After being rolling stones since hitting the road in October, it has been amazing to sink our toes in the sand, dig in, and stay put for a month. We are so fortunate to be staying at the Motorcoach Country Club in Indio, CA.
The setting is phenomenal, with the Indio Hills looming in the background, plentiful golf courses, and glorious native and annual flowers everywhere. The RV resort offers on-site 18 hole par-3 course, tennis and pickleball courts and more activities than we have time for.
Our hearts have been warmed by making new friends, and having a visit with our dear friends and neighbors, Joe and Amy. A bonus is being right across the street from the friends and fellow adventurers we made last year in Hilton Head…Dyan and Chuck.
Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to during our first few weeks in this desert mecca…
Joshua Tree National Park
Brad and I gassed up the car, packed a lunch and plenty of water to drive up to Joshua Tree National Park.
We should have grabbed an extra jacket too! We knew there would not be any gas, food or water available in the park, but we didn’t realize that we were entering the high desert, with its cold winds. Fortunately the visitor center does sell sweatshirts with an emblem of the unique Yucca trees on the front.
We spent the day driving from the western entrance of the park and all the way around to the Cottonwood southern exit. We took in a number of shorter hikes, including Hidden Valley, Jumbo Rocks, Arch Rock and Split Rock. It was fun to see families with children of all ages…reminded us of when we would hike with our kids when they were little.
We were grateful we took the long route all the way around, as the Cholla Cactus Garden was quite the sight.
The desert isn’t in bloom yet, but here’s a hint of what you might see if you visit later in the spring.
An Adventure in the Desert
We struck out with our friends Chuck and Dyan to visit an area that our friend Eric Davenport from Bend, Oregon told us about…the Salton Sea. What we weren’t aware of was the jaw-dropping Salvation Mountain and the head-scratching settlement of Slab City nearby.
One of the lowest spots on earth at -277 feet below sea level (think about that for a minute…a sea below sea level!) is the Salton Sea. Created when floodwaters from the Colorado River overcame an irrigation canal in 1905, the lake is a terminal lake, meaning there is no natural outlet for the water. As a result of the runoff feeding into the lake, the concentration of salinity in the lake is even greater than the ocean.
We enjoyed our picnic near the lake, but it wasn’t a place one would linger. You don’t dare swim in the lake, and the stench of dying fish was prevalent. Not exactly the seaside resort that Eric and his wife Lyn expected many years ago.
Leonard Knight was truly a rebel without a cause, until he found redemption in the desert. Originally from Vermont, Leonard experienced his religious awakening after a visit with his sister in California. She attempted to share her discovery of spiritualism with Leonard, but her beliefs didn’t resonate until he began to trek back to Vermont.
After discovering his love for Jesus, he was inspired by a hot air balloon. Leonard had a vision of building his own balloon to spread his newfound Christianity. He spent the next 14 years traveling the country and trying to built that darn hot air balloon.
Literally deflated and defeated, he found himself in the desert just east of the Salton Sea. Leonard decided he would stay for a week creating something that would make a “small statement.” This was in 1984. And this is what Leonard created, known as Salvation Mountain.
Leonard died in 2014, but his messages of love live on through a non-profit that maintains his spiritual mountain.
Leonard Knight might have been sharing his salvation with the world, but I’m not sure what the residents of the squatter community of Slab City are attempting to.
I think my mouth hung open the whole time we drove through Slab City.
History: The United States Marine Corps had a training camp, known as Camp Dunlap here in the Sonoran Desert.
The Marines abandoned the base in 1956, destroying all the buildings, but leaving the slab foundations behind. You can guess where this is going…
A sign at the entrance noted “Speed limit: two grams a day.”
Man, there are stories to come out of this place. I’m just not sure I’m the one to write them. I’ll let these pictures help guide your imagination. To see more, see here.
There was a sign for the Library, but we never found it. I’m afraid if we did, we’d never check out.
The place is just bizarre.
A Taste of Home
Our good friends and neighbors Joe and Amy Zavac took time during their travels to LA and San Diego to come visit us in the desert. We hosted them for dinner at the motorhome on Friday evening, and they marveled at the beautiful sites and rigs in the RV resort.
Brad outdid himself with his smoked and grilled steaks, I made my brother’s yummy “smashed potatoes” recipe and a salad with local dates and goat cheese. Our neighbor gave us an outdoor light to enjoy the dinner on the patio. It was so fun catching up on all that we’ve missed in Toledo since October.
On Saturday morning, we went to Shields Date Garden, celebrating 100 years of both farming dates and serving them up in yummy breakfast and lunch dishes. The gardens and pretty patio are just around the corner from us, so I imagine we’ll even ride our bikes there in the future.
Following breakfast, we drove a short distance to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. As members of the Toledo Zoo, we received a 50% discount on our entry fee…one of the many benefits of Zoo membership!
The Living Desert features animals and plants native to deserts around the world, from California to Australia and Africa. It was fun to walk among the animals in many of the exhibits. Not including the cheetah.
We enjoyed wonderful dinner out at the Lavender Bistro in Old Town La Quinta. Although it was cool and sprinkling, the tree foliage and the outside heaters kept us warm and dry.
Our visit was entirely too quick, filled with great stories, much laughter, and wonderful memories.
We are so grateful for our respite in the desert!