Archive for December, 2013

I am visiting my son in Yuma, AZ for the  winter so I thought I would write about a few places out in this area, especially since I come here on tour quite frequently.

            First up, Palm Springs, CA.  But before we talk about this city, a little bit of knowledge about the Southwestern deserts is probably in order.  There are four deserts that comprise what we call the Southwestern Desert region and so in no particular order…
            First up, The Great Basin Desert encompasses most of northern Nevada, western and  southern Utah, the southern tip of Idaho, and a bit of eastern Oregon. It’s the  most northern of the Southwestern U.S. deserts and is know as the “cold desert.”   This desert has mountains, valleys, lakes and,  of course, basins.  Some of the plant life found here is mountain mahogany, juniper, quaking Aspen  and many types of pine. In addition to plant life, the Great Basin also has a  variety of animals, including jackrabbits, mule deer and mountain  lions.  This is where you find the fabulous National Parks of Bryce and Zion, some of my favorite to visit.
            Just below this desert is The Mohave Desert which includes southeastern and central California, southern portions of Nevada and Utah, and  northwestern Arizona. The Mojave is home to many popular areas, including  Las Vegas, Death Valley and Los Angeles
            Many cacti plants live in the Mojave as well as the desert lily and star,  juniper and prairie clover. The Mojave also has a variety of lizards and  snakes, as well as coyotes, jackrabbits, tarantulas and bighorn  sheep.
            Another desert, The Chihuahuan Desert, encompasses a small part of southeastern New Mexico and  western Texas, and extends south into Mexico. This is the second  largest desert (after the Great Basin) in North America.  Common plant life in the Chihuahuan includes agave, peyote and mesquite and is also know for its yucca.  If you are not sure of what yucca looks like, think small palm tree.  The animals found here are the scorpion, kangaroo rat and  the elf owl.
            The fourth desert, The Sonoran Desert, is located just south of the Mojave Desert. The Sonoran covers  large sections of southern California, Arizona, Baja, California and parts of  northwestern Mexico and Palm Springs is located in this desert.
            It is the hottest desert in North America and it would take two countries of England to fit into it.  It is home to the only Jaguar population in the U.S.  Other animals of the Sonoran Desert include: the tortoise, kingsnake, desert  iguana, coyote and 350 species of bird., including hummingbirds. The desert is also home to the saguaro cactus,  prickly pear and bur sage.
            When people think of deserts, they always think of the giant saguaro cactus with it’s protruding arms, but these cactus are only found in the Sonoran desert and I’ll talk a little more about them in my Tucson article.
            Palm Springs has been a fashionable resort and its mineral springs have attracted visitors for years.  It’s population is only around 45,000 and because of its smallness, Hollywood stars have always been attracted to the area.    I had an area guide tell us that locals will walk down the street and not pay any attention to the celebrities they see.  Because of this the rich and famous are comfortable hanging out here.
            Perched high on a mountain is Bob Hope’s home.  It was a second home for him and is now on the market for only $50 million.  I would always look up and see the house when on the motor coach and wondered about all the people and parties that went on there.
             The 23,366-square-foot home was designed in 1973 by the California Modernist architect John Lautner. It was built to resemble a volcano, with three visorlike arches and an undulating concrete roof, a hole at its center opening a courtyard to the sky. The roofline has been described as one of the most distinctive works of architecture in the area. The house has also been likened to a giant mushroom but it also looks like a UFO. Its has 6 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, 3 half baths, indoor and outdoor pools, a pond, putting greens and a tennis court.
             Frank Sinatra has a home in the mountains for sale for about $4 million but you can drive right by his first home.  It is very unpretentious and is now in line for historic landmark designation.  You can imagine all the wild happenings that went on in that house, especially during the JFK heyday.  You can also wind through the streets and see Elvis’ house, Marilyn Monroe’s, Peter Lawford’s, Liberace’s and the list goes on and on.
            You can visit the Palm Springs Air Museum or take a ride 2 and 1/2 miles up the San Jacinto Peak on the Aerial Tramway.  You will be over 8,516 feet when you get to the top.  This is a really fun ride because the floor of the tram slowly revolves 360 degrees on its journey up the mountain which gives you views of the mountain and desert floor below.
            The Living Desert is another great attraction where you will find desert plants and animals and can even ride a camel.  And, don’t forget to stop at a date farm for a nice cold date shake.
            No trip to Palm Springs would be complete without going to the Fabulous Follies.  However after 23 years of entertainment, sadly this is the final year.   So I guess you better put Palm Springs at the top of your travel list, and if you want to venture further, both San Diego and Los Angeles are a hop, skip or jump away.

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