Road Trip: Palm Springs, California

We planned a road trip to the Palm Springs area of southern California to see a show at the McCallum Theatre.  Usually we see any show we want in Phoenix but we were not home when Come From Away played here last summer.  More on that later.

Our trip involved a two night stay so we visited a few places highlighted on a travel show on PBS called Samantha Brown’s Places to Love.

We started at Salvation Mountain in Niland, California.  

Salvation Mountain began as a temporary monument representing God’s love as perceived by Leonard Knight (1931 – 2014).  

Leonard found all religions to be too complicated instead believing all that was needed was repentance and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  

He put his belief into his Salvation Mountain.

He worked on his monument over 28 years using plaster covered hay bales, items scrounged from the dump, and half a million gallons of latex paint.

The PBS show made us aware of visiting the town of Julian to have pie at the Julian Pie Company..  

A long standing family operation, almost all pies start with home grown apples. We had apple and berry pie for dinner!

Again, following the PBS show recommendation, we visited Borrego Springs to see a collection of larger than life metal sculptures.

There are 130 sculptures in and around the town of Borrego Springs. The town is surrounded by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

The largest concentration of sculptures are in an area north of town called Galleto Meadows.  

We lucked out with some wildflowers too!

Philanthropist, and Galleto Meadows owner Dennis Avery, commissioned sculpture artist Ricardo Breceda to build the sculptures from 2008-2012. That seems a nice gig for an artist during the recession!

We drove through and walked around the expansive area.

The sea serpent has body parts on both sides of the road!

As fun as these side experiences were, the purpose of our trip was to see the musical Come From Away at the McCallum Theatre.

We become aware of the show when visiting Newfoundland last summer.  

I have not yet written about that trip. However, we so enjoyed re-living our Italy trip by writing it after the fact, that I will probably write our Canada trip as time allows this summer. By then Randy may be able to find the end of that trip somewhat amusing!  No, probably not….teaser!

Anyway, in preparation for seeing the musical we both read Jim DeFede’s book The Day the World Came to Town.

We learned that Newfoundland is pronounced Newfin-land.  They have their own time zone that is 90 minutes ahead of US Eastern Standard Time.  Their isolation leads to a cooperative spirit for the survival of all.

The history of helping others rose again in 1942 when two US military ships were destroyed by running aground in a violent storm.  One hundred ninety three sailors drowned but 186 were saved by the heroic efforts of Newfoundlanders.

The island has a long history of aviation importance as a refueling stop for military and civilian aircraft.  Newer jets with longer range has greatly reduced aviation traffic but the long runways remain. 

On September 11, 2001, United States airspace was closed at 9:54 a.m. EDT after the terrorist attacks. There were 4546 aircraft aloft over the US and they were directed to land. There were an additional 400 international flights heading to the US, mostly from Europe..

Of those 400 flights, 250 aircraft were diverted to Canada.  Those planes carried 43,895 people.  Thirty-eight planes, landed in Gander, Newfoundland with crew, passengers, and an assortment of animals.  

Imagine 6595 extra people joining a town of 10,000!   The book and the musical tell the story of the locals and passengers and how they passed the next four days together.  The service provided by the population of Gander is unimaginable – yet they did it.

Photos were not allowed of the production. If you ever have the chance to see the musical, do it!  At the very least, read the book!

An interesting side note to entering the theater – ID and proof of COVID vaccination were required.  We had received this information with our tickets. Masks were recommended but not required.

The next day we had a four hour drive back to Phoenix and made a couple more stops along the way.

Our first stop was the Salton Sea Visitor Center.   

The depression for the lake was caused by tectonic shift, sediment collection and flooding along the Colorado River.  It has a salt water, fresh water, salt water history.

The sea measures 372 square miles and is the largest lake in California.  It sits 277 feet below sea level. It was once the second busiest (of 273) state parks in California.  Its heyday was in the 1950s and 1960s.

Even after its peak, the Salton Sea was still a haven for fish and fishermen and birds and birders.  

Placards in the visitor center are now slapped with History labels as so much has changed.

With climate change and drought, the salinity has increased too much to support fish and the last of the fish died two years ago.  Given that, there are now much fewer birds.  The politician Sonny Bono was very interested in the health of the Salton Sea. There are maintained birding areas with his name in the southern part of the sea.

The Salton Sea currently has higher salinity levels (60 grams per liter) than the Pacific Ocean but less than the Great Salt Lake.

As we left the area we were quite confused by the assortment of agriculture that was dying off, and new agriculture being planted.

We were stunned to see this new water canal. 

I know the water and agriculture scenario is complicated given the drought but allowing established crops to die, while starting new crops, when water is scarce just doesn’t make a lot of surface sense.  

On to a person who made more sense of his life – General George Patton.   

Our last stop in the area was at the General Patton Memorial Museum.  The museum is extensive with details, not just about Patton, but about all military activity during his lifetime.

Some very brief highlights of his life are that he had a family legacy of military service stretching from the Revolution to World War II.

Patton went to West Point and participated in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics as the first American athlete in the pentathlon.

He was instrumental in beginning a tank training program during World War I.

After the US got into WWII, Patton chose the site for, and led, the Desert Training Center  in the American southwest.  He was from southern California so knew of the Mohave Desert area. 

His goal was to prepare American soldiers for war against the Axis regimes in Northern Africa.  

There were camps holding about 15,000 soldiers scattered in the region. At one time there were over 200,000 soldiers training in the Desert Training Center.  

The camps were spartan with no luxuries at all.  Men lived in tents and ate standing up. There were two chapels, one for Catholics and one for Protestants. This is a representation of one of them at the museum.

When the original engagements did not go well in northern Africa,  Eisenhower appointed Patton to come in and lead the troops.  He emphasized discipline and things turned around. 

Patton is seated second from the left as we view the picture. Eisenhower is seated in the center with General Omar Bradly to his left (our right).

Patton’s next accomplishment was capturing Sicily. He followed that with an unusual strategy in the Battle of the Bulge.

Patton must have been a good interview because the museum was full of his quotes.  Patton speaking also got him into some trouble . At one point he was sent to desk duty for accusing a shell shocked soldier of malingering. 

He also caused trouble for those trying to work through difficult situations with diplomacy.  After being his earlier champion, Eisenhower removed Patton as Commander of Bavaria because of things he said.

General George S Patton suffered a broken neck in a car accident in 1945. Two weeks later he died from a blood clot related to the paralysis suffered in that accident.  He and his wife decided prior to his death that he should stay with his troops. General Patton was buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery. 

For those who might wonder, we visited Joshua Tree National Park and did the Aerial Tramway when we were in Palm Springs in 2015. Those observations are in the post One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four.

About Serene

Former full time RVers, transitioned to homeowners and travelers. We've still got a map to finish! Home is the Phoenix area desert and a small cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona.
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8 Responses to Road Trip: Palm Springs, California

  1. Ann Shadiow says:

    As always a wonderful read. We so enjoy your travels and thankful you share them!!

  2. Jim Lazakoff says:

    Did you get to Bombay Beach? Some great real estate opportunities there

  3. tinkersimmons says:

    Another wonderful trip and perfect write-up!!

    Sent from my iPhone


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  4. Interesting, I’ll add the book to my list of books to read. I love the sculptures!

  5. Mark McClelland says:

    Salvation Mountain was featured in an Amazon Prime series that we enjoy, Bosch. Did you look around “The Slabs”, or “Slab City”. There was a time that it was on the “must visit” list for RV’ers, but I think that it has become pretty rough and tumble and is not longer a place that most folks would want to boondock.

    • Serene says:

      We did not see anything identified or identifiable as slab city (if it even is). As I was never willing to boondock except in very special circumstances for a very short time, I never learned the ins and outs of boon docking life. We did see a few people parked in and around Anza Borrego Park area but at least it was pretty. We have so many boondockers in AZ with pulled off in the middle of nowhere by a highway that seem to have absolutely no redeeming value except that they are free, or cost very little. I guess you get what you pay for!

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