Palm Springs

Palm Springs is in the middle of a desert.  It has mountains on 3 sides, but this does nothing to shield the city from the intense desert heat.

I arrived a few days ago.  Happily driving the 2 or so hours from San Diego in the car with no name with the air conditioning on.  It’s an easy enough drive; generally on the freeway heading straight through the desert and into Palm Springs through a huge field of windmills. 

It was only when I exited the car with no name that the heat hit me.  It’s like walking into a sauna or steam room.  The air you breath in is hot air.  Despite my obvious lack of fitness, the heat makes it difficult to do anything without being out of breath.  Sweat pours off you.  All this before I reached the reception of the hotel, a whole 20 yards away!

Palm Springs used to be a hip and happening place to be.  You can tell by my choice of words that this was quite a while ago.  In the 1930’s film stars started to buy up ranches in the area and the tropical heat and cool bars and hotels continued to attract stars right through to the 1960’s and 70’s.  For a while such luminaries as The Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra owned a house here), John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley, Nancy Sinatra and Victor Mature stayed here.  In fact the last three names stayed at the very hotel I am staying and lounged by the pool that I am often lounging by.  I only lounge in 10 minute spells, due to the brutal heat.

The city still manages to have 2 links to the old days.  The nearby Betty Ford clinic ensures that plenty of celebrities still stay in the area and, back in the day, it may have been considered a gay place to stay.  Apparently, according to various guidebooks, the Palm Springs community has moved with the times and adapted to the change of the use of the word gay.  So much so that, according to my rough guide book it “has become a major gay resort.”

The temperatures at the moment are hot for the time of year.  Palm Springs almost closes down to the point of being a ghost town during the summer months of August and September, when the heat becomes virtually unbearable.  At the moment, similar temperatures are being encountered and it is mid-June.  One local told me that the heat in the summer is not as bad because it is dry heat; the heat at the moment carries a humidity that makes it that bit more stifling.

On the day that I arrived, I checked the temperature, using the car with no name’s sensor and it read 114F, which is about 45C…it was 5:30pm. 

Forgetting about the heat, the place is really quite quaint.  There is a main street with boutiques and restaurants lining the blocks either side.  The rest of the place seems to be suburban bungalows in neat blocks with palm trees lining the streets, which in a contrast to the deep blue skies overhead, looks quite beautiful.

As a little excursion from poolside, I went on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway – a 10 minute, 2.5 mile long, rotating cable car trip that takes you up to the 8,516 feet elevated mountain station on the Mount Jacinto Sate Park.  The cable car trip is great.  It gives fantastic views of the desert and the valley where Palm Springs sits.  It also sways about when passing the pylons keeping the whole thing up, which provides everyone with the chance to moan and groan in nervous excitement.

Once at the top, the station gives way to a vast expanse of state park.  There are numerous trails and campgrounds and the temperature is much more pleasant (around 70F).  Plus there are viewing areas for the valley and the desert.  It was easy to spend a few hours wandering around and taking photos.  And the cool part is you get to ride the cable car again coming down, which seems a lot faster, but we were assured it wasn’t.

It’s just outside Palm Springs, so it only took up part of the day, leaving me free to pay my own personal homage to Victor Mature, by sucking in my gut and lounging poolside.

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