After several days relaxing and glamping in Joshua Tree, I didn’t want the pampering to end, so I decided to take my road-weary body just a little ride west to the Palm Springs area for a spa day at The Spring Resort & Spa in Desert Hot Springs, CA. I knew that spas were a place to get health and beauty treatments, but I didn’t realize the word originated in the 1620s in eastern Belgium in reference to a town that had mineral springs thought to have curative properties (Etymology online). Well, being the aquatic-lover that I am, it’s no wonder I’m drawn to the water-based quality of spas, even though I’m a no-frills kind of girl!
This road trip has not been easy on a body that has carried me through 24 years of military service, which is one of the reasons I wanted to take it now versus waiting any longer. My response to several people I’ve met on this journey who’ve said they were going to take a trip like this “some day” has continually been: “Today is the youngest, and likely healthiest, you’re ever going to be, so don’t make “some day” wait too long. Some day may be a day too late!”
For me to keep this trip physically manageable, and enjoyable, I’ve taken off-bike days as needed, even when they were unscheduled. Since I had just taken several off-bike days glamping at Joshua Tree, I decided to indulge in the spa’s half-day option as I passed through to my next destination. I spent a relaxing, glorious morning soaking in the hot mineral springs and snacking under the shade of palm trees, in addition to a much needed massage.
Feeling fully relaxed and content from my spa experience, I traveled less than a mile up the road to Cabot’s Pueblo Museum. In 1914, homesteader Cabot Yervxa “rediscovered” a well-known spot marked by Native Americans of a small oasis, and a well with 132 degree water, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. “The water source for which Palm Springs is named remains culturally significant to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, whose very name means “hot water.” According to tribal history, Cahuilla shamans – known for their ability to heal sickness – used the spring as a source of their power.” (Palm Springs Life) I got to the museum too late to tour the inside, but the outdoor grounds were just as fascinating!
After a leisurely late lunch at Azure Palm Cafe, I left Desert Hot Springs for the short ride to Indio to meet up with my friend Sergio and his girlfriend Lelia. Sergio was one of my neighbors during my time with the Navy stationed in Spain in the mid 1990s. I had the good fortune to live in an apartment building right on the beach in the town of Fuentabravia, just outside the back gate of Naval Station Rota. Some of the apartments in the building were summer vacation homes for Spaniards and were vacant for all but the summer months, and some were occupied full-time by American civilians and military personnel working on the base. Most of us were just starting out in our careers (first or second duty assignment) and were still figuring everything out and developing our leadership styles. Our merry little band spanned the occupational spectrum from aircraft maintenance and flight operations, to nursing, to civil engineer corps and public works, to secondary school educators. Having just recently divorced, this was my first time living on my own, and I was doing it in a foreign country. Although many of my neighbors were Americans for much of the year, the rest of apartment life was immersed in Spanish culture and economy. My lease was in Spanish and I paid my rent in pesetas, in person, to my landlord every month. The same was true for utilities and maintenance. I learned just enough Spanish to pay my bills, order from the great little restaurant on our block, and to purchase simple grocery items and Fortuna cigarettes at the local store – yeah, I used to smoke I learned very quickly that the perception of time, punctuality, and a multitude of other behaviors associated with etiquette is culturally relative. This was the first time I really experienced a way of life other than American, and it was truly an eye-opener! It’s fair to say that this experience, and the people in my life at the time, hugely impacted the person I would become over the years.
So, when I realized that my path was taking me so close to where Sergio lives in Indio, I contacted him to see if he would be up for meeting for a meal. He did one better and invited me to stay for the night and have dinner with him and Leila! They were great hosts and tour guides – taking me to the Tack Room Tavern at the beautiful Empire Polo Club for dinner and on a driving tour of the area. The Coachella Valley, nestled between the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains, encompasses nine cities, each with its own distinct history and culture. I had already experienced Desert Hot Springs for its curative mineral waters, so they drove me around La Quinta, a once secluded, exclusive hideaway for Hollywood celebrities, to see the stunning architecture of its Old Town. I was amazed to hear that their quaint little town of Indio, known as the City of Festivals, attracts more than a million people each year for its annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts and Stagecoach Country Music Festivals. Such an interesting place!
The morning of my departure, Sergio and Leila took me to Shields Date Garden for breakfast. I had intended to try the famous Date Shake, but once I saw the menu, I ordered date pancakes with date butter! Did I mention that I love dates?! Unfortunately, I was enjoying breakfast and the company of my dining companions so much that I didn’t take a single photo! I ended up stopping along the side of the road later on my trip though to take a picture of some date trees.
From the the Coachella Valley, I took the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway for part of my ride to San Diego. This 67-mile route via CA-74 from Palm Springs to Banning, CA takes you from the palm frond lined roads of Palm Springs to the pine needle mountain wilderness of Banning through the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. Since I was going towards San Diego, I turned southwest off CA-74 onto CA-371 at the Paradise Valley Cafe, thereby only doing about half of the byway. I was still full from my date breakfast, but I stopped in at the Cafe catering to bikers, hikers, and horseback riders for some water and a rest break.
As I continued my ride down from the mountains towards Poway, near San Diego, I rode through Cleveland National Forest and skirted the Anza-Borrego Desert. Such a stunning contrast of landscapes and beautiful scenery. As gorgeous this backdrop to my ride had been, I found myself passing up great photo opportunities in order to quickly get to my next destination… more life-long Navy family!!