MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Girls Weeked in Southern California

A New City. A New National Park. An Arts Festival. Disney. Sun and warmth. An awesome road trip with NKOTB music. A good friend. I seriously don’t know how much better a 3 day trip could be! So many of my favorite things packed into one weekend…

I flew into Vegas and met with a friend I have not seen in months… my cruise roomie! Time flies and it’s not easy to see your friends when you are scattered all over. You have to plan. And this was a “no plan” plan. I was flying into Vegas and we were driving to Southern California. Had an idea of where we wanted to go, but nothing concrete except hotel reservations and GPS!

Helius, the Greek god of the sun (Sol for the Roman inclined - yes, I have been reading Percy Jackson’s latest adventure), smiled brightly on us… we were blessed with gorgeous weather. Zeus (Jupiter) gave us gorgeous blues skies and Iris (same Roman name) even provided a few rainbows as we traveled through the desert. Armed with great forecasts, we moved ahead with our roadtrip through the Mojave Desert.

First stop – Joshua Tree National Park. The Park is a convergence of 2 desert ecosystems in the southwest, the Mojave and the Colorado (part of the Sonoran) deserts – so here you can see a mixture of plant life. It has Joshua Trees, sure. A few other trees thrive in the park – we spotted mesquite, ironwood and California juniper easily while out walking. It also has a huge grove of teddy bear cholla cactus! We saw beaver tail, pineapple cactus, California Barrel, pencil cholla… lots of sharp and painful things in the desert. You shouldn’t have to be reminded -“Don’t touch,” they are sharp and they stick. And with keeping up with my personal tradition of seeing stupid people do stupid things in national parks, I have 2 candidates for the Darwin Awards: (1) A woman hiking along a trail filled with teddy bear branches, in the desert, in sandals. These weren’t even Tivas, these were strappy, open toe disasters waiting to happen, and she thought the cactus wasn’t bad (holding an aged piece to prove her point – HA). (2) But she was not to be outdone by the teenage girl that picked up a branch and proceeded to get stuck to it. Her mom tried the fork method, the girl tried the shaking method and the moaning method “it hurts”… well duh it hurts. They have tiny barbs on their needles. They are sharp and they are designed to stick to anything that brushes against yet… and you picked it up to hold it certain it wasn’t a big deal!

Joshua Trees and cacti were not the only wonders in the park. It was filled with amazing rock structures, and I swear that faces are in those rocks. The most infamous is Skull Rock; this face is so obvious even the park service acknowledges it. But, my friend and I found other interesting faces in the rocks. While I typically see things out on the trail, I must admit I found it comforting to share my visions with a friend. It was validating to hear her say that she saw them too. If only lichen could grown under a nose or two – it would be a rockface with a lichen mustache! Hey, you are hiking in a desert, you need some kind of entertainment. While out and about, we saw only a few critters – a desert wren, a few lizards, crows…

Day 2 was our Disney day! Sure, we saw the news on the alarming measles outbreak centered in Disneyland, but our parents believed in vaccination. In fact, I remember taking that very MMR vaccine (again) when I had serious pneumonia as a young child. I knew I was covered.

I had my heart set on the California Adventure park. It is the only one of the US based Disney parks I had yet to see. I am quite familiar with the Florida Four, but had only been to Disneyland once. Off we went to ride roller coasters, swinging ferris wheels, shoot virtual carnival games, race some “Cars’” cars, watch parades and take in the cheeky Disney street shows. Growing up as a dancer and performer, I used to dream about working as a cast member at the park. I know that behind the scenes it’s not glamorous, but to bring all those smiles to people’s faces, what a privilege! I still kick myself (hard) for not going forward with my opportunity to be a dancer at the Polynesian … that was another time, and another fated thread of life. You have to smile and appreciate the talents of the performers at the … Newsies sang, green army men played drums, a 20’s style zoot band put on a show and the Pixar characters paraded down the main street. I can’t help picking up the choreography and dancing along to some of the moves these guys throw down – I really can’t, dancing is in my DNA!

I got to be a kid at Disney. I would say that I dragged my friend along, but she is just as much, if not more of a Disney lover as me! We posed for pictures at every opportunity. We have pictures with Donald, Goofy, Minnie, Chip and Dale, Oswald, and I got one with Mickey too! We got photobombed (kind of) by Mr Potato Head. We cheesed it up in front of Disney scenery. And we really worked those Disney workers. After losing picture cards, those poor souls in the photo stores helped up recover all our images!

Have you ever seen a Golden Ticket at Disney? I can say I have now. Seriously, this put that “I got a golden ticket” song from Willy Wonka in my head for hours. Bestowed upon us by Martin at the Ice Cream shoppe/Starbucks, we were speechless. In all of our years in Disney, this was a first. I really don’t know why we got one, but it magically put us at the front of any ride we wanted. And because we did both parks in one day, we hopped on over to the Indiana Jones ride to be almost squashed by the big huge boulder from the Raiders of the Lost Arc. While stuffing our Disleyland time, we shot more stuff on another Toy Story ride, watched some fireworks, rode more rollercoasters, had our fortunes read by a shrunken head and visited with Abe Lincoln (cuz I don’t get that enough in DC). AND of course we shopped everywhere!!! All we can really say is THANK YOU to Martin for our special privilege and the buttons. We were princesses for a day! And I got a “first time visitor” badge – strange as that seems.

My final day of the girl’s weekend was a shortened one because we had a 4 hour trip back to the airport. Still, not to worry, we packed plenty in. We headed back to Palm Springs. We hadn’t seen it when we stopped at the Blue Coyote for dinner after Joshua Tree. The Desert Art Festival was in full swing, so instead of meandering shops on Palm Canyon Blvd, we wandered around some white tented festival booths to look at some fine baubles, textiles and works of art. As with every festival I go to, temptation ran high. I love finding pieces that “speak” to you. And find them we did. Here, I got my piece of jewelry that will represent with girls weekend – a gorgeous long silver necklace with raw fluorite chunks designed by Shari Miller. And we both fell in love with dried flower art by Michelle (Michelle Rassp??). We picked up smaller things here and there … art festivals are always a dangerous place to be but they are always filled with such creativity and beauty. And speaking of beauty, we both decided that we need lots more time in Palm Springs. It’s stunning. There are shops calling for us to visit. We already know, next girls get-together will be there!

So thanks cruise roomie for making my MLK weekend absolutely amazing. Thanks to Disney, the amazing cast and especially Martin for the gifts. Thanks to the helpful park rangers at Joshua Tree, it’s always good to learn more from the experts. I would thank the artists at the festival for their gorgeous items, and they should thank us for our patronage. And thanks Zeus, Helios and Iris for bestowing perfect weather on us! (couldn’t help myself)

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