BORREGO SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA-The plan was to drive from Palm Desert to Borrego Springs, about two hours. We were going to check out the town of Borrego Springs, south of Palm Springs, and play some golf and have dinner at a funky spot called the Krazy Coyote Grill. But stuff happens in travel, and you have to adapt.
We woke up in Palm Desert to howling winds; 30-40 mph with gusts to 60 mph or more. You could see piles of palm tree fronds along Highway 111 on the way to Indio. And things didn’t get much better after that.
The road south from Palm Desert toward the Salton Sea, which definitely has seen better times, was covered with dust and sand. We drove past dusty hills and barren rock and cactus and spindly ocotillo cactus with bright orange flowers and made it to Borrego after a couple hours.
But it was fairly, um, desolate. The power was out at the visitors centre. Ditto for the hotel and all the restaurants on the main drag, Palm Canyon Drive (see photo at right). The golf course was closed as dust was swirling around like nobody’s business, sending sharp shards of sand into your skin and whirling about and penetrating your eyes and ears. In other words, not quite a Chamber of Commerce day. Almost all businesses were closed and the golf course was closed because of the conditions. The road to the resort we were going to spend the night at was occasionally covered with thick clouds of blowing sand, and we ultimately conceded defeat and decided to drive to San Diego for the night.
Still, it’s fun to see a new part of the state. Borrego is like a glimpse into what Palm Springs might have felt like back when it was being developed. There are beautiful, rugged mountains high to the west, which provide a wind break on a good day, and some to the north and south. East is fairly open to the high desert scrub.
There are a few scattered shops along what passes for the main drag and a small shopping centre with cute stores and restaurants and nice landscaping. There are several scattered motels and resorts, including the Borrego Springs Resort, where were we going to bed down prior to the sand storm. There’s also a small resort with adobe units that has a regular pool and one for nudists. It was sold out, which probably tells you something about how many folks like to roam free.
The only food we could find was at a small liquor store, where a woman made up for the lack of power by writing down the purchases of slowly warming Cokes and beers in a notebook and tallying up the tax and final bill on a solar-powered calculator and by keeping the till open. She had a pretty good sized lineup from people like me. For the record, I had a very healthy lunch of Cheetos (two food groups; corn starch and orange food colouring) and a Coke.
Borrego is in the high desert of California, with tons of pretty mountains and rocks and scrub and cactus. Quite pretty.
One of the resorts, The Palms at Indian Head, is home to the Krazy Coyote. Unfortunately, the cook had gone home due to the lack of power and the parking lot was littered with giant palm fronds and other debris. The resort, formerly known as Hoberg's, was quite the spot in the old days, with visits from the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Raymond Burr (a nice nod to Canada) and Bing Crosby.
One of the cool things, and relatively new, is the scattering of 129 metal sculptures around the town; dinosaurs and elephants and camels and a water dragon and lots more. The idea came from Dennis Avery, who owns Galleta Meadows Estates in Borrego. The sculptures were created an artist and welder named Ricardo Breceda.
A woman of a certain age at the Chamber of Commerce/visitors centre told me a delightful story about one sculpture of a tall Friar with his dog.
“Someone removed the testicles of the dog,” she told me with the giggle of a 16-year-old. I don’t know why. It might have been a stunt or a prank. Someone else said a grandmother had it castrated because she didn’t want her grandkids to see the testicles.”
At this she positively roars at the absurdity of the whole thing. And I think she's great.
Of course, I had to go check it out. Sure enough, north of town a couple minutes, out in the desert scrub is a tall, rusting Friar with his faithful dog alongside, a large stick in its mouth. Not that I’ve spent a lot of time looking at dogs’ private parts, but it did look like the poor thing had been doctored.
Testicles or no, it’s a fun and slightly bizarre twist to the area. It strikes me there likely more than a few characters among the small shops and resorts and small homes and trailer parks and golf courses out this way. I'd love to go back some day when the weather's better.
Tomorrow: A pretty drive into the mountains northeast of San Diego, including some fabulous apple pie in Julian, California.
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