Day 10 – More Valley Stuff

 

Wind Turbines in the San Gorgonio Pass
The entrance to the Coachella Valley from the east is through the San Gorgonio Pass which is a narrow valley between two of the highest mountains in North American.  This pass funnels wind into the valley, creating one of the windiest places on earth thus creating an ideal place for wind generation.  We decided to learn more about this so we took a Windmill Tour.

 

The tour guide was obviously an ex-utility person as he was full of megawatts, kilowatt hours, PPAs, and CTGs.  Judging from the questions from the rest of the tour, it sounded like all eight people were utility folks, too.  We fit right in!

 

There are thousands of these wind turbines in the Pass and they date back to the mid-20th century.  We drove through the farms and got out of the bus at one point to listen to sounds made by the turbines.  You don’t want to get out much in the Pass because it’s like standing in a sand blaster!  We got to visit a solar panel installation as well as two CTG units.  Utility geek heaven!!!

 

And, a little tidbit about utility rates.  Our guide’s electricity bill last month was over $1000.

 

Where’s the cache?
After the tour, we got in a little desert geocaching which is very different from Midwest geocaching!  You really have to watch your step: it’s very rough terrain, there’s Jumping Cholla cactus just waiting for you, and you never know what kind of critter you might find.  No rattlesnakes so far this trip…just hummingbirds, a roadrunner, and a ground squirrel.  (We did have an encounter with a rattlesnake on our last visit to 1000 Palms.  Note to self: need a bigger stick!)

In the afternoon we went over to relax in the Desert Springs Marriott Hotel lobby.   This lobby is like no other we’ve ever seen…it is huge!   It’s so relaxing to sit here in an easy chair with a drink and people watch.  Not to mention watching the boats come in and out…and listen to the parrots.  We are pretty much Marriott People and this place always feels like the mother ship to us.

Native palms at an oasis created by
the San Andreas Fault.

 

Another hummingbird!
As mentioned before, the Coachella Valley is home to a long segment of the San Andreas fault line.  This is where the Pacific and North American Tectonic Plates meet.  The plates are going different directions and are creating mountains, bubbling hot springs, and earthquakes as they crash together.  If you go up in the mountains
you can look down and clearly see the fault line stretch along the length of the valley.  You can also see a wide variety of evidence of the fault…spanning from fences, once straight, but now crooked because the land has moved; all the way to huge rocks pushed up at 60 degree angles because the plates are smashing together.

 

Daily earthquake map.
Because of all this seismic activity, earthquakes are a part of daily life.  There are approximately 100 earthquakes a week here.  Most are not felt because the sand tends to absorb the shock waves.  Earthquakes are so routine that earthquake maps are in the daily paper, just like weather maps.  The quake map shown here indicates that there were about 8 quakes in the valley just yesterday.  We didn’t feel any of them.

 

Next up is February 29th!  We’re going to our first Geocaching Flash Mob and to a
show.  Can’t wait!

 

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