Music: Village Of The Sun by Frank Zappa.
Our campsite outside of LA was situated in an area with nothing more than mountains and desert. Because of its proximity to LA, there was also an adjacent freeway, complete with heavy traffic and crazy drivers. Another telltale sign that LA was near: sights and sounds not typical for Thousand Trails.
You can usually expect about the same thing at any Thousand Trails campground (the New Jersey TT excluded, of course). Retirees in polo shirts and boat shoes step out to walk their miniature poodles. Things are quiet. People meet on walks, say “hi”, chat pleasantly about the weather and the condition of the roads, and then move on. The lodge and the pool stay deserted, left to those of us who don’t travel in moving condos with three satellite dishes and a soaking tub. Not so at this campsite. It was lively.
We parked in a campsite between two groups of people who had taken up long term residence in actual tents (well, tents and a truck bed). Loud polka music emanated from a converted bus a few campsites down. A bulldog, dragging a rope leash behind him, strolled leisurely through campsites rooting out edibles and biting at the heels of anyone daring to come close. At dusk a tattooed man walked slowly by in the dry river bed behind us, moving a rain stick back and forth. He was followed by two men walking together in animated conversation – one wore a Rasta hat and the other, a Mexican poncho and a tiny derby.
The lodge was full of people playing in or watching a loud, impromptu campground pool tournament; something that had started when we got there and hadn’t ended when we left three days later. The players were serious and determined; all of them seniors (ex-bikers, ex-surfers, an assortment of colorful characters), massaging stubborn hips before bending to line up the perfect shot, stopping now and then to look for glasses which had been left on a table or a forehead. They eyed the coveted championship prizes – three shiny, olive green bars of soap shaped like frogs –lined up neatly and with great ceremony on the window ledge. We left each morning to visit the sights, and came back each night to the same scene.
After LA, we moved on to Palm Springs, where the people are just as interesting, but keep it toned down a bit – at least in public. They have a bridge here called Naked Bridge. It was built in the middle of downtown so that nudists can walk from one part of their nudist resort to the other without having to put on clothes to cross the street. See – interesting, but not in public. Check it out: http://www.desertsunresort.com/the-resort/naked-bridge
To up the strangeness of the population just a bit this weekend, a venue just outside of Palm Springs is hosting the Coachella Music Festival. Around 70,000 people pack into town for the festival each year. We didn’t know about it when we planned to be here or we might have bought tickets. They sell out fast (in five days we’re told), so we missed out on a chance to sit in a field with 69,998 people in 100 degree temperatures. We’re sure the music would have been great, though! Instead, we visited the city and a few of the natural areas: Joshua Tree, San Jacinto, and Indian Canyon. We went on a few short hikes. Short enough that we didn’t completely wither in the heat, but long enough to wish we could, for once, remember to bring the stupid sun block.
Close to the end of our stay in Palm Springs, we took a tour of the wind turbines. The position of the mountains and hot desert air make Palm Springs the perfect geological area for wind farms, and there are hundreds here. We learned not only about wind turbines (or WECS, as the pros call them: Wind Energy Conversion Systems) but about the geology of the area. Here in Palm Springs we are smack in between the oldest mountain range in North America and the newest; where the North American and Pacific tectonic plates are pushing right up against each other to form the San Jacinto Mountains. Although we haven’t felt any earthquakes so far, there are reported to be about 10 to 15 a day. We were very glad to learn this fact after the Palm Springs Aerial Tram trip was over. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqscanv/
So this marks the end of our stay in California. The state has been good to us, once again. There is so much to see and do here, and the sun is always there, beckoning Oregonians to come down whenever we’re feeling its absence. We’re sure to be back soon.