public pools, so I do wonder a little about the hygiene. Pools are open all night to registered guests – I made a pretty good party out of it, and yes, it did have (no password!) wifi and checkout at noon, so I spent the morning on my balcony looking cool with my MacBook.

Monday – 4/14 – Joshua Tree

Tonight’s destination is Joshua Tree, which is really quite close, so I dawdle in DHS for most of the morning.  Then a short cruise down I-10 to the southern entrance to the park.  From the descriptions in the brochure, White Tanks Campground seems like the happening spot, so I go there.  It was awesome.  Very quiet, there were a couple of other cars but I rarely saw another person.  The weather was so perfect I just slept outside, nestled between a couple of those classic Joshua Tree rocks.  The yuccas were blooming, and it was very pretty.  I killed the late afternoon by driving the twelve mile long “jeep trail”, which was kind of fun, but also, kind of a dumb thing to do – why go looking for even more driving?  I think it’s my FMS (Fear of Missing Something) again.  Hanging out at the campground I would be sure that I was missing something awesome on that trail.

Tuesday – 4/15 – Mohave Desert to Tecopa Hot Springs

I take the long way out of the part, coming out at the town of Joshua Tree.  I am hitting the flowers at just the right time!  Breakfast at the jarhead Denny’s in Twenty-nine Palms.  Then strike out on the lonely two lane roads, around the east side of the Marine Combat Center, across I-40, through the Mohave National Preserve.  I did stop here at the restored train station at Kelso, in the Preserve, really interesting place.

Then ever northward, across I-15 at Baker (where I ate at the funky Greek restaurant across from the Bun Boy Motel :).  Then into the seriously desolate desert heading towards Death Valley, where I took a right and crossed the wierd marshy salt flats and ended up at Tecopa Hot Springs.

This was my first time at Tecopa, and it is a trip.  Men and women have separate segregated bathhouses, where nudity is enforced, allegedly for hygiene reasons.  The pools and the water are awesome though.  A really strong desert wind came up, so my plan of a pleasant evening in the shade of the tamarisk trees didn’t happen.  I ate leftovers in the cab of the truck then crawled into the back and waited out the night in my little 6′ by 5′ box.

Wednesday – 4/16 – Tecopa to Death Valley to Lone Pine

A morning soak, very forgettable breakfast in Shoshone, and it’s off to Death Valley.  I take a couple of short hikes and take a lot of pics, then head into the very pretty drive to Panamint Springs and on to Lone Pine.

Thursday – 4/17 – Lone Pine to Travertine Hot Springs to Reno

Cruise through  Independence and Big Pine, Mexican breakfast in the afternoon in Bishop (very good!), and make my only serious stop of the day at Travertine Hot Springs outside of Bridgeport.  There were only a couple of other folks there, and the view overlooking that pretty valley was amazing!

Then I dissipate the lovely relaxed feeling driving I had attained by having to endure rush-hour Minden, Gardnerville, Carson, and southern Reno to make my way home.

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