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Palm Springs- Where The Grass is Sometimes Greener

Maintaining  a blog is a lot of work. But it also a labor of love, and sometimes, the juice to write and compose pieces is simply not there, and that’s been the case for me the last few months. But I have been keeping  a list of topics I’d like to write about, and am now feeling the urge to launch back into it. There … Continue reading Palm Springs- Where The Grass is Sometimes Greener

Urban Ambles Travels Part 3- Las Vegas

May 10,2010

I was returning to my rental car, parked in a lot at Valley of Fire State Park, north of Las Vegas, an exotic land of ruptured red rock amidst the incessant beige of the Mohave desert. And there was a crowd that had formed around the rear of the car. My God, I thought, what’s wrong. A flock of French tourists had gathered, and one by one, they were taking photos…….of the Alabama license plates on my car. “C’est magnifique!” one declared. Then two others wanted their picture taken with me, assuming I was an Alabamian. I did not dissuade them, in fact, I laid on a thick southern accent- “whach y’all think uh these red rocks, somthun’ aren’t they?” It was  an absurd moment, as was later watching all the French tourists in pearls and pocketbooks navigate the desert sands. Welcome to southern Nevada!

The French- captivated by Alabama
Intrepid French Explorers

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Urban Ambles Travels Part 1- Desert Ghosts and Route 66

It was time to get away. A recent gig completed, and the current job picture still rather absurd,  it seemed like a good time for a Roadtrip. This trip was a bit more ambitious than last year’s. It again included a trip into the Mohave Desert, but also stops in the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and back in California; Big Sur. This is part 1 , the trip en route to the Grand Canyon. This segment takes us south from San Francisco, through the Mohave Desert and into Arizona, traveling long stretches on old Route 66, through the requisite abandoned places, scrappy enclaves of artists, and some of the delightful oddities of Route 66.Here is the Mohave Desert /Route 66 segment of this journey, (click on it for larger view):

Ghost City

Our first stop took us to California City. It sits in the high desert, north of Edwards Air Force Base. What, never heard of it ? It’s actually  the 34th largest city in the country in terms of area. So why visit a place that, per the map below, looks like just another sprawling bland suburb:

The reason for the visit is that it hasn’t quite turned out that way, here is what it actually looks like from the air. The streets are there, but nothing else- click on the photo to see a larger view:

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California Road Trip-Part 2: Route 66 and Other Blue Highways

The second part of the road trip took me from Bakersfield down into the desert. The route takes us down into the LA area, then east on Route 66, and then on to Palm Springs. After a few days of R&R, the leg continued north, some more time on 66, then up into the Mohave National preserve. Here’s the route (and if you missed Part 1, its right below this post): Trip Map-2


If  El Camino Real represents the primordial, this route reflects a more recent past, the automotive past and the immense changes that have occurred in Southern California in the last 75 years. As most everyone knows, Route 66, i.e.  the  “Mother Road” ,was a conduit for midwesterners answering the call of a paradise, real or imagined , in California. Some vintage postcards reveal the era of road travel at that time- the roadside attraction (gas,food,lodging) en route, and the promise of California, orange groves and endless sunshine.

Route 66-3
Wigwam Village
Route 66
Fontana??- Really??

Old Route 66 through the inland empire can be generally  traced from Colorodo Blvd. in Pasadena, and eventually out on  Foothill Blvd all the way to San Bernadino. For the most part of course, little remains of the original road and its abundant roadside attractions, but some do still exist, which makes for a fascinating contrast.

Most of this route is the same , mile after mile of mind-numbing sprawl. But every couple miles, you trip over something, either the result of an expressed devotion to preserve it, or the result of a lack of economic development in the area. some communities embrace their 66ness, others have completely eradicated its presence

Unlike much of what one sees today , many of the old attractions bursted with whimsy, vernacular expressions of the uniqueness of the place, or  of what the building offered, up to and including actually becoming what it sold. En route to Route 66, I stumbled on two great examples:

Shoe Repair- Bakersfield, CA: Watch your head
Shoe Repair- Bakersfield, CA: Watch your head
Drive Thru Donuts!!!!- La Puente, CA
Drive Thru Donuts!!!!- La Puente, CA

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