Palm Desert 2018

November in La-La Land.

The long ride home

I woke up at 6:30. No alarm — usually I wake up at 5:30 and then lie in bed waiting for a more reasonable time to start the day, but this night I slept through and when I opened my eyes for the first time and spotted the time on the microwave I jumped out of bed. I showered, wrote my journal entry for yesterday, and then packed up my stuff and went out to the van. I decided to skip the hotel breakfast — I would stop and pick something up along the way. The parking lot was ice. So was the highway. I gently drove back to the gas station I’d passed on the way in last night and filled my tank. I didn’t need any extra excitement on my drive today.


Tracks in the snowy road led me out of Belle Fourche, SD.

As I pulled out of town the snow was falling. It looked like a couple of inches had fallen during the night, but according to the weather reports much more snow is expected today. I followed another car’s tire tracks and slowly and carefully started on my way. I was going about 70 kms/hr. At this rate it could be a very long ride home!

After about 15 minutes I caught up with that car making tracks ahead of me. Now what? Do I follow at a slower pace or do I pass. I carefully passed the car. There were not many cars on the road. Half an hour later a snow plough came from the opposite direction. As soon as it had passed I moved over into the oncoming lane and drove in that lane for about an hour. I had to focus on the road ahead — it was snowing and a bit foggy, and now I had to make sure I saw oncoming traffic and that I moved over into the right lane when we met. I think it was a good thing that today was Saturday. The radio was announcing all the cancellations — very few playoff football games were going to be played today! So there weren’t a lot of us on the road. As long as I stayed out of the ditch, that would be a GOOD thing.

Just when I thought I was the only one driving today, an oncoming cop car came over the hill and turned on its flashers. I pulled over and got my registration out. I knew I had been speeding. I was coming down a hill and I wasn’t watching the speedometer. The policeman came up on the passenger side. I opened the window. “Now where are YOU going in such a hurry this morning?” Well yes, you see, my van only shows kilometres and I know I was going too fast and I’m so sorry. “You know we are under an extreme weather watch today, right?” I know — it won’t happen again. And with that, that nice policeman told me to buckle up and drive safely. Whew!

After driving for about 2 hours, the road seemed to improve. There had been ploughs out and that really made a difference. I think I reached the I-94 (which would take me all the way to Fargo) after about 4.5 hours of ‘hairy’ driving. Once I got on the divided highway I enjoyed the driving a lot more. The interstate was just on the northern edge of the big snowstorm; South Dakota and southern North Dakota were expecting the brunt of the storm. Because of the big storm to the south, and it being a Saturday, four-lane interstate had less than the average number of cars and trucks on it today. That made me feel a lot more comfortable driving. Sure, I encountered quite a few foggy patches and intermittent rain, but for the rest of the day I drove just over the speed limit — you know, just enough to NOT get stopped again — and made good time.

I fueled up again in Dickinson and had a sausage-and-egger and a black coffee. No time to lose. It would be a long day, and I’d lose another hour due to the time zone to boot. 

In Fargo I stopped to refuel again. (The gas is by far the cheapest in North Dakota!) By the time I got to Grand Forks the sun was down. Two hours later I was at the border. The customs guy asked me for an inventory of what I was bringing into Canada — and then waved me through. 

A little after 7:00pm I was at the co-op gas bar in Steinbach. One last fuel up. Wash the van. Go home. The heat’s on. Bread, cheese, sandwich meat, and fruit is waiting on the counter for me. So is a month’s worth of mail. But there’s a Jets game on tonight!

I lugged my stuff into the house. Then I made myself a cup of instant soup and poured myself a glass and sat down to watch the Jets win in overtime. Welcome home!

Utah -> Wyoming -> South Dakota = 900 miles today!

When I woke up this morning and looked out my window — things looked a whole lot better than they did last night. Snow was melting. Snow ploughs and sanding trucks were out. I went down for a quick breakfast. At 7:40 I was packed and loaded up and ready to hit the road. It was snowing pretty good. I packed up my stuff and went downstairs for the free “breakfast”. I made some mini-waffles, smeared them full of peanut butter and smothered them with syrup and washed that down with a coffee. 

The temperature stayed between one below and one above for most of today. For the first hour or so out of Cedar City small snowflakes were peppering the van and I kept an eye on the outside temperature, wondering if that wet snow and rain would freeze and make the road slippery. But the roads just got better. I was planning on driving up to Idaho and then taking the interstate east from there all the way to Fargo. But as I got closer to Provo the sun came out. Wow! What a difference that makes on one’s outlook! In fact the weather was so much better than what I had expected, I wondered if it wouldn’t be just as good to drive home via the route I had originally planned to take. Surely by now the icy roads that Jim and Bonny had yesterday afternoon on their way through the Rockies would have melted. So I made an executive decision. Just when the sun was looking away for a minute, I deeked left, then turned right, and off I was before anyone even took notice. It turned out to be the right decision.

I was a bit more mindful of the fuel gauge today. I stopped for gas and a burger in Evanston. I hadn’t downloaded an offline google map for this area because I wasn’t planning on taking this route, so I updated the new itinerary while I munched on my McChicken sandwich. 

The road was flat and the sun was shining for most of the afternoon. Cruise control set for 84mph and I only had to slow down when two big semis decided to pass each other and blocked the passing lane. I had my old iPod going full-time, and by the time I stopped for the night I was a little hoarse from singing loudly all day!

In Rawlins I turned north, off the Interstate 80, and headed up to Casper, Wyoming. It was 4:30 and the sun was setting. I would be driving in the dark for a few hours today. As the light was dimming, I noticed a lot of deer on the sides of the road. It’s that time of the day — better be watchful in case they decide to jump into my path. It was in Rawlins where, as I drove through the downtown, I saw a big buck slowly walking across the road and onto the busy parking lot of a ‘Dollar General’ store! (I wondered what you could get for a buck at a ‘dollar’ store!)

I got on the I-25 and continued north for a couple of hours. It was raining full time now. My headlights were dirty and not very bright. I was happy to tag on with a car ahead so I could watch the taillights and anticipate the turns ahead. There wasn’t a lot of traffic so we both made good time until we got to Gillette, where the road meets the I-90. I needed to send a text home to let Alex know where I was, etc. So I pulled in at another McDonald’s for some free wifi. Connected with home. All good.

I hadn’t made any reservations for a hotel because I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up. I thought I would try for Spearfish, South Dakota. But when I looked at the map again I saw that Spearfish was a bit of a detour from my ideal route homewards. And there had been a number of flashing signs on the road, warning that the coming snowfall would make things slippery starting at 11pm and lasting until 3pm Sunday. I decided that the farther I got today when the roads were wet but not slippery, the better off I’d be tomorrow.

I turned north off the I-90 before it reached Spearfish and drove up to Belle Fourche. I checked in at the first hotel I spotted. I parked the van. It was getting colder and the rain was not letting up. Yes, they had room. Yes, they would give me a room upstairs that was “pet-free”. I was happy and tired. I was going to write my journal entry, but by the time I looked at all my “windshield” photos from today’s drive, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I would write my journal in the morning.

A bit of weather on Day One of the trip home.

I woke up at 6:30. Got a text from Robert wishing me a good drive home. I didn’t get out of bed right away — but then at around 6:40 the house ‘shuddered’. The patio doors rattled and I heard a little ‘crunch’ noise, probably the shingles on the roof. A tremor. I know what this is. I’ve experienced them a few times — notably six years ago when we were in a rented house not far from here and the whole house shook! I wondered if we might notice some after-shocks — that’s what we got six years ago. But I think that was it for this morning. But enough to roust me out of bed. I showered and stripped the bedding and put in a load of laundry. I had breakfast and then finished packing. 

It was around 9:30 when I backed the van off the driveway for the last time. I drove up along Monterey Ave, said goodbye to Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore. Got on the I-10 and headed towards L.A. But not all the way there! No, I soon turned north and zigged and zagged my way up through the Joshua Tree National Park. I think within half an hour of leaving Palm Desert, the temperature in my van indicated that it had dropped from 17 down to 9 degrees. In half an hour! And now the rain began to fall. And within half an hour my nice shiny clean van was rained on, then sand and dust blew over it, and a couple of big tumbleweeds boinked across the front grille. As I left the park behind I stopped beside the road and took a few pictures of those cool ‘trees’. And quickly closed the windows because that wind was blowing the rain into the van.

It rained pretty much all day. Sometimes quite hard, then not so hard, then hard again. So I was busy adjusting the wiper speed all day. And then I drove through the Mojave National Reserve. Narrow paved highways with very soft shoulders and occasional chunks missing on the side of the road. But not a lot of traffic. After that I turned onto the I-15 where I could cruise at 70 or 80 miles an hour.

I ate the sandwiches I’d made as I drove. It wasn’t supposed to be a long drive — I’d booked a hotel in Cedar City, Utah, just over 400 miles, about six-and-a-half hours of driving. The road got busier once we were in Nevada. All the lanes were full as I took the ‘express’ lane through Las Vegas. Then into Arizona for a bit, and up into St George, Utah. By now it was raining harder again. I lost an hour due to the time zone, but with the dark clouds and rain it felt like dusk all day!

I was almost ‘home’. It was raining hard a lot of the time — so hard that big puddles were washing across the road and buffeting the van as I plowed through them. The gas gauge showed that I had at least 50kms to spare — I would have no problem making it to my hotel in Cedar City. But I guess driving 80 miles an hour over some hilly country and motor-boating through some serious water on the road can affect your gas mileage. As I got to within 30 kms of Cedar City I started taking note of how many kilometres worth of fuel I had. The buffer was getting smaller. By the time I was 10 kms from the end the fuel gauge said I had 9 kms of fuel. But even that was going down faster than my distance left. With 4kms to go my gauge showed ZERO. Ding, ding. All kinds of lights are now blinking on the dashboard. But the van is still driving. I’ve already set the cruise down to 60 mph. And it is raining hard and the temperature now shows 2 degrees. And I sure don’t wanna go for a 1 mile walk on a busy highway with trucks splashing rain at me. I exited the freeway and the first thing on my right is a Shell station. Whew! Fill’er up!

I checked into the hotel. Lots of rooms and not many cars on the parking lot. Raining hard. I go up to my room and logon to the wifi. Ding, ding, ding. Emails and messages.

There’s one from Jim Peters — he and Bonny are on their way to Palm Desert and are almost at tonight’s destination in Provo. He says the roads are good and clear so far. But the text message is 2 hours old. When I reply I get a message back — oh, oh! Those last 2 hours of driving have more than doubled. Lots of snow and freezing rain in the high altitudes. Shoot! 

I see that the Cowboys are hosting the Saints on TV — so I go out to pick up some chinese food. I’ll watch the game and eat supper in my room. But when I go outside I’m surprised to see 6 or 7 inches of snow on the parking lot. And on all the vehicles. And there are a lot more vehicles here than there were 20 minutes ago, and more are coming in off the highway. It’s about to be a miserable night. And the local news and weather on TV lead me to believe that we just might be socked in here for a few days. So much for getting home EARLY! But at least I’m in a decent place and maybe I can go see one or two movies that I haven’t yet seen, and maybe even do a bit of reading…

I eat in my room, but the idea of watching the game ends abruptly when the TV loses signal. Must be ice on the power lines. No channels are working. Luckily I have internet access. I called my brother and my mother and my daughter and Jim. Whew! busy night! After talking to Jim I decide that I will alter my route home and head straight north tomorrow. Maybe I can snivel my way home between two winter storms. We’ll see. 

As I start writing my journal entry the TV comes back on. Oh good. Hopefully I can stay up late and watch some Trumpy news on Colbert tonight. Ah, but it is a momentary blip. I might be a quiet night here in Room 232. Oh well. As I always say, you have to have a sense of humour and roll with the punches if you want to be a traveler. 

Good night.

One last golf game in PD

Ed, Darrel, and Rudy

And what a fine day for golf it was! I woke up at 6:30. Coffee and cereal. Ed was already sipping his tea when I got up. We left Val to fend for herself for the morning and headed out to pick up Darrel at his house at 8:00. From there we drove to the Mission Hills Golf Course in Rancho Mirage. 

We checked in and then went to hit a few balls on the driving range. When the starter called us up we were introduced to our fourth partner, Bruce. Bruce was from Portland but had a home here in Rancho Los Palmas and spends his winters here. 

The Westin Mission Hills Resort actually has TWO courses — we were playing the Gary Player course, and it was lovely.

There was water in play on many holes. We started on the back nine, and Bruce, my partner, had only brought 7 golf balls with him. And he was out of balls after the first 5 holes! He’d broken his ankle in June, and apparently it was still causing him some problems. He came limping back to the cart after every missed shot. Well, it was going to be my last golf game on this trip, and I’d collected quite a few balls the last time I golfed at Cathedral Canyon — so I offered him as many balls as he might need from my golf bag.

And so we continued. Bruce had golfed this course many times, and he liked to tell me all about the next hole after we’d putted out the last one. I guess the advice helped me a bit more than it did him — I was hitting the ball straight off the tee and had many opportunities for par, some of which I made.

After finishing nine holes we had a short wait before continuing to Hole #1 tee box. Ed bought a couple of tall IPAs which turned out to taste as good as they looked, and looked as good as they tasted. 

After the game Darrel invited us to stop by his place for a beer. I dropped the boys off, went home to pick up Val, and went back to Darrel’s. He and Cari are packing up and heading home tomorrow. After a quick refreshment we said goodbye and went back to my house for a late lunch. I was starving. Sandwiches and chips, and a leftover enchilada for me, courtesy of Val. We ate lunch on the patio. By late afternoon Ed and Val were ready to drive back to their place in Gold Canyon. Although their visit was a brief one, it was so good to have them here.

I did a load of laundry and started gathering some of my things and packing up. I called Carlos, the caretaker guy who looks after the condo for John and Connie, to let him know I’d be checking out early, probably sometime around lunch tomorrow. That would give him and his wife an extra day to clean the place for the next visitors. I drove downtown to pick up a couple of things. I had a late supper of some of the leftover things in my fridge. I packed my closetful of golf shirts and shorts into my big suitcase. I took the pedals and front wheel off my bike and started piling stuff into the van. Finally, at around 10:00pm, I sat down on the couch with my computer and wrote my journal. And now that is done. I still need to write something nice into the guest book here and then I will retire to the bedroom for one last sleep in PD. oh yeah, I almost forgot — I shot 90 today. See you tomorrow!

Visitors from Gold Canyon

After my coffee and cereal i went for a walk to the grocery store and back. I needed a few supplies. I’m getting company for the next couple of days. 

At around noon Ed and Val arrived. They’d driven out from Gold Canyon, a drive of about 300 miles. They were coming to my place for a visit. We sat around for a bit and then made sandwiches for lunch. 

After lunch — well, actually quite a long while after lunch, because we spent a couple of hours just sitting and visiting — we went for a little drive around town. I drove down to El Paseo and made a reservation for supper at the Agave Mexican restaurant for later tonight. Then we drove out of town, up along the Palm to Pines highway for a few miles, just to get a view of the valley. 

We came back to town and stopped in at the big PGA store. We made another stop at the Bristol Farms grocery and deli. It was dark by the time we got back to the house.

Our reservation was for 7:00, so we had a bit of time for a little happy hour and more gossip. We got to the restaurant right on time. We enjoyed a great meal and margaritas to match. By 8:30pm it felt like we might be the last ones in the place — many restaurants close by 9pm and folks are probably tucked into bed by 9:30. 

When in Rome… We were home by 9. A little more sitting around and deciding on a plan for tomorrow. Then the Peterses were off to bed. I sat and serenaded them on my guitar for a little while; then looked at my photos from today and wrote my journal. By 11:30 it was time for me to go to bed too. Darrel, Ed, and I have a 9 o’clock tee time tomorrow. 

It’s just another manic Monday

Busy, busy, busy here at the Hotel California. Speaking of which, today I practiced my guitar for an hour and a half. But mostly I enjoyed the view out of my patio while I read, did a crossword, and worked on the computer. And when at around 4:45 I looked outside and saw the pink and yellow sky behind a backdrop of palm trees, I was reminded of the cover of that album, still one of my favourites though it was released 42 years ago!

I finally left the house at around 5 o’clock. I went to the movie theatre and saw “A Private War”, the true story of a war correspondent who reported from the front lines in dangerous situations around the world until she was killed while covering the war in Syria. 

Back at home I had supper and watched a couple of episodes of The Office on TV. (And no, I am not really a fan of the Bangles, but their ode to Monday came to mind when I thought about what I could say about how I spent my day). 

Sunday

I woke up just after 7:00. Shoot! my Sunday shows were already on. It took a few minutes for the TV box to get itself configured so I could watch my shows. I got it eventually and sat in bed watching TV for a while before getting up.

I showered and made my morning coffee. Bacon and eggs for breakfast again. It was good to see an interview with John Prine on CBS Sunday Morning. On CNN, Fareed did another hour-long show about the gun issue in the US. And of course NBC and Fox and ABC all covered the week in Trumpy news. 

I FaceTimed with Ed and Val and we arranged a visit for later this week. 

In the afternoon I got in the van and went out for a ride. Then, at around 4:30, I went to see another movie, “Green Book”. With all the time I’ve spent in movie theatres in the last couple of weeks, I had seen the preview for it many times. I really prefer seeing a movie where I know NOTHING about it — no previews, no reviews, no interviews with the actors on late night TV. Too much hype and the actual movie can be a disappointment. But this movie actually exceeded my expectations. 

When I got home I was going to watch the Grey Cup game, but the game was already in the 4th quarter and the outcome was not in question. But there was a Vikings game on Sunday Night Football, so I watched that instead. I finished another tough crossword puzzle before heading off to bed.

Saturday

I made a 3-egg omelet with cheese and bacon for my Saturday breakfast. I listened to Van Morrison all day while I worked on my computer.

By mid-afternoon it was time to take a break. I went out for a walk. I ended up at The River mall. Lots of people out — it is the Thanksgiving long weekend and a that has brought a lot of visitors to town. I think a lot of families come to be with their parents and grandparents who have retired to the Palm Springs area. So the restaurants are booked, the golf courses are busy, the streets are filled with shoppers. I went to the theatre, hoping to see the new movie “Green Book” but it was sold out! And the evening showtimes were all sold out except for the front row. What about “Boy Erased”? All sold out, too. Oh, are you a single? In that case we have one seat for the next showing. I took it. I’d seen the previews for the movie all week, and although I more-or-less knew the story from watching the previews, I very much enjoyed the film. 

It was dark when I left the theatre. I wandered around the outdoor mall, watching people and listening to a couple of buskers. The Ben and Jerry’s was doing a brisk business. By now my big omelet was but a distant memory and I was hungry — but not just for a little cup of fancy ice cream. I walked back home, going through the Rancho Las Palmas Country Club. Like most retirement communities in the sun belt, there are very few street lights in this development. But tonight there was plenty of light to show me the way through. The golf course that criss-crosses the one-mile road through the private club was lit up by a giant full moon that was rising ahead of me. Stunning. I actually turned off the flash on my phone and tried to take a few photos — none of which come close to what it actually looked and felt like.

The gates into my country club are now fully decked out in Christmas decorations and lights. The friendly girl at the main gate knows me by now. It’s not quite another mile from the entrance to my house. A lovely walk. The moon was now shining down on the palm trees around the pond on my golf course. It reminded me of the chalk talks that Henry Fehr used to do in church around this time of year — Bethlehem, with exotic black silhouettes of palm trees and a moon shining overhead. If only they had the Northern Lights here — that would be almost like the black light effects that were the grand finale of the chalk talks.

When I got home I opened another of my boxes of ‘easy-to-make’ pasta. I whipped up quite the impressive meal and ate both of the 2 portions of pasta that the box claimed were in there. After dinner I plunked myself down back in front of the TV and watched a series about the 1974 Patty Hearst case on CNN. Here I am again, living in the past! I know how this thing ends — I actually followed this story when it was happening. Hey, for as much as I ridicule the old folks around me, I’m probably exactly where I belong!

Bump and Grind

I had a slow morning again. The sun isn’t up until after 6 in the morning and it’s hard to get up when it’s dark (and cold). I made my coffee and sat down to read the news. When I’d finished my coffee I had a bowl of cereal and yogurt. I sat at my computer and tried to figure out my programming problem — I know I’ll eventually get this, but so far I’m striking out. 

After lunch I went into town. I wanted to see if I could get a new power cable for my computer because my cable has a broken connection. I thought they might have something at the big Apple store on El Paseo. Today was not the best day to visit the shops — it’s Black Friday and the sidewalks were filled with shoppers. And not a parking spot to be found. I circled around and tried a couple of the parking lots. I finally got a the van parked and went to the store. Not a lot of help there — apparently my computer is much too old and the cable I need would have to be special ordered — for $79 US! Yikes. I might have to buy a roll of electrical tape.

I left downtown and drove to the little street behind the Target store. There were quite a few vehicles parked on the side of the street. I did the same. I switched from sandals to my running shoes. A pathway led past a big track where people were driving their remote-controlled cars over moguls. A sign at the side of the path indicated that this was the trailhead for the ‘Bump and Grind’ trail. I started up the trail.

The Bump and Grind trail is a 4-mile loop. I took the left path going up. The temperature was 21 degrees and the trail was on the east side of the mountain, so the entire walk was on the shaded side of the hill. Comfortable. Quite a few other hikers going either way. It took about half an hour to reach the top. There is a flat fenced-off area at the top, with a small plant in the middle of it, and signs indicating that you are at the top and asking to please respect the surroundings and stay only on the marked trail.

It took more than half an hour to come down on the second half of the loop — it is longer and quite a bit more gradual as it winds its way down. Along the way there is a great view of another gorgeous golf course — this one is the Porcupine Creek Golf Club. And once again, just to make a mockery of the hike, a guy on a bicycle passes me on his way up the trail!

I got back to the van. Switched shoes again. I decided to check out the Target store to see if I could get a Black Friday deal on some Lego. I did. Across the street from Target was a grocery store where I picked up a few things.

Back at the house I barbecued a couple of hotdogs and fancied them up a bit with bacon and cheese. I sat down and watched the news on TV. I ended up staying up late to watch a two-part special about Aaron Hernandez, the NFL player who was charged with a couple of murders. I must have got my second wind because I had no trouble staying awake until one o’clock.

Thanksgiving, American style

I stayed ‘home’ all day today. Not even a walk or a bike ride. The NFL games on TV started mid-morning and continued all day. I didn’t really pay too much attention — I was either doing a crossword or working on my computer. I got stuck in a little programming loop that I still haven’t figured out. I SHOULD have taken a break and gone for a walk and it probably would have “solved itself” by the time I returned. But I didn’t.

No photo from me today, but how about a picture of this fine young gentleman!

I spent a bit of time checking out some great family photos that Tim and Alex’s friend took of them for their annual Christmas card. I had some ‘Thanksgiving” turkey in my sandwich for lunch.

By 5 o’clock I was tired of sitting at my computer and I “made” some chili (a big badge on the can proclaimed that it contained beans! DUH!) and a baked sausage for my supper. I brought an external hard drive along on this trip; it’s got five or six seasons of “The Wire” on it. I’ve always meant to watch it but never taken the time. So tonight I hooked that up to the TV and started on the first 3 episodes. The opening theme music is a good old Tom Waits song — so it had that going for it. Unfortunately, after a long hard day of doing nothing, I was too tired to stay awake long enough to watch Colbert and Kimmel. Oh well, tomorrow’s another day!