Day 7 – Mona’s Birthday

Yep, Mona’s birthday….the reason we decided on this trip was so Mona could celebrate her birthday in Palm Springs.  We started the morning 50 miles south of Phoenix so we still had some miles to travel.

Up to this point, most of our travels have been in the Chihuahuan Desert, the high deserts of New Mexico and eastern Arizona.  Now, we’re in the Sonoran Desert which is the low desert and which receives more moisture than the Chihuahuan, thus it can support more and larger plants, like the saguaro.

 

Mona and friend
Saguaros dominate the desert landscape throughout central and western Arizona.  They can grow as tall as 45 feet and come in an incredible variety of shapes and sizes.  It’s certainly not hard to pick out which cactus is the saguaro…it’s the tallest one out there!  Saguaros typically have arms…did you know it takes about 75 years for the saguaro to develop its first arm?  These plants commonly have a life span of over 150 years.

 

Saguaros are a big deal around here.  It’s illegal to deface or kill one.  And, you must have a special permit to move one…even if it’s in the way of your new home!

 

We love driving in this area.  The desert is beautiful and dotted with the saguaros and yellow sage is blooming along the highway. As we near Phoenix, we came through a little pass and suddenly, there is a beautiful city, surrounded by rugged peaks. It’s breathtaking!  The view only lasts a moment, so no photo.  If you want to see this view you’ll have to drive there yourself!

 

Outside of Phoenix, we begin to head due west.  We’re in the homestretch for Palm Springs.  We’re seemingly surrounded by craggy peaks of every shade of red, brown and green.  It seems everywhere we look it’s another Remington painting and you almost expect to see a stagecoach burst out from behind a pass with Indians barreling down upon it!

 

We crossed the Colorado River and the border into California…the Promised Land!  We’re still in the Sonoran Desert, but the saguaros are gone. What the heck?!!?  Who took the saguaros????  We’re still trying to figure that out!

 

Saguaros or not, we’re loving the scenery.  Just wish a picture could capture it, but of course, no picture does it justice.  That’s why we have artists like Sheryl to paint it for us!

 

Loving the scenery and truly enjoying the ride.  The phone rings, and like a fool I (Marvin of course) answer it.  Its Charter Cable service and they say we owe them money?  Huh?  What? We disconnected from them two months ago and in fact they owe us money!  “Sir,” the agents says, “May I have your Charter pin number?”  I take a few guesses, but I’ve apparently forgotten it. “Sir, then I’ll need the account number from the upper left side of your bill.”  Me, “I don’t have my bill, I’m in a car in the mountains enjoying a vacation which you are disrupting!”  Charter, “I’m sorry sir, we can’t complete this transaction without the number.”  Me, “Hey there, are you listening?!?!  I’m in a car…and YOU called ME!  …isn’t that ID enough?”

 

Finally, the agent got together with his supervisor and they decided that they could do this without further identification (geeze, thanks) and we didn’t owe them anything.  That’s 15 minutes of my life I’ll never get back!

 

Okay…back to vacation! We’re going down this steep incline and suddenly we see patches of emerald green, bordered by huge peaks. At last, Coachella Valley!  Our home away from home!  We’ve been coming here for 14 years, but have never driven here and this is the first time we’ve seen this beautiful sight!  We’re in awe!!!

 

We are at the eastern end of the valley and we want to be at the western end…those who know us, know that it’s a must to go first to the Blue Coyote when arriving here.  Look out Palm Springs!  As we approach our turnoff from I-10 we are in the midst of one of the world’s largest wind turbine farms.  There are about 5000 windmills in this area, scattered throughout the San Gorgonio Pass.  This pass is between two high mountain ranges, the San Jacinto Mountains and the San Bernardino Mountains, and it funnels the coastal air into the Coachella Valley.  Because of this funneling effect, it’s one of the consistently windiest places in the US….perfect for wind farms!  But, no time to stop and ogle, Blue Coyote is howling our names!

 

Blue Coyote
Where you can hear the call of the wild!
Palm Springs is packed with a car show and an art show….had to park blocks away, but walking in Palm Springs is fun anyway.  Lots of people, Art and spectacles.  We reach Blue Coyote and practically shout out as we walk in the door, “Dos margaritas, Por Favor!”  The waiter knows us and rushes to comply.  Finally, finally, finally we sip that nectar from the Aztec gods….Ummm…Ah…Ohhhh……Palm Springs at last!

 

The drinks start to surround us with a pleasant fog…but wait! It’s Mona birthday!!!  We’ve got birthday stuff to do!  Off we go to Palm Desert and to check into our villa at the Westin Mission Hills.  It’s right on the golf course, so entertainment will be free and it’s very close to the Agua Caliente Casino where we’re seeing Melissa Manchester tonight. And, where later in the week, we’ll be paying our share of the reparations to the Agua Caliente tribe of the Cahuilla Indians.

 

 Mona has chosen the Café Des Beaux Arts on El Paseo tonight. Superb French food, attentive service, great wine, it’s like being in Paris in the desert!!!  We have an excellent sidewalk-side table and a great view of the moon and Venus.  Happy happy birthday!

 

Now, back across the valley to the Aqua Caliente and The Show (that’s the name of the theater inside the casino.) We’re here to see Melissa Manchester…a pop star from the eighties who took time off to raise her children and who is now back on the road.  She’s a great singer/songwriter, but more than that, she’s warm, she’s funny and personable.  We’re in the third row and it’s like we had a conversation with her.  What a great way to end the birthday evening!

 

But wait, the evening isn’t over?  “You’d like a glass of wine on the balcony?!?  Oh..okay!  Time to find some wine.”  Took us several stops with no luck.  We finally end up at Ralphs (our favorite desert grocery store) and they generously allow us to purchase a bottle of chilled white.

 

We finish the birthday with a glass of wine on the balcony watching the stars and listening to the wind in the palm trees.  Yes, this is a happy birthday!

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