Wednesday, May 1, 2002

San Francisco to Sydney - Days 16-17

Day 17 : Palm Springs

Aerial Tramway On the outskirts of Palm Springs is an Aerial Tramway that takes visitors from the base station 2,600 feet (800 metres) above sea level to the mountain station in Mt. San Jacinto Wilderness State Park 8,500 feet (2,600 metres) above sea level. The tram ascends at an average angle of 50° and the 2.5 mile (4 kilometre) trip takes about a quarter of an hour.

A couple of years ago, the tram cars used for the ascent and descent were upgraded. Each car can now hold up to 80 people and has a floor that rotates as the car ascends and descends. They are, it's claimed, the largest revolving tram cars in the world; I don't imagine that there are thousands of engineers itching to wrench this title for something of their own creation.

Being a passenger in one of these cars is an odd experience. You can sense that the climb is very steep and it is punctuated with feelings of freefall and near weightlessness as the car passes each support pole and the next piece of cable takes up the slack. Added to this, you're aware that the scenery is rotating before your eyes, making it hard to take photos and slightly disorienting you. Oh, and the temperature drops about 20-30°F as you climb. Today, for example, it was about 75°F (24°C) at the bottom and 45°F (7°C) at the top.

Nature Trail The mountain station provides fantastic views of Palm Springs and its surrounds, so we spent some time taking photos from the various vantage points, then set out on one of the hiking trails that loops away from and then back to the station. It was only a short walk, about ½ mile (800 metres), but it seemed much longer in the thinner oxygen. Worst of all, the trail ended with a snaking climb back to the mountain station.

On the trail, the vegetation was remarkably different from that we'd seen on the way into Palm Springs and from that we'd seen in the tramway carpark below. The vegetation reminded us of that we'd seen in the Yosemite National Park : tall, mostly spindly trees and just a little groundcover.

Returning to the mountain station, we watched a 20-minute video, entitled Building on a Dream that chronicled the development of the tramway. It was probably very good. Debbie and I can't be certain as we both found the darkened theatre a great place to get some recuperative sleep. I do recall, though, that the video took the unusual step of having one of the original tram cars as narrator. I also recall that it took me quite a while to latch on to this piece of creative genius, so maybe I dreamt it.

Post-slumber we had an eminently forgettable buffet dinner, visited the gift shop and then tackled the descent.

Tonight, we spent some time walking around Palm Springs's downtown streets. We liked the town. Though Palm Springs is considered a resort town, it doesn't yet seem to have been spoiled by its popularity. Of course, we're not here in peak season, so maybe it's a bad time to be making this assessment. Anyway, we've decided to extend our stay here and use it as a base from which to visit other attractions in the area, such as the Joshua Tree National Park.

Time to go. There's almost 100 TV stations here to explore.

Day 16 : Long Beach to Palm Springs (via Los Angeles)

Palm Springs Mountains

Today, we travelled the 160 miles (260 kilometres) from Long Beach to Palm Springs which took, including a half-hour transit stop in Los Angeles, about 4 hours. Palm Springs has a desert climate, and the scenery as we approached it changed dramatically to become rocky, mountainous and alien. Debs and I can't think of anywhere else we've been where the mountains look quite as they do here. The best description I can give is Debbie's : they look as if they're leftover from some massive quarrying activity.

Wind Farm
Just outside Palm Springs there's a very unusual farm. It's a wind farm. There are thousands of turbines identical to the ones you can see in the photo at right, each converting the frequent, strong winds experienced here into energy. Had we awoken on the bus, seen the rocky mountains and suspected we'd been bussed to an alien planet, the wind turbines would have clinched it.

Palm Springs makes much of its past and current associations with famous figures. It even has marble blocks embedded in the pavement, Hollywood-style, carrying the names of the famous people who have "lived in, played in or contributed to Palm Springs". Some of the more notable names I can recall on marble blocks are Bob Hope, Louis Armstrong, Roberto Benign and Elizabeth Taylor. Altogether, there must be a couple of hundred such blocks.

The inn where we're staying is also associated with fame. It was founded by Harriet Cody, Buffalo Bill's cousin, and was somewhere that Charlie Chaplin performed.

Given Palm Springs's link to fame, it's probably less than surprising that the guide in our room includes the local plastic surgeon as a service guests might need while they're staying here. I think I'll give it a miss : elective surgery is explicitly excluded in our travellers' health insurance.

Originally posted by TC

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments for posts older than 14 days will not be immediately displayed. We review these comments before publishing them for public display.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...