Getting there: Air Canada on points – d2 was already in LA for work and didn’t want to come home for the weekend and then go back to Las Vegas the next week…it didn’t take much to twist my rubber arm to get me to spend a long weekend on a road trip from LA to LV again! Hotwire to rent a car.
Where the 2d’s stayed: We used Starwood points to book the swanky LeParker in Palm Springs…presto 70s timewarp in a super hip way. The grounds were lovely – a maze of greenery, firepits, hammocks, and beautiful people to boot. Our room was in the ‘north’ building which was far from the check in building and quieter. We didn’t get to spend time in the pools or on the grounds, but we did use the gym. In Las Vegas we booked the Palazzo on Hotwire which is a 5-star and our room faced the Strip and was basically nearly the size of our condo. The bathroom alone felt expansive.
Fun: We have done this trip before in reverse- from LV to LA a few years ago. It was so amazing I couldn’t wait to do it again, and this time to spend more time in Joshua Tree National Park (cue every U2 song from that album now). d2 picked me up at LAX and we were off to grab our rental car, then a quick donut fix to Randy’s, and off to Lemonade, one of our favourite cafeteria-style eateries in Venice Beach to grab some chicken chili and a slice of red velvet. Next up, a drive by of the Pacific in Venice on our way across the city….on the Friday of a long weekend in the US. Here comes the traffic.
So while it took us a bit longer to get to Palm Springs than it normally would have, it was not a big deal, and we checked in to LeParker and dropped off our bags, then promptly headed to a nearby outlet mall. No luck, which was the shopping story all weekend. Saturday morning we were up early (uh, that’s early for us) and off to Joshua Tree National Park to explore – and we had a beautiful, clear blue +26 day for it. We spent the whole day in the park and it’s an amazing place and hard to describe if you’ve never been. In parts of it, you feel like you’re driving through a big rock garden- desert all around except for some giant rocks that simply were thrown down by some force. But apparently the rocks haven’t just been thrown down but I forgot what the plaque explained to me about them! And the pictures don’t really show the scale of the rocks unless you look for the teeny, tiny people in them. In some of the shots you will see me or some climbers perched on the top of the rocks (look carefully – it’s kind of like a where’s Waldo thing). We also drove to a main lookout point and followed a trail we read about online called Inspiration Peak. It was an easy uphill scramble, then down a saddle, then uphill again, which took about 45 minutes at most and which gave us the most glorious views of the valley below which runs along the San Andreas Fault and the shot here labeled the Salton Sea (which is 120 feet below sea level), which if you look really closely in, you can see a very far away tall peak which is at the US-Mexico border. The silence up here was unbelievable, and while we sat up there for a bit we saw 4 big-horned sheep sail effortlessly across a peak next to us. Every once in awhile they would look over at us as if to ask what on earth we were doing there. We had the peak all to ourselves for that time. Back down we went and then we did a couple of easy walks along the desert floor – one which took us to an old gold processing facility which is now abandoned and another which took us to a dam that was once created by cattle ranchers. Apparently only 100 years ago this desert was lush enough to grow crops and sustain livestock. Now just the thought of being caught there without any water is scary – strange how quickly the landscape can change. After our treks, we drove south through the rest of the windy road that cuts through the park from north to south, and passed the Cactus Garden and some other spots. We were so glad to make it back here for the day – it is really one of the most memorable spots I’ve been to. On our way back to the hotel we treated ourselves to some wonderful Mexican food – the perfect way to end the day.
Sunday we were sad to leave our little LeParker already, but we were on our way to Las Vegas. Instead of taking the usual freeway route, we decided to re-trace our way through the desert as we had in 2012, and through the Mojave National Preserve (fun fact, I found out that you can’t hunt in a national park in the US, but of course you can in a preserve!). We had read beforehand that the roads were pretty beat up over the summer by rains. This is kind of amazing when you think about it – the land is so dry and so barren that when it does rain, it pours so hard that it floods. We crossed a lot of spots in the highway where you could see rains had washed out spots of it and where rivers flowed right through. This is a trip where you pass very few cars and even fewer houses, and at times you also lose cell reception. So we made our way through the desert again, at one point stopping at a little railroad station that has been nicely redone as a visitor’s centre in a little spot called Kelso. There are giant sand dunes here, and in the picture of the railroad tracks taken there, you can see the dunes off in the distance. The station has a little display about the first settlers in the area and how they farmed and during World War II this was an area where iron was mined. From here we continued another 45 minutes or so to the Nevada border, and basically you exit the Mojave preserve and enter Nevada. We didn’t see any desert tortoises like many of the roadway signs warned nor did we see any snakes (thank you!), but it was so cool to drive through this part of the US again – I’m so glad we got to do it.
We decided before we got in to LV that we would hit up another National Park – this time Red Rock, which is literally 20 minutes from the Strip. We got there pretty late in the afternoon so really only had time to do the drive through the park before the sun set over the mountains. We will definitely be back here one day to spend a day or 2 in the park. Who knew there was something so spectacular so close to Vegas? The rocks are stunning and the pictures don’t really show you the size or their texture. Apparently the colours indicate different ages of the rocks and the brighter colours are younger rocks, as a result of something called the Keystone Thrust, which is a result of some kind of crazy forces of the earth. If these things differ in age it doesn’t matter because they’re all hundreds of millions of years old! When we were there we also saw the end of a helicopter rescue, the result of what Morty, a volunteer in the visitor centre, told us was because ‘these kids think they’re Superman or something.’ So we sped around the park before sundown taking all kinds of pictures and noting where we need to visit next time. Then off to drop off the rental car and to the Palazzo for an evening after a big meal of a burger and fries at Holstein’s and a nice walk along the Strip.
And that was our whirlwind long weekend first roadtrip of 2015 from LA to LV. Let the 2015 travels continue!