Tuesday 24 May 2016

Road Trip Diary: The Desert

Day 65
Big Bear Lake to Desert Hot Springs
Tuesday 7th July 2015

Following on from our awesome lunch in the kitsch Peggy Sue Diner's, the two-hour drive through the desolate desert brought us to Desert Hot Springs. We were staying in a mid-century condo in a little complex with a pool overlooking the mountains. This was one of the first AirBnb's we had booked when we were planning our trip after I fell in love with it online and decided it was too cheap to pass up- only around £130 for all 4 nights! It was a beautiful studio apartment, decorated with amazing vintage furniture and cool decorative touches that ticked all our boxes.

Desert Hot Springs would probably be described as Palm Springs slightly sleazier, down-at-heel neighbour. It's a little more gritty and not as pretty but we were looking for a well-priced base for our time here and this was perfect. It has all the amenities you need and is only a short drive to everything you would want to see in the area. 

Day 66 
Desert Hot Springs 
Wednesday 8th July 2015 

Today was our chill out day, we wanted to lounge by the pool and soak up the sun, drink beer, eat ice cream and generally do and see nothing! We drove to the supermarket to pick up some supplies where I discovered Coolhaus Sammies - ice cream cookie sandwiches - and we stocked up on Big Wave hawaiian beer for the evening ahead.

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Day 67
Desert Hot Springs
Thursday 9th July 2015

After a very lazy Wednesday, we wanted to cram a lot in to this day so we left the house at 7am to drive to Joshua Tree, first to the national park and then to Yucca Valley.

The Joshua Tree National Park is a truly beautiful and serene place. We seemed to be the first people there so drove in alone and parked up in the already scorching heat to wander around and explore. I could have stayed there for hours, looking at the strange rock formations and the even stranger insect life that lives in such an environment. We stopped at the visitor centre and the Joshua Tree market shop on the way out whilst noticing more quirky details that seem to inhabit the desert - the rainbow bus for example!

Yucca Valley and, more specifically, the stretch of the 29 Palms Highway that rolls through Yucca Valley is home to an amazing group of artisans and retailers that make up an incredible local community. I'd heard about a lot about it through Instagram and made sure it was on our 'must do' list. We stopped for food at the Ma Rouge Coffee House, which sadly I've just learnt had to shut a couple of months ago due to a greedy landlord. It's a massive shame because we enjoyed the food and iced teas we had there and it was the perfect little pitstop in a sprawling desert strip.

I had two shops on my list to visit- first up Hoof and the Horn, a beautifully curated clothing and lifestyle shop with an impeccable eye for amazing design. Secondly, The End, an insanely gorgeous vintage shop with huge brightly coloured murals adorning the outside walls and rails and rails of the loveliest vintage treasures and locally designed fashion, accessories and jewellery. I ended up (no pun intended!) spending a small fortune in the latter!

We headed back to the apartment to freshen up and have a little rest as we were headed to Pappy and Harriets that evening for dinner. The one thing we did notice in the desert is that it really is impossible to get anywhere without a car. Not just an inconvenience or difficult, impossible. Pappy and Harriets is a saloon based in Pioneertown, about half an hours drives from Desert Hot Springs and basically in the middle of nowhere. It's an old movie town, created for the backdrop in a bunch of westerns and comprises a 'high street' of wooden shops, houses and a ranch at one end and at the other sits Pappy and Harriets, a saloon which bizarrely has a reputation for hosting some of the best intimate music gigs on the West Coast- Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age etc have played here in recent times. Due the car issue, Ed had to drive so couldn't have a drink and there wasn't a decent gig on whilst we were there so we grabbed an early dinner, played some pool and soaked up the quiet atmosphere in a place that obviously knows how to party.

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Day 68
Desert Hot Springs
Friday 10th July 2015

We headed out early again and drove through the desert, past the plains full of wind turbines and into the refreshing mirage that is Palm Springs, home to the rich and famous and many, many beautiful houses. We drove around for a while when we first arrived, gawping at all the amazing properties but then I spotted a sign for a thrift store and we spent the next couple of hours hopping from shop to shop, where I bought some incredible vintage clothes for a few dollars.

We stopped for lunch and juice, had a walk around the busy strip at the centre of Palm Springs and stood in awe as the biggest Motorcycle crew I'd ever seen rode past. I started filming it (below) but it just went on and on, much longer than my video shows, it was like being an extra in an episode of Sons of Anarchy.

The last stop on our desert list was dinosaurs, very big dinosaurs, in the middle of nowhere. The Cabazon Dinosaurs to be exact, a brilliantly odd roadside attraction originally built to promote the now-closed diner next door. You can climb them, take photos in them, visit the shop inside one's belly, what more could you want? There's a separate museum and gift shop which we wondered round for a small entrance fee, but really it's just the huge model monsters you should bother with.

The desert was both mine and Ed's favourite place of the whole trip, the quietness of it, the strangeness, the way the community thrives somewhere that is seemingly impossible. We were sad to leave but happy knowing we would definitely be back someday, back to the dust and heat of the desert.

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Wednesday 4 May 2016

Road Trip Diary: Big Bear Lake and Calico

Today marks one year since we jetted off to America for three months and can you believe we still haven't written all of our blog posts about it?! Efficient we are not. 
We're coming to my favourite part now though, the desert and our first stop on the way there: Big Bear.

Day 64
Santa Barbara to Big Bear Lake
Monday 6th July 2015

Moving inland from the Californian coast over the San Bernardino Mountains felt like a new stage of our journey. Looking back now, after having nine months to contemplate, it definitely felt like we were moving into the last part of the trip, the beginning of the end and a return back to routine and normality.
It sounds melancholy but as our trip headed from the sea to the mountains in the south east of California and skirted the eastern fringes of Los Angeles, it slowly dawned on us that we only had 16 days left.
We climbed the 2,000 metres above sea level up the winding Highway 18, aptly named the Rim of the World Highway. Throughout the journey we received emergency alerts on our phones from the local authorities warning us of flash floods but apart from a few puddles we didn’t encounter anything. Big Bear and its corresponding lake are big players during the winter season when it becomes the ski destination for Southern California. During the summer though, it was quiet and had the air of an out of season holiday village. We parked up at our motel, a sort of ski chalet with motel rooms called Honey Bear Lodge, and walked down the street into the centre of town. 
We ate ice cream by the lake and took in the view and the sunshine and decided to drive to the local Ralphs for a couple of microwave meals for dinner. Not all travel is glamorous, especially when you're on a budget!

Day 65
Big Bear Lake to Desert Hot Springs
Tuesday 7th July 2015

We left Big Bear early as we knew it was going to be a scorcher, somewhere in the 90's Fahrenheit wise and we wanted to visit Calico, a tourist trap mining 'Ghost Town, just outside Barstow on Interstate 15. For $8/adult, you'll gain entry to a once-prosperous town that was abandoned after the silver they were mining lost its value. It was bought up in the 1950's by theme-park mogul Water Knott (him of Knott's Berry Farm fame) and restored to some of it's former glory.

It feels quite authentic, even though some of the signage is a little bit too theme park-esque and the attention to detail in some of the buildings- the dresses hanging in one of the stores look like Edwardian originals- is impressive. All in all, definitely worth the entry fee but be warned: if it's a hot day, the climb up to the top of the hill is a killer!

For lunch we headed to the famous pastel Peggy Sue's diner, a few minutes away from Calico on the aptly named Ghost Town Road. Firstly, look at it. It's bloody amazing and just as kitsch and weird inside as it is on the outside. It's typical diner food but decent prices, portions, the epic surroundings, dinosaur park and revolving cake cabinet make it a memorable stop if you love any of those things!

We headed off to find our next stop and that's where we'll pick up from in our next post...

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