A Tweet Tour of South West USA: 3 (Los Angeles to Palm Springs)
Breakfast at Deck 33 in the Custom Hotel, Los Angeles, was outdoors and was enhanced – to Chris’s delight – by humming birds hovering beaks into nearby blossoms. Another pleasure was courtesy jousting. Waitresses, as we were to find throughout our trip, were winningly polite, and this morning’s – by name of Kayleen – was no exception.
“Thank you,” I said as she brought the orange juice.
“You’re welcome,” she replied.
When she brought the coffees I upped the stakes: “Thank you very much.”
“You’re very welcome,” she replied.
When she brought the bacon, egg and potatoes I tried a higher bid, “Thank you exceedingly much.”
“You’re exceedingly welcome,” she replied.
Alright, I’m lying there, but the next was genuine. (Honest.)
When she came with coffee refills I said, “The poverty of my words cannot convey the wealth of my thanks.”
She was ready for me, though: “Have a nice day.”
“Thank you,” I replied, off guard.
And then of course she’d got me: “You’re welcome.”
After limbering up like that we felt invigorated to tackle any problem. Such as the car.
The thing is, we’re not really Ford Mustang people, especially convertible Ford Mustangs, especially red convertible Ford Mustangs. But the travel agent back in England had persuaded us, and it seemed an attractive idea – driving down the California coast with the roof open.
But the trouble with a flashy car is you’re passing a message. You’re saying we know what we’re doing, we’re in control.
So the first thing to do was to get a feel of the brake, put an end to those kangaroo stops.
Then I’d need Chris to watch out for green and red lights because, of course, I’d be busy fighting kangaroos.
After that would come the serious business of aiming the left front wing over the lane marker so I could avoid drifting into the inside lane.
These were good preliminaries to master, and in the afterglow of achievement we fixed our minds on the next project – going somewhere. In this we had a redoubtable ally by name of Four Buttocks. We’d never had a SatNav before and found her voice somewhat alarming. “Drive one point six miles, then keep left!” she’d insist, full of schoolmarm authority. “Drive point nine miles, then turn left!”
In the face of such intimidation we had to assert ourselves, maintain our self respect. So we noted how she sat on the dashboard, weighed down by four round blobs, and asked what sort of things get sat upon?
And that’s why we called her Four Buttocks. In all other matters, though, we tried to be properly deferential. So it was with genuine humility that we wondered about the difference between keep left and turn left. Sometimes it was obvious. Other times it wasn’t. Grinning obsequiously, I’d try keeping left, and Four Buttocks would exclaim, “Recalculating!” That meant I’d got it wrong.
“Drive four hundred feet and turn left!” That meant she was sorting out my error.
“Drive two hundred feet and turn left!” That meant she was turning me in a square circle to start again.
We did lots of square circles en route to Palm Springs.
Eventually we rebelled. Why should we be frightened of an advice device? After all, she was just a robotic voice, just a square of electric map, just a gismo on four heavy blobs. So when we came to a sign for a viewing area, I had a flash of daring and turned off.
“Recalculating! Recalculating!” yelled Four Buttocks, and her voice was the voice of outraged cybernetics.
“Where are we going?” asked Chris.
“Not sure,” I replied. “Might be the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.”
Four Buttocks could yell all she wanted. We were choosing where we went, even if a trifle uncertainly.
It was also a trifle vertically. We drove and revved, and wove and roared – indeed I had the impression our Mustang actually staggered at one point – and eventually we had climbed two and a half thousand feet. After that we could let good old Mustang rest. We parked him near the Valley Station and told him not to listen if Four Buttocks tried any plotting.
After that began the serious ascent to the Mountain Station. Six thousand feet in a massive cable car. Add the numbers up, and we rose eight and a half thousand feet so that by the time we stepped out we had a view all the way to the desert floor.
It was the first of many Wows on a road trip remarkable for its limited vocabulary of appreciation.
- Clouds basking long and high. That’s what we’re doing – way up on Mount San Jacinto, gazing down on the Coachella Valley
- Nearby – the occasional small lizard. Far off – the San Andreas Fault shows in the cracks on distant hills
- High with altitude and wonder – an angel-height view of the Sonora Desert, of Palm Springs, of cloud shadows stretching on the land
Naturally we stayed up too long. Who wouldn’t? And by the time we got down and drove to the Palm Springs Travelodge we needed a rest. “Arriving at destination!” announced Four Buttocks in the grieved voice of a much abused dashboard device. We booked in hurriedly, sped to the room and committed the cardinal sin of jet-lagged travellers. We had a kip.
It was a silken luxury sinking into U.K. time, but we paid for it, waking late and dark, and without any restaurants still open. However, we were not without resources. We’d been smart enough to buy provisions back in Los Angeles, so our evening meal – or, let’s say, early breakfast in U.K. terms – was apple and cheese sandwiches.
These can taste remarkably good after a long day of learning how to drive.
And one benefit of failing to re-set our internal alarms was we woke before sunrise the next day. What’s more, we had a balcony on our Travelodge room. And coffee from a percolator. And views. Ah yes, we had views...
- Palm Springs dawn – and I wake early, slow headed but catching up, as the sun performs its morning exercises
- San Jacinto Mountains wake to an edge of light, a yawn and the whole ridge shines, a stretch and the whole flank fills out cream and brown
- Palm Springs dawn, and the date palms are already up, perching over the grid pattern city and catching the sun’s first lasso
- Palm Springs dawn, and the long low Travelodge balconies wake to a coat of light on doors and walls
- Palm Springs dawn – and garbage trucks are thudding, revving, squeaking, clattering – as the city twitches its way into waking
Not long after all this we were at breakfast in the Travelodge reception area. (“Thank you – you’re welcome... Thank you very much – you’re very welcome...”) We looked up at the brightly squawking morning TV and heard the forecaster warn of exceptional heat in the desert.
“Ah,” said we, exchanging looks of apprehension, “that’s where we’re heading.”
The next stage of the adventure was about to begin.
May I invite you to make certain purchases? (I may? Why, thank you...)
(a) The Salamander Stone (by my most excellent and trusty pal, Mrs Me) from one of these outlets:
Direct from the publisher, Burst Books: click here
Amazon UK: click here
(b) The Two Worlds of Wellesley Tudor Pole (by Mrs Me’s most excellent and trusty pal, Me):
Amazon UK: click here
Amazon.com (US): click here
(You’ll be getting both of them? Well, that is an admirable choice, if I may say so...)