Travels with Tucker

Travels with Tucker

Friday, January 31, 2014

Palm Springs Tram

Palm Springs is nestled at the foot of Mt. San Jacinto, the second highest peak in southern California, nearly 11,000 feet high.  The aerial tramway just north of town takes passengers up to the 8,500 foot level in about 20 minutes, transporting them from the desert floor to an alpine pine forest. This tram is one of the highest and steepest in the world.

We rode the tram and hiked around the San Jacinto wilderness area for most of a day and loved the change of scenery.  In a normal year, there would be lots of snow up at the top, but this year it was mostly clear and dry.

View from the tram

Palm Springs from the top of the tram

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Palm Springs Air Museum

World War II is, for me, the "best" war of the twentieth century.  An incomprehensible human tragedy measured in millions of lives lost, and starring some of the most vile and evil regimes in modern history, it was a war where the United States was on the side of the good guys and changed the course of history for the better.  It was in many ways the period in history that showed the best of who we are as a country.

The Palm Springs Air Museum is focused on the WWII period of aviation and has some wonderful planes and exhibits.  Many of the docents are veterans of WWII and Korea and add to the experience immensely. This museum had many planes where you could sit in the cockpit or the navigators station and really picture what it was like to fly them.

B-29 bomber

Herb gave us a tour of the B-29

Monday, January 20, 2014

Quartzite, Arizona

Quartzite is a tiny desert town about 20 miles from the California border, home to about 3,300 people for 10 months of the year.  But in January and February, Quartzite hosts the largest assemblage of RVers in the world and becomes temporarily the third largest city in Arizona--drawing 1.5 million people!  Seeing as how we were in Blythe, just 20 miles away, and the bluegrass festival was over, we decided to come on over to check it out.

Quartzite sits in the middle of Bureau of Land Management federal land where they allow dry camping (without hookups for water or electricity)  in any of several areas.  These areas are literally miles across, so you can drive out into the desert, find a cactus you like and park next to it.  So here we are, about four miles from town out in the desert.  I'll get some more pictures tomorrow of the sea of RVs as far as you can see.  But it's cool because there is so much room, it isn't crowded.

So the other claim to fame for Quartzite is that it is probably the world's largest flea market, specializing in RV stuff, rocks and crystals, and the usual assorted junk.  Flea markets take over the entire town, every large parking lot or vacant lot is covered with tents, booths, stands, signs, flags, air-powered bouncy figures and barbecue joints.  It is pretty amazing.  We plan to spend a couple days here, then head back to the relative civilization of Palm Springs.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Where the h#ll is Blythe?

Blythe is a town of 20,000 (well, actually if you don't count the residents of the two state prisons here, more like 10,000) on the California side of the Colorado River  bordering Arizona. We came over from Palm Springs for a bluegrass music festival this weekend. We took our trailer and are dry camping with hundreds of others in the county fairgrounds. 

We took a free tour of the Palo Verde valley when we got here and it was very interesting.  We had a local farmer as a tour guide on the bus and we visited a cotton gin and a hay processing plant.  I know it sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry, but it was actually great to see how cotton is grown, harvested and processed.
Raw cotton
Cotton harvesting machine
Raw cotton from the fields
Finished bales of cotton
Lynnae examining the cotton plants

  The hay processing facility was really interesting, because they collect the hay from local farmers, compress it into bales and then ship the bales to CHINA and JAPAN, all of them.  It turns out that hay doesn't grow all that well in Asia, because it is too wet, but the real kicker is that all those containers of stuff going to America from China would return empty, so the cost to ship the bales of hay to China is [practically zero... lower than shipping it up to central California.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Palm Springs International Film Festival

The Palm Springs International Film Festival is a big deal.  Second-largest film festival in the US (after Sundance, I guess), they are showing over 180 films this year from dozens of countries.  We have tickets to see three films, but it was really hard to choose from all they have.  We saw The Broken Circle Breakdown last night, which is a Belgian film about a Belgian who plays American bluegrass music and his relationship with a woman and their daughter who gets cancer.  It is a beautiful and engaging film that is Belgium's entry for the Oscars this year. I highly recommend it if it comes to the Plimoth this year.  We will be going to see Nightingale (China) and The Forgotten Kingdom (South Africa) this week.  It was especially fun that the director of the Belgian film was at the showing and stayed for questions after.  We saw on the news that a ton of famous actors were here for the opening gala like Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Matthew McConnaughey, but they don't seem to be staying at the Happy Traveler or shopping at the same super market we frequent, but maybe we'll see them at Starbucks.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Hiking in the Indian Canyons of Palm Springs

The local Native American tribe is the Agua Caliente band of the Cahuilla Indians.  Due to some unusually magnanimous dealings with the US government, these people came into some serious land holdings in the Palm Springs area.  Based on some nineteenth century treaties and finalized only in 1959, the local tribe owns every other section of the land around Palm Springs (like a checkerboard):

They are the largest single landowner in Palm Springs and the tribe consists of about 300 individuals!  They are a long way from the poor people on most reservations.  The lands that you see to the left of the pink Palm Springs area on the map are mountains and canyons that the Indians let visitors enter and explore--for a fee (like they aren't already rich like a Romney).  We spent an afternoon hiking the Palm Canyon area and it is really unique.

Palm Canyon is the largest fan palm oasis in the world.  Water runs pretty much year-round through the canyon and the native California fan palms thrive.  We hiked about four miles round trip and took lots of great pictures:
 The land around the canyon is typical desert vegetation--cactus, cholla, palo verde, etc.  Down in the canyon, the fan palms dominate.   We also did some hiking on the ridge above the canyon for some terrific views.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Palm Springs

Happy New Year, everybody!

Well, it has been about three weeks since our last blog update and I apologize to all our fans and followers for that hiatus.  Between the holidays and sloughing off the affects of two non-stop months and about 6,000 miles of travel, we have just been recharging our batteries.  We have settled nicely into our little space at the Happy Traveler's RV Park along with about 200 other refugees of colder weather.  We have explored some of Palm Springs on foot, on our bikes and driving and have found it to be a fabulous area to hang out.  Great restaurants, a fine art museum, an internationally acclaimed film festival, beautiful mountains and canyons for hiking...oh, and great weather, too.  We miss the Gulf beaches and of course our other Florida snowbird friends, but Palm Springs has a lot to offer our travel-weary bones.  We'll put up a few more posts to catch up on some of our doings over the next day or so.

View over Palm Springs looking East from the hill above our park showing our "campground"
Lounging by the pool just after Christmas

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Christmas and New Years in our new "home"

Christmas in the LeBlanc trailer
New Years Eve at the Happy Traveler (notice Lynnae's "Happy New Year 2003" hat).