Trip Report – Summer Grand Tour: Desert Adventures

Saturday 24th June 2017

After picking up our luggage (I managed to get Heidi’s bag before she did then spend several minutes waiting for her to realise this) we headed out to the shuttle bus pick up area. It was time to play Shuttle Roulette! Which bus will show up first or how many spins of the wheel till it finally hits your number! It was about 10 or 12 shuttles in before a National shuttle showed up. It looked like everyone from Terminal 1 was heading to either National or Alamo today. The Rental Shuttle filled at Terminal 1 and headed on back to base. So that was easy!

We got to the National lot and as usual it was like a kid in a Candy Store. I wanted a Hemi Challenger so badly and there was several there, but none of them had anything that would make our week or more of driving easier. So we scrapped that plan and tried to find something else. There was a 300C but it had a good dose of miles on it (over 10k), plenty of SUV options (although a lot of those were being picked by other renters at a fast pace) but there was an Infiniti lurking in the Premium Aisle. So I went up and asked what was the chance of getting an Infiniti with no upcharge. Apparently pretty good because a few minutes later we were driving away in a fairly new Q70. I originally thought it was a Q50 (which is the more luxury version of the Maxima) but it was a 70 which is the luxury version of the Altima. It was enjoyable.

We headed over to Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles for some Brunch with a friend. Even though there was lines when we got there, the wait was not long and we were soon enjoying some of the best fried Chicken I have ever had. I mean it… it was DELICIOUS!

Sadly the weather turned to crap after Brunch so I didn’t end up doing any plane spotting so we waved goodbye to my friend and we headed off to Ontario where the weather was hopefully going to be better. It was and without much traffic we were out there in good time. We settled into our hotel to fix up some errands for the afternoon (aka unpacking, laundry, re packing, sorting out messes etc).

We had dinner that night with Heidi’s best friend at Souplantation. I wish they would bring this chain up north, it would make my wife super happy! We wanted an early night as we would be up early the next morning to get moving before it got too hot.

Sunday 25th June 2017

We packed up all our stuff early and had breakfast right as it opened at 7pm. We wanted to be done early and then in the car for the 2 hour drive out to Joshua Tree National Park. Temperatures were set to reach 115F by around 3pm and that meant we wanted to get in and out before that time hit. No way would the park rangers let us go out on our own in that kind of temperatures, they would be stupid. One thing about Joshua Tree is that there is no water, food or anything in the park. Once you enter, you are on your own. Nothing is available apart from some basic drop toilets and trash bins. Everything needs to come in with you. Food, water, maps, Gas, everything.

To get around that food problem we packed a few MREs we had for just this purpose into a box and shipped them down to Heidi’s friend. That way when we met up for dinner we could pick up our box and we didn’t need to carry the food with us all over Chicago. So we had food covered and the water we picked up a full slab at target the day before. We had enough Gas in the car to get us through the day as well. So off we went!

We checked in at the Visitors Center in Joshua Tree township first. The rangers there gave us a good guide as to what to see and where to go. They pretty much planned our day for us. Two small hikes of around a mile round trip each. They should take about an hour each at a half decent pace in the heat of the day with plenty of stops for water. Add on a number of other visits and we were set. Joshua Tree was pretty in a desert landscape kind of way. Lots of rocks and ridges, plenty of trees around (the desert kind) and some random lizards and other animals.

The Keys view lookout was pretty awesome too and gave a great perspective of the whole Joshua Tree valley. We ended up finding some shade under split rock in what was almost a cave to enjoy our lunch. It made the heat a little bit more tolerable. After a final walk through what was meant to be an “Oasis” but was not, we headed back towards Palm Springs. We both enjoyed Joshua Tree!

Palm Springs was back to civilisation, if you can call a bunch of old people that. We wanted to rest and relax in the afternoon before heading to a happy hour for dinner. Sadly Heidi’s favorite place had changed menus, so we had to come up with another plan. We checked into our hotel, the L’Horizon Palm Springs. We almost didn’t check in as you couldn’t see it coming from the direction we did. We drove straight past it, even with the SatNav. The hotel was built way back in the 50s for the man who directed Lassie. He wanted a house for himself and a number of private bungalows for his friends. Now the hotel has been remodeled and still maintains plenty of that 50s style. It is adults only as well so that made the smallness feel so much better.

The hotel was stunning but boy was it hot! The rooms are mostly glass to the pool area so you can enjoy the pool view, but during summer, that isn’t realistic. Big heavy black out curtains try to keep the heat out but it doesn’t fully help at times. Sometimes on days like today the heat will bake up to the 120F mark and heat those windows. The heat emanating off those windows behind the curtains was killer! We still relaxed while we could and enjoyed the peace and quiet.

We headed to Tommy Bahama’s for dinner (and just made happy hour by a few minutes). Who would think that a store would have a restaurant? It was pretty cool and their Pimento Cheese dip stuff was like crack. No need for chips just give me some bread and slather it allllllll over it (I may or may not have done that). After Tommy Bahama’s we headed to downtown Palm Springs to enjoy some Ice Cream/Dole Whip before returning to the hotel. I was so dehydrated/out of it that I passed out on the bed early.

Monday 26th June 2017

We woke up pretty early today with the idea that if we wanted to go out and do any walks or hiking it needed to be early. At 6am when we got up the temperature was a mild 86F and we knew it was only gonna get hotter as the day went on. We headed out to the Coachella Nature Reserve which was just outside Palm Desert and was a true Palm Oasis with a rumoured 1000 untouched palm trees. We enjoyed a 2 mile morning hike through the reserve in amongst a lot of trees and shrubs. We saw some Jackrabbits, lizards and plenty of birds. It was a nice morning and way better than the oasis we saw the day before.

After the hike we were going to go to Costco but apparently Palm Springs doesn’t decide to do anything till after 10am so that plan was bust. We instead went to enjoy some breakfast and I had my first German Pancake. It looked huge but really wasn’t. It was so thin, almost crepe like, that it really wasn’t at all as filling as you would think. If you didn’t have it so spread out, it might equal maybe 2 pancakes. Still super tasty though! While at breakfast we made our plans for our one true day in Palm Springs. Morning by the pool, some resting time around the resort. Mid afternoon we would run a few errands (and bring it back to the hotel if need be). Then we would hit up Costco for some gas and supplies before grabbing a date shake at Shield’s Date Garden.

Rather than have dinner tonight we would take something to go and head out to the Salton Sea just out past the Coachella Valley in the hopes of seeing a decent sunset over a lake that actually sits below the water level. Part of the attraction of the area is that fact that it is meant to have plenty of abandoned areas. But when we were out there, it really wasn’t. That was a little bit disappointing. We tracked all the way down to Salvation Mountain though and it was pretty yet disturbing at the same time.

We backtracked back up towards the top end of the Sea to find a spot for sunset. Just off the side of the road we found a nice spot to watch the sun set behind the mountains and with all the dust it was pretty stunning. Once it was down it was back on the road, back to the hotel to a comfy bed. Tomorrow brings new adventures!

Current Location: L’Horizon Resort and Spa Palm Springs

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