I have heard of Palm Springs for my entire life, but never really knew what or where it was and why it was so popular even in the Northeast of the country. TBH, still kind of confused about that…
We are camping East of Palm Springs, so the town is out of the way for us but when it rained all night recently, we needed something to do while we waited for the area to dry back out. Palm Springs it was! Before we made our way there, I did some research via google to see what there was to do and also why? (LOL). Turns out, Palm Springs is *most* famous for it’s mid-century modern architecture, but they don’t have any free formal walking tour to see the architecture, makes no sense to me, but I’m a problem solver not a finder, so I made up our own walking tour 🙂
Pretty much nothing is next to anything. Meaning you have to walk over the damn place to string things together, so I broke the town up into 2 sides and we parked on one end and explored that half and then moved the van the other half and did the same thing. We still missed a few things though! Also, because we have Rufio, we couldn’t really go into any galleries or buildings so I am sure that limited us from a decent amount. The vibe in town was very retro and #instaworthy, at some of the more popular places, there was even lines for people to take the same photo. I would have been in said line if I had patience or the ability to take a normal photo in front of others (LMAO).
Street and Public Art aren’t overly abundant but there are definitely some cool pieces worth checking out. Personally, I loved the crawling Babies and the Rain Maker Fountain, but I would like to see more murals throughout the town, and just more art and sculptures in general. It was hard to tell if the area was starting to resurge after a drop-off, or if the town itself was slowly dying out, as there were abandoned buildings and for sale signs every where, and some famous murals painted over. If you’re headed to Palm Springs, start mapping your route now! I would have much preferred if I had the time to map all the destinations out so I could walk smarter not longer, but that’s just me!
When it was time for lunch, we decided that instead of heading back to the van to make PB+J sammies, we would treat ourselves to lunch. KIDDING. We were hangry and needed food ASAP so that’s why we ate out. We chose Ruby’s Diner because it was the busiest and most normal/affordable. Both of us got the Cobb burger w/ fries, our firsts in months and it was sooooo good, though I’m sure my taste buds were just happy to have something other than the same 3 things. There were so many restaurants to choose from, but most of them didn’t have more than 1 or 2 tables seated. Seemed like the market was very over saturated, but Ruby’s was slamming. It was $37 after tip for 2 burgers and a strawberry lemonade, not bad! But also, can’t help but think that $37 is like half our food budget for the week.
After lunch, we finished walking around and checking off sights from my home-made list. When we got back to the van, we drove up town to see a few more popular spots and pop into the Visitor’s Center to inquire about the best sunset spot. Unfortunately, the man working was not very knowledgeable on anything other than rich people activities and he just kept trying to give us restaurant recs even though we look like the dirtiest hippies haha. When I asked about sunset, he told me that “Palm Springs doesn’t ever have a sunset and anyone who told me different was a liar”. I’M SERIOUS THAT’S A DIRECT QUOTE. So, I took what he said with half of a grain of salt and we set off to find a place to watch the sunset behind the San Jacinto Mountains. There is a pretty #instafamous windmill farm that everyone takes a picture at, and I wasn’t going to miss that op! So off we went and found a secret little hideout, far from the droves of people on the side of the road trying to get the shot. It was perfect! We had great unobstructed views of the mountains and windmills, watched the sunrays dance across the valley, and finally set behind the mountains. It was not the epic sunset I was hoping for, even with all the cloud coverage, but it was still cool to watch and experience the epic af wind gusts.
Once the sun set, it was time for us to head to our resting place for the night, about 30 minutes away from Palm Springs. We took one last look as we got onto the highway and talked about what our favorites were on the drive back, for me it was definitely the vibe! They really leaned hard into the mid-century modern and I loved the collective cohesiveness of it all together. I don’t think we will ever be back in Palm Springs to hangout, but you never know either!
Summer is just around the corner, and with warmer weather comes plans of adventures, trips, and long hauls in the car. After 5 years of spending long stretches on the road, and now living full-time in Bernie, we have a few tips that we always share when asked. Don’t see your favorite way to not only pass the time in the car but to really enjoy it, below? Drop yours in the comments for us + others to see!
Tip #1: No Passengers Everyone in the car should be engaged with the driver. It helps avoid long lulls and makes the time go faster for everyone. Ways we like to stay engaged: pointing out landmarks, weird signs, singing along to the radio (v badly), and just simply conversing (about books, life, childhood, etc) with one another.
Tip #2 Local Radio Only Skip Spotify and save your data, you won’t have service for long stretches anyway. Local radio is always on in Bernie, usually we find a gem hidden in the low 90.0’s, but most times there is only 1 station that comes in clear. It is always funny and super entertaining to hear the local high school English teacher heading the station, or our favorite, a station in western Arizona that you can call into and list your (very very) random item for sale, which the DJ then just repeats what you said and moves on to the next caller. It’s what they call, “good radio” hahaha.
Tip #3 Make the Most of Stops We try to Google a local park or attraction to stop at and stretch our legs at instead of trying to stretch quickly while we get gas. Bonus: you get to explore a little area that you never would have saw had you not gotten off the highway. Which leads us to the next tip…
Tip #4 Stop When You’re Intrigued See a sign for Tiny Town? Stop! (No seriously, if you see it, stop, so so cool.) For us, a 6 hour drive to Google is usually a 10 hour drive for us because we stop at every scenic overlook, and tourist trap along the way for fun. Sometimes you’ll have to rush, but when you can take your time, seize the moment and stop every chance you get. A good reminder to tell yourself is that, it’s about the journey not the destination.
Tip #5 Take Pictures The trip is part (or most, if you’re us) of the fun so take pictures in the car to help capture the memories. You’ll never regret taking too many, but you’ll be bummed when you get home and realize that you didn’t get a single shot of all the car fun!
Tip #6 No Cell Phone Zone Other than taking pictures and getting directions, try to keep the phones away! It’s not fair to the driver for one, and for two, you can’t fully experience the road if you aren’t looking. It takes only 1 second to miss something good when on the road, don’t get caught slippin’.
Tip #7 Dress Comfortably We have specific sweats that we wear on long trips, and we are always in our Teva Mocs for even more comfort. It’s important for us to feel comfortable to move around and switch positions so having something stretchy helps us last longer on drives.
Tip #8 Eat Local When it comes to eating out, try to find a smaller local restaruant. Support the local economy and get a much better meal than fast food for often only a few bucks more (Tips should be 20% of your bill, if you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to eat out.). We found that we feel like crap if we eat fast food, especially if we eat 2 or 3 times in a day or two to save time. Recently, we were in an old town that kind of shut down 25 years ago, all that is left is a gas station and a small cafe. While at the cafe having the best French Dip, a huge motorcycle gang pulled up and came in, it was something we never forgot! We kinda ran out of there as fast as we could because I (Ashley) was scared to death haha, but cool memory nonetheless!
Tip #9 Sing-A-Long There is no better way to generate belly laughter and pass the time then to sing loudly and badly to every last song that comes through those speakers! Dance weirdly. Our favorite dances to do are the Egyptian and the shopping cart. Being relaxed and silly makes for an easier and more memorable trip. Don’t know the words? Never stopped us!
Tip #10 Enjoy It! This might seem like the most basic and common sense tip, but it’s easily forgotten! Often, we hear people dread long trips in the car, or avoid traveling some where out of fear of spending an extended period of time in the car, embrace it! Look at a drive as part of the destination, not a means to an end.
Tip #10 becomes easy when you utilize tips #1-9!
We hope this post has left you feeling inspired to plan that road trip you always wanted to take, to maybe enjoy that commute instead of dreading it, or give you a little push to sing-a-long to “Wildwood Days” on that drive down to the Jersey Shore this summer. Either way, we are wishing you an adventurous summer, filled with sights and sounds you have never experienced before. Life is short, take the long way.
Ashley here, coming at you from Ecklectia Cafe in Moab, Utah.
This past week we have done a lot of adventuring + traveling.
Last Monday we were in Wickenburg, Arizona where we were able to tent camp for 12 glorious days. Before we left, we were determined to finish hiking Trail A (read the saga here), come hell or no water. During our hike, we ran into a group of volunteers working to maintain the trail, we got to talking to one of the women, and she gave us a few secret spots to check out. But halfway through our hike, we realized that we were nearly out of the 6 liters of water we brought, and immediately began to abort our hike and head for the road (I know, I know). Almost as soon as we got onto the road, trucks began to pass us, and we recognized them as the volunteers we saw on the trail. Stuck between not wanting to look like rookies and wanting to flag them down for a ride or water, the trail Angel revealed herself, pulled over and filled up all 6 of our liters of water + offered to give us a ride. We declined; determined to now finish trail A with plenty of water. I am happy to report that we did in fact complete the trail that day.
We planned on bunkering down for an impending storm in Happy Valley, AZ, but last minute decided to stock up on supplies and head for Sedona regardless of the forecast. Our first stop was at one of our favorite places to hike around; Bell Rock. Only, this time was even better because all the rain had caused the desert to turn into an oasis and every where we looked there were the most beautiful pop-up waterfalls.
We stayed in a rest area that night because more rain was expected. We woke up at 5AM and headed for Courthouse Butte, another famous formation that we had never hiked. I fell into a cactus pretty early on and spent the rest of the day pulling needles out of skin and clothes, good times. We hiked a few trails (about 10 miles in total) and headed to our favorite camping site to take a nap and relax for the evening. When we woke up from our nap, we looked out the window and saw a couple parking themselves FEET from us, with nothing but wide open spaces around….we were annoyed to say the least. We kinda felt bad after because we made it pretty clear that we were frustrated with them, and decided that next time we would react more friendly + welcoming. It’s not often that we camp around others, so it probably wouldn’t kill us to be near someone every once in a blue moon. Meh. Thankfully they left early, so we had the place to ourselves.
We went looking for one of Sedona’s more known Vortex hotspots, Boynton Canyon, and found a trail that took you straight up the formation and away from the droves of people, and when we were tucked in a little cave, we sat + had lunch next to a still-barely streaming waterfall, pure magic. We decided to head back to the van after lunch and look for another hike to do, and saw one right up the street called Fay’s Canyon. Like every parking lot in Sedona, it was jammed pack but we got lucky and scored a spot- a nod from the universe that we took as a good sign of what’s to come. We did the short hike to Fay’s Canyon and unbeknownst to us, you can hike up into the box canyon once the trail ends, and that is exactly what we did. It was incredible + a rare chance to get away from people. A great ending to another successful + eventful day.
The next morning was especially windy, so we took the opportunity to do some van hiking + check out roads that have been catching our eye. We were stoked because we found a ton of primitive campsites that we plan on taking advantage of on our next visit. While driving, we saw a sign for Tuzigoot National Monument, and knew we had to stop to learn more about the Sinagau people the land belongs to. Our National Park Pass had just expired so we picked up our new one while there, and got a National Park Passport while we were at it, I am PSYCHED about it. It turned out to be an awesome stop, and lit a fire in us to see the 2 other National Monuments nearby, Montezuma’s Castle + Well.
That night, we decided we wanted to try out a new camping site, and found a dirt road to drive down. We found a few spots, but wanted to see where the road would lead, and much to our surprise, we started to see what looked like a cult where the road would end. The closer we got, the weirder the place became. A giant heart + peace sign were made out of rocks on a big grass space facing the road, a rainbow bridge could be seen in the distance, and the 3 cars that passed us by all had the same white dream catcher hanging from their rear-view mirror. With no where to turn around, we drove down the hill and headed for the cult. Turns out it was just some hippy healing center that had steam rooms and salt caves and a spa or something. Dream catchers helped identify the cars of guests vs visitors. Liked it better when we thought it was a cult. We turned around and pulled into an empty site next to another van that had the best view of any site we ever stayed. As we were enjoying the sight, our new neighbor and his dog started walking towards us. Sean and I looked at each other and laughed because the universe was testing us already. Turned out to be a really nice guy and his wife was just as rad! They used to work for BLM in Salt Lake City, so they gave us so many awesome recommendations, we felt very lucky to have met them, still bummed we didn’t get their Instagram handle to keep in touch (Jeremy, Pam, + Callie, if you are reading this, reach out!)
We woke up to watch what we assumed (+ were right) would be an awesome sunrise, and then headed for a hike Jeremy recommended, Cockscomb. We got their super early and had the whole trail to ourselves right up until the last mile, it was such a nice way to start the day. Once we finished that hike, we went straight to Bell Rock determined to climb to the top. We quickly hit a spot that we could get Rufio up, but weren’t sure how we would get him down and decided to look for another place to keep climbing. We found a small trail that took us straight up to the top, Rufio was rock climbing better than us (fun fact: Rufio LOVES rock climbing) and we made it straight up to the viewing platform and were rewarded with the most stunning view, epic even.
Wanting to camp alone with no one else around, we went to a secret spot we reserve for times when we need solitude. It seemed like as good of time as any to shave our heads, so I went first. The clippers weren’t working, so we took the attachment off, cleaned them, and then they were as good as new. Sean shaved straight down the top of my head before yelling “oh my god NO!!”….we never put the attachment on, so my head is as shaved as shaved gets LOL! Oh well, thankfully hair grows back.
The next day, knowing it was our last (at least for a little while) day in Arizona, we wanted to check out Montezuma’s Castle + Well and we are so glad we did. Truly incredible! We learned so much, and found ourselves doing research after leaving to learn even more. Next, we wanted to check out what is described as one of the most well preserved Petroglyph/Pictograph sites in the country, and our minds were officially blown. The walls were covered in 1000 year old rock art and showed a functioning calendar that uses sunlight to tell what day it is. Even as a person who searches for rock art often, this was impressive beyond belief.
We left Sedona for Moab, and got here a little earlier than expected, couldn’t contain our excitement! Today (3/20) is Rufio’s 5th Birthday, so we wanted to celebrate with him in our favorite place. We plan on being here until summer starts, so if you’re in the area, shoot us a message and let’s hike or climb together!