Easter Weekend Road Trip: Family Shuttle to Palm Springs, California
Odometer (Legend): 532,850
Odometer (ILX): 120,919
Trip Distance: 1,619 Miles
I got home from work this afternoon and found a package in the mailbox addressed to “The Road Trip King.”
Thanks, Alex, for sharing that awesome “AQRA” Illinois Route 66 plate! I have some of the coolest friends!
As much as I enjoy my solo time on the open road, I always welcome the chance to have a road trip companion (or three). This time, my car transported some very important cargo, including my mom, my grandmother, and my aunt.
My overall drive consisted of four roughly 400-mile-each stretches of road: Phoenix to St. George, Utah; St. George to Joshua Tree, California; Palm Springs to St. George; and then returning home to Phoenix. It seems that Palm Springs has been on my frequent destination list lately. I was just there a couple of months ago for a visit to Thermal Raceway as part of our NSXPO 2015 planning activities. This time, the purpose of our trip was to attend a surprise birthday party for my grandma’s brother, Reo. The first part of my journey was the drive up Highway 89 from Flagstaff on Thursday night.
By midday on Friday, I’d picked up my 3 fellow road trippers and we hit the highway, headed for southern California by way of Las Vegas, Nevada. As soon as we exited at Nipton Road on Interstate 15 southbound after crossing into the California state line, I knew we were in for a roller coaster ride. For the next 75 or so miles, the Morning Star Mine Road took us through the Mojave National Preserve (the same route a friend and I took last November).
While the desert was a beautiful place to be, it’s also a very rugged and dangerous environment to be because of the extreme weather and remote location. Luckily the temperatures were friendly to us. Road conditions, however, were less than optimal. There were potholes the size of manhole covers and at least 6-8” deep. We definitely smacked a few of those at 55-65 miles per hour and felt the impact.
After we had driven through the desolate towns of Cima, Kelso, and Amboy, we started closing in on the community of Twentynine Palms, named for the trees found there by Colonel Henry Washington in 1852 while completing a survey of the area. Aunt Jodi piped up from the backseat. “Look, there’s one of those homestead shacks I was telling you guys about!” Sure enough, it was time for a history lesson and a prime opportunity for a pit stop.
As it turns out, in this “Wonder Valley” region of the Mojave Desert, there are hundreds of teeny homes that dot the landscape. And by teeny, I mean they’re typically no larger than a one-room, 12-foot-long rectangle. These structures started springing up around 1938 when a homestead act was put into place, granting up to 5 acres of land to settlers in exchange for just being willing to build a structure on the property. Very few of them have endured the test of time. In fact, probably 9 out of 10 have crumbled to nothing more than a few walls and a caved-in rooftop. Here’s a very interesting article from 2004 in the Los Angeles Times about the history and fate of some of these homes. We stopped to get an inside look at one of them.
Our evening was spent watching the sunset from the second-floor balcony of the High Desert Lodge on Twentynine Palms Highway after a delicious chicken enchilada dinner at Mi Casita Nueva Mexican Restaurant down the road.
The next morning, we had places to go and people to see. Right off the bat, a special occasion took place on Highway 62 through Morongo Valley: My ILX rolled 120,000 miles.
We took Indian Canyon Road on into Palm Springs for a hearty breakfast at “Bit of Country.” After a quick visit to friends Scott & Sandy, it was time for the grand event: My grandma’s brother Reo’s surprise 85th birthday party. All of our time in the car was made worthwhile in the space of just this one-minute video clip:
After enjoying several hours of food, family, and friends, it was time to set sail yet again. For the return leg of the trip, instead of going through the Mojave Preserve we opted to take interstates 10, 210, 215, and 15, which would take us a bit longer distance-wise but would probably be just as fast as the back roads.
The last stop on our adventure was in a teeny town on the outskirts of Death Valley National Park called Baker, California. There’s not much to see in Baker aside from its 134-foot-tall thermometer — the largest in the world. The thermometer’s height is symbolic of the record 134-degree Fahrenheit temperature recorded in nearby Death Valley in 1913. The structure was built in 1991 and restored in 2014.
What makes the Baker thermometer even more special to me was that it was the first place I ever did a “photoshoot” of my 1994 Legend coupe on the day that I bought it: March 26, 2003.
Sunday morning’s Easter egg hunt with the kids was a hoot, and after that it was back to the road for my return leg to Phoenix.
Hope everyone enjoyed the weekend as much as I did!
Climbing out of one of the homestead houses in Wonder Valley
Morning in Joshua Tree, California
Arrival at the birthday party
Nephew Rex doing some Easter egg hunting