California Trip – Day 2 – 10/17/10

Whew, what a day we had today!  We covered a lot of ground and saw tons of stuff.  We woke up early and got dressed…warmly.  It was only 41 degrees outside!

We did an early morning drive almost all the way around Big Bear Lake.  We stopped at a place called the North Shore Cafe…a tiny restaurant where the locals like to hang.  Perfect!  We, surprisingly, had a fabulous breakfast there.  Strong coffee too…which we needed. 🙂

We went back to the hotel and checked out.  Next stop?  Palm Springs!

We headed out of Big Bear, with a few fun, curvy roads along the way.  Neat scenery, huh?

Then, suddenly, the mountains were gone and we were in the flat DESERT!  It happened so fast, that you’ll note that David still has his winter jacket on in this movie footage:

On the way, we went through Joshua Tree National Park.  These funky trees look exactly what you see on U2’s cover.  Then, just outside of Palm Springs, we discovered massive wind farms.  When I say massive, I mean bazillions of wind turbines.  I found them absolutely fascinating and oddly beautiful.  Must be the green in me.  I got way too much footage of this stuff, but check out some of my snipits below:

Come to find out, these turbines power well over 3000 homes.  Pretty cool, huh?

After OD’ing on wind farms, we arrived in Palm Springs.

We went straight to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.  It is a cable car that travels 8516 feet to the top of Chino Canyon.  The cable car (which is entirely Swiss-made) has a floor that rotates slowly in a circle, so everyone gets great views no matter where you stand.  What a great idea!  My ears were definitely popping on the way up, and it was chilly at the top too!  I’m glad I brought my fleece.  Here’s some footage of our adventure and amazing views:

After our visit to the tramway, we went to downtown Palm Springs to walk around, but it was all closed off due to a motorcycle fest. Sooo, we moved on. Next stop? The SALTON SEA!

Have y’all ever heard of the Salton Sea?  I was first introduced to the Salton Sea…not through school, but an amazing photographer by the name of Troy Paiva.  He did a project called “Lost America” part of which included some eerie, yet extremely fascinating pictures of all things abandoned at the Salton Sea.  You can find his photographs of the area here.  Please check them out, because they are nifty.  I learned more about the Salton Sea later from the documentary “Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea“.  This is another must-see if you have the opportunity.  To give you some background, the Salton Sea an accidental, man-made lake and is the largest lake in California.  It is located between Palm Springs and Mexico.  It’s 220 feet BELOW sea level and it’s salinity is greater than that of sea water.  Currently, tilapia are the only fish that have been able to adapt and survive in the super-salty water.  At one time, in the 50’s, the Salton Sea had a much lower level of salt and was known as the “California Riviera”.  People flocked here to vacation on the water…swimming, boating, water skiing, fishing, etc.  By the 60’s, the salinity of the water was rising sharply (due to a number of factors), and so were the bacteria and algae.  After the problem continued, the fish and birds had massive die-offs.  It was stinky and disgusting.  The lake became stagnant and a health hazard.  Everyone left and the place became a ghost town of abandoned hotels, trailers, cars, boats (again, see Troy’s pictures)…even the yacht club was boarded up, as you can see below.

Yacht club then...

After the freak show of pictures and movie I had seen, I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived.  Welllll, I was pleasantly surprised!  Sony Bono, of all people, led a movement to clean up the Salton Sea and you can definitely see progress.  In fact, we walked into that same yacht club (now a beautiful, restored building and museum) that was so dilapidated just a few years ago.  Here’s what it looks like now:

Yacht club now!

It’s pretty, huh?  In fact, there were lots of pelicans swimming happily in the sea, and even some folks fishing from the shore!  Check it out:

There is still very little of anything out there, as you could certainly see from the last half of my video above.  There are some folks that still live around the lake, but it’s very few.  Admittedly, I think you have to be a bit of an eccentric to live in such a place.  It’s very hot, very humid, and very salty…but if plans to fix the Salton Sea are a success, then who knows what the future holds…

We continued our journey south, almost all the way to the Mexican border.  On the way, we saw more cool stuff, like lots of date trees and grapes.  Then, we saw a feed lot. 😦  It was the first time I had seen one in real life and it was awful.  It smelled terrible and there were cows, packed together, as far as the eye could see.  No pasture.  No grass.  No shelter.  They all just stood there in poo.  I’m a carnivore, but it’s stuff like this that makes me really think about where my food comes from and what I consume.  It was really sad and disgusting.

On a much lighter note, and while on the subject of poo, we also saw a Manure Power Plant!  No joke!  Wind and poo power, all seen in the same day…I love it. 🙂

Ok, so we now needed to make our way west.  We drove through more desert, and through Ocotillo, where tons of these spindly plants of the same name grew.

Once out of the desert, we suddenly found ourselves in odd, massive boulder mountains.  It looked like something out of The Flintstones!  You can see exactly what I am talking about in the video below:

Once we got over the boulder mountains, we found very different weather on the other side.  It was grey and pouring rain the whole way to Coronado, where we planned to stay for the evening.  I got a great deal on Priceline for a night at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort.  When we arrived, they gave us a complimentary upgraded room!  It was really nice.  Can you believe I got this for $109 ?!?  Check it:

Since we did so much driving today, we decided to have dinner at the hotel.  It was yummerific!  Afterward, we walked all the way around the whole resort.  There were huge yachts and sailboats in the marina.  One yacht had Halloween lights on it!   The views from the resort at night were gorgeous. Here’s a long-exposure picture I took of the Coronado Bay Bridge from the secluded “Bayside Lookout”:

We meandered back to the hotel room, and I took a nice, long, warm bath in the big ‘ol bathtub.  Ahhh…what luxury!


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