Thursday, March 27, 2014

Palm Springs & Friends

We have just been hanging out and kicking back while enjoying the warm weather for most of our stay.  Last week we got a call from Allan and Sharon saying they had a change of plans and were coming to Desert Hot Springs rather than going to Sedona.  It was great having company for a week to explore the local area.
Every Thursday evening they close Palm Canyon Road in Palm Springs and have Village Fest.  There are several blocks of vendors selling art, crafts, and food.  There is also different entertainment on each block.  It is a great place to do a bit of people watching.  Here is Nanc checking out a vendors wares.
Allan and Sharon did buy some hand made soap.
This vendor had a huge variety of outdoor fire pits and fountains, some in the same unit.  They said they were even for RVers.  How about a fire pit with a laser light show set to music.  How cool would it be to pull into a campground and set that thing up.
Allan and Sharon are more adventurous diners than we are, so we always try places we would not do on our own.  There are a lot of restaurants to choose from in Palm Springs.  We had Greek, Mexican, Italian, Indian cuisine and good old American chow in a week of dining out.  
Check out this large variety of Indian food.  It was all very good with enough for a to go box.
This is all that is left of the Oasis Hotel that was designed by Lloyd Wright, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright.  For years the tower was the tallest structure in Palm Springs.  This small hotel is the only Wright designed building in Palm Springs.
What we did for a good part of the week.  Soaking up the sun and soaking in the hot springs.
After a week Allan, Sharon, Murray and Elsie moved on to San Diego for a couple of weeks.  It is always great getting together with friends on the road.
In the desert valley between Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs there are many huge windmills.  As I write we are discovering why they are located there.
The palm trees in the RV park are being whipped around by the 40 mph winds that have been blowing with 60 mph gust.  The local news reported the were 78 mph gusts in the area near us.  The rig sure was rocking and the dust blowing around was incredible.  At one point you could not see the mountain at all.  We sure hope this doesn't become the norm for the remainder of our stay! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Desert Hot Springs

We left Yuma after three weeks and headed to Desert Hot Springs, CA for a one month stay before we head north.  Before going into California we fueled up in Arizona where diesel is about 30 cents a gallon cheaper.  This was the first time we put fuel in the rig since the middle of October, as we have only traveled about 400 miles in that time.  That sure will change when we head to Alaska.
The day we left it was windy, but not too windy to be driving.  That said, the drive through the sand dunes area along I-8 was like driving in a snow storm with sand blowing across the highway.  
Just a bit down the road we turned north along the Salton Sea and the wind diminished enough the we could see this snow capped mountain in the distance.  It has been a long time since we have seen any snow.
Little did we know that we would have a wonderful view of the peak from our campsite.  While we can see two snow capped peaks, the weather in Desert Hot Springs has been very warm.
We are staying at Sam's Family Spa about 15 miles from Palm Springs.  The park has four different pools of mineral hot springs and a nice sized swimming pool.  The water is natural, not chlorinated, and is changed every couple of days.  It is a bit busy on the weekends but not during the week.
On several afternoons we have taken advantage of the sunny skies and have just hung out around the pools.  Life is good!!
The park is a little oasis with a small lake the attracts a nice variety of birds.  Left is a Great Egret,  middle a couple of unusual ducks and right is a Snowy Egret.  There birds are free to come and go, but seem to hang out here where they are well fed.
Look closely for the Night Heron nesting in the palm tree. 
Of course Palm Springs is pretty up scale as it is the home of many famous visitors.  There are stars of the famous in the sidewalk downtown.  Left is the star and statue of Sonny Bono who was once the mayor.  Middle is the huge statue of Marilyn Monroe who was discovered here and visited many times.  Right, Nanc is checking out the star of her teenage idol, Ricky Nelson.
This past weekend was the Palm Springs Chalk Art show.  There were many wonderful works of art.  Nanc is checking out one that was best viewed with 3-D glasses, really neat.  The one on the right shows a different view depending what direction you are looking.  There was an X to mark the best spot to see the Rubik's Cube falling into a hole.
We think this one was the best.  The picture I took when it was done did not come out very well.  The texture of the blacktop added greatly to this very detailed work.
This black and white drawing was also very good.
Another great piece.  If you are in the Palm Springs area in March don't miss the chalk art show.
While the weather has been sunny and warm most days we did have a couple of days of bad wind.  One day it was so bad that several roads between Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs were closed.  I can't imagine how bad they were if this one was OK to be open.  The worst of the blowing dust was in the valley.  It was windy, but not this dusty at Sam's.  The blowing dirt is something we had never seen growing up in Pennsylvania. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Felicity - The Center of the World

People often ask what we do as we travel.  Of course, seeing friends and famous historical and natural sites is at the top of the list.  That said, we love finding places and things that are both off beat and off the beaten path.  Our friends Valerie and Richard sent us an article from the New York Times about Felicity, CA, a small "town" just west of Yuma.  The town is the creation of Jacques-AndrĂ© Istel, a Frenchman whose family came to the US in the 1940's to escape the Nazis.   
Felicity is the official Center of the World and the home of History in Granite.  The town has a small motel, Itsel's home, a post office, chapel and gift shop.
Since any place on Earth can be the center of the world, Istel first wrote a book, Coe the Good Dragon at the Center of the World, about a friendly dragon who loved children and lived at the center of the world in the desert.  Since it is located in the desert, his wife Felicia felt a pyramid would be the best place to mark the center.
The admission to see the History in Granite is $3.00.  But, being big spenders, we went for the extra fee of $2.00 that allowed us to stand at the center of the world and receive a certificate so we can prove to all that we have been there.  We later learned that the the certificate entitles us to unlimited visits. What a deal!
The largest and ongoing project in Felicity is the History in Granite.  The history is being engraved on granite slabs that are placed on these triangular monuments up to 100 feet long.  The history of the United States was just completed last month.
In addition to the usual textbook history, there are slabs with the history of  literature, food and beverage, music, to name a few.  The slab about slavery (right) traces the line from this terrible time in our history to the election of President Obama.
The history of Arizona was completed so recently that the sand from the sand blasting is still on the walkway. 
The history of California is written and now being sandblasted on to the stone.  The text is written by Istel and edited by Felicia many times before the text is engraved on to the stone.  Later an artist, Gene Britton, will etch the pictures.  Britton has be working on the project for 12 years.
Another row of slabs tells the history of aviation in Istel's native France. 
There are still many blank slabs awaiting future historical events.
The History of Humanity has been written and reading those panels was like reading the text books I used when I taught ancient civilizations.  This history has been translated into Ancient Greek, Ancient Egyptian and Latin and is ready to be put on the panels.
This is the Felicity Stone that Istel hopes will be the new Rosetta Stone.  As the history is translated into Chinese and Hindu those languages will be added to the Felicity Stone. 
Some of the art from the History of Humanity.
The slabs of Egyptian history.
Another row of slabs honors Marines who served in Korea and the French Foreign Legion.  Interestingly, one of the panels was about the legions service in Crimea.  I guess what goes around comes around. 
Odds and ends in Felicity.  Left the sandblaster and a replica of the Liberty Bell.  Center the town sign, a panel on evolution that shows Istel's wit with the parent yelling at the youngster, "How many times have I told you to stoop".  Bottom is a sundial with the arm of God from the painting in the Sistine Chapel.  Right are original steps from the Eiffel Tower.
While the History in Granite is a huge undertaking it is really the dream of Istel and his wife Felicia, who we had the pleasure of meeting.  How neat is that.  They have a real passion for this project and will hopefully have the time to complete this interesting, off beat project.  When you are in the Yuma area make sure you top here for a visit.  It really is quite interesting.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

Dentist, Lettuce Days and Friends

It has been another sunny week here in Yuma.  That is not really unusual as Yuma is the sunniest city in the US with more than 300 days of blue skies a year.  That said, March did come in like a lion with about 1/10 of an inch of rain:)  Unfortunately, when it does rain it is not a cleaning shower, but just enough to turn the dust on the car and RV into muddy brown spots.  There must be a half dozen RV washing companies driving through the park every day. We have not used the service, but understand that it is very reasonable.
We returned to Algodones to go to Rodriguez Dental, the same dentist we used on our last visit, to have our teeth cleaned.  We were able to walk in and were both done and smiling in an hour.  It still amazes us how many dental facilities there are in Algodones, in addition to eye doctors and pharmacies.
 The day we went the forecast called for a chance of showers so there were not a lot of people on the streets.  Since we visited earlier, there was nothing we really "needed" so after our cleaning we walked back to the USA.  Very few people drive into Mexico here.  There is a huge parking lot right   by the border check point where most people park and walk to Mexico. 
Yuma is much more than just a snowbird spot.  It is a huge agricultural area because of all those sunny days.  They say if you are eating lettuce in the US during the winter, it probably was grown in Yuma.  For those of you who know Nanc, she is right at home where she can get a fresh salad.  
There were several booths with chefs doing there thing.  Here Chef Ray, a Food Network challenger, performed his magic of turning food into art.  Very neat!!!
We have seen ice sculptures many times, but have never had the chance to see one created.  This artist started with a dremel tool to draw the picture on the ice then went to work with a chainsaw and then a rasp to make the final work.  It took about a half hour to complete then was left to melt under those sunny Yuma skies.
In the farmers market area this guy was roasting peppers.  We bought a couple of bags and they are wonderful.
They do charge to get into Lettuce Days, but we more than covered the admission fee with the bags of free lettuce and other vegetables Dole was giving away.  If you are in Yuma in early March make sure you don't miss Lettuce Days.
When we passed through Yuma in 2010 we looked up Dick and Joan Morgan who we had not seen in many years.  Nanc worked with Dick over 30 years ago.  While we have always exchanged Christmas cards we had not seen them since Dick retired.  They have both had some health issues lately, but are looking really good.  It was great getting caught up with what has been going on in their lives.  I told Dick he is my hero as he has been retired for 25 years.  Oh, if only we can be so fortunate!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Hanging Out in Sunny Yuma

We left Lake Havasu and headed to Yuma.  We made a reservation for one month because it is cheaper but we are not sure exactly how long we will be here.  We are planning on meeting up with friends, getting a couple of RV issues taken care of and heading to Mexico to have our teeth cleaned.  When we get all that done we will be going to Desert Hot Springs, CA. 
The drive was very interesting.  Near Havasu we traveled through some very rugged looking mountains.
Below the Parker Dam there is a stretch of highway right along the Colorado River.
South of Parker the land gets very flat and, except for one small pass and is like that all the way to Yuma.  This is the scene at Quartzsite.  A month ago when we were here this area was filled with vendors and RVs.  There were still many rigs in the desert, but not nearly as many as just a month ago.   
The first day in Yuma we got together with Class of 07 mate, Marty.  We have crossed paths many times over the years and always enjoy getting caught up with his travel adventures.
The next day our friends Allan and Sharon parked their rig next to us for a few days.  We met them in Rockport, TX our second year on the road and now see them every time we stay in Mesa where they purchased a home.  Nanc had a great meal prepared for the weary travelers.
Allan and Sharon wanted to go to Los Algodones so the four of us spent the day in this little Mexican town that is here to serve all the snowbirds who winter in the Yuma area.  Algodones is just several blocks of dentists, pharmacies, liquor stores and street vendors selling a huge variety of "stuff".
We felt the town was cleaner and in better shape than on our first visit several years ago.  While the vendors are all pushing their wares they seemed to be less aggressive and friendlier than before.  Maybe it is the better economy.
No trip to Algodones is complete without a stop at Paraiso's for a bit of Mexican food and drinks.  We found the same dentist we used the last time and plan to return to have our teeth cleaned.
Another day we went to the Imperial Date farm in Bard, CA.  Allan and I had date shakes and we bought some Medjool dates.  A real treat.
Yuma Crossing, where the railroad and the original highway cross the Colorado River.  Even though this was a major route both bridges only handle traffic in one direction at a time.
This old mission overlooks the crossing.  We had a fun first week in Yuma and are looking forward to getting together with other friends and taking care of a few chores.  The weather has been very sunny and quite pleasant here so all is good.