After leaving Palm Desert on May 12, 2020, due to the COVID pandemic, it was a long 392 days until we returned on June 8, 2021. There was plenty to do after being away so long but most importantly we wanted to get back to life in Southern California. We were greeted by 87° temperatures inside the house and a nonfunctioning AC unit. Fortunately night time temps were in the low 70s, so the house cooled down that night and we were lucky enough to get the system repaired the next day.
We knew what we were getting into by visiting in July but even still the temps were pretty wild. Our goal was to get as much done early in the morning before temperature reached the mid 90s.
We noticed some new visitors on our back patio; roadrunners seemed to have made a home in the neighborhood. Aside from being a great 1960s cartoon figure, they are fun birds to observe. Roadrunners also known as chaparral birds or chaparral cocks; they are two species of fast-running ground cuckoos with long tails and crests. They are found in southwestern and south-central United States and Mexico, usually in the desert. Some have been clocked at 32 km/h (20 mph), while a few have also been clocked up to 43 km/h (27 mph). They generally prefer sprinting to flying, though they will fly to escape predators.
Roadrunners are a large, slender, black-brown and white-streaked ground bird with a distinctive head crest. They have long legs, strong feet, and an oversized dark bill. The tail is broad with white tips on the three outer tail feathers.
Desert flower, bushes, grasses, and cacti have adapted to the extreme temperatures and low rainfall. They continue to bloom in July despite sweltering temperatures in the low 100s.
Lemons and limes were only a month or so away from picking. Unfortunately, we won't be there when this batch of fruit is ready to pick.
On the morning of June 13th, we noticed black smoke rising from the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument in the hills above Palm Desert. A wildfire had erupted which involved over 400 acres and required over 400 U.S. Forest Service and Riverside County firefighters to contain. Ten days after the fire was extinguished, we drove through the scorched land on our way to hike Suicide Rock in the Santa Rosa Mountains.
Although the area is not heavily forested there is still an ample supply of brush and other combustible materials to feed a ‘desert wildfire’. This was our first California wildfire even though it was admittedly a distance away. It was an eerie experience driving through the soot covered stretch of desert.
In addition to house maintenance activities, our trip was also about reconnecting with friends we hadn’t seen in over a year. We had several friends over for drinks and dinner including Myles who lives full time in Palm Desert.
The creation of the Cabazon dinosaurs began in the 1960s by Knott's Berry Farm sculptor and portrait artist Claude K. Bell to attract customers to his Wheel Inn Restaurant, which opened in 1958 and closed in 2013. We had driven by the Cabazon Dinosaur Park just off Interstate 10 many times since 2018 but this year we made time to visit the unique attraction.
On an overcast day we headed to the local outlets and when we took the wrong exit, we ended up seeing the Cabazon Dinosaurs. They have long been regarded as one of the most iconic roadside attractions in Southern California. Featured in cult classics movies such as Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure, the dinosaurs have staked a claim in the region's pop culture.
Dinny the Dinosaur is a 150-foot-long brontosaurus created by Bell in 1964 out of spare material salvaged from the construction of nearby Interstate 10 at a cost of $300,000.
Mr .Rex, the 65-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus Rex, was built in 1981. A third woolly mammoth sculpture and a prehistoric garden were drafted but never completed due to Bell's death in 1988.
One of the best locations to get views of Palm Desert and the surrounding area is the Coachella Valley Vista Point located on Highway 74. A 5-mile road that includes a series of never ending hairpin turns bring you to a parking lot some 2,300 feet above the valley floor.
I tried taking a few night photos - it will be a learning experience but hope I get better at it over the coming months. The arc light trails are from cars making their way up the switchbacks.
After visiting family in Seattle and taking a twelve day journey through Oregon, we returned to Palm Desert to close the condo up until our return in the fall. This time I took advantage of the extra time to appreciate some of the the street art and sculptures in the downtown area.
Ode to Marshmallows
Palm Desert Window
The Sculpture Garden presented by Melissa Morgan Fine Art is located on a neatly graveled half-acre at El Paseo and San Luis Rey Avenue. Among the works here are the following:
Counterparts, a pair of life-size human figures by Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir,
Ginnetoy, a posed figure rendered in stacked bluestone slabs by Boaz Vaadia
There were a few building murals in the area as well.
What would a stay in Palm Desert be without a photo of the sun setting over the San Gorgonio Pass.