8 – Palm Springs

Big driving day ahead today as we have another six hour onslaught to blast through. If I had to do this in the UK I’d be pulling my face dreading it, but it’s a different kettle of fish here. I’m relishing it, knowing that there’s going to be some sights to take in on the way.

We wake up to -4˚C in Flagstaff and prepare to make our journey to Palm Springs, a place with quite the reputation from its day in the 50s and 60s I believe. They even have stars on the walkways commemorating the people of fame from this time period. It’s famed for Elvis spending a lot of time here, and I do believe it’s where Sonny Bono sadly passed away after a skiing accident. I’m quite sure if you delved further into the history of Palm Springs it’d be steeped in entertainment folklore.

Once again, the scenery on the way is stunning, changing from the forestry and snowy tops of Flagstaff and North Arizona, to the arid and desert like climate as we head South West towards California. The temperature is slowly creeping up with every passing mile too. We are still on Route 66 and pass through Kingman, which acts as a gateway for those visiting Vegas, The Grand Canyon, Sedona, Flagstaff and various other nearby resorts and points of interest. We drive through the town to take it in. There seems to be a lot of bikers knocking about, and a lot of motels which shows that it’s a place that acts as a stopping point. We end up doubling back on the interstate and speeding off without stopping.

Further up the road we stop for a ‘quick’ break at a service station in the middle of nowhere. I don’t want to lose any more time after our detour in Kingman so I’m determined to be no more than five minutes…..that is until I realise that the service station has an Indian shop in the back which is full of the coolest stuff imaginable. Considering we are on Route 66, lots of gifts geared towards that are available. Our ‘quick’ stop turns into forty five minutes of looking around and chatting to the manager. I pick up a few goodies. I can’t say what and who for as I’ve not given them out yet and they may be reading this.

As always, the cool music soundtracks our journey and it’s not long before we see a sign welcoming us to California. We cheer in the car and make a point of putting ‘Going to California’ by Led Zeppelin on as we meander through the desert.

The terrain and driving conditions really do change in California. The roads are down to one lane and we climb and climb and twist and turn into the desert mountain tops, where the temperature slowly rises too. I have to keep my focus because it’s a little daunting on these roads.

We end up on a road that is as straight as an arrow that rises at an incline. We can see far into the distance the cars at the very top but have no idea how far away they are. Judging from the illusion at Grand Canyon, I wouldn’t like to guess. It’s an unbelievable drive and we look no nearer to reaching the end after every mile. It must be close to fifteen miles on this road before it curves at the top. There are several dips in the road too so it feels like you’re on a rollercoaster at times.

It’s shortly after this stretch of road where the slightest of apprehension creeps in. We have about two hours driving to do and most of it will be spent in these barren conditions. I check the fuel gauge to see we have a ¼ tank left, which I believe will be plenty until we get nearer our destination and find a fuel station. Sue isn’t too sure and a sense of panic starts to manifest in the car. The last thing we need is to run out of fuel in the desert of all places. Time creeps on, miles pile on, the gauge slowly ticks away, and we appear no nearer to a fuel station or getting out of these conditions as mountains and rocks just carry on into the distance. I still think we’ll be more than fine, but Sue voices her concerns again. You could tell the nerves were setting in because I’d turned the music off. The desert in Arizona had the odd trailer park located every few miles or so. In California, nothing like that occurs, showing just how harsh the living conditions could be out here.

The Sat Nav tells me the Freeway is approaching that we have to take. I’m sure a fuel station must be close by. We are down to below an eighth of a tank. I’m still confident we’ll be fine, but Sue is bollocking me for not filling up when I had several chances. This could be the biffle of all biffles.

We reach the interstate, so there will hopefully be some sort of civilisation close by even if it’s from drivers passing by looking at our stationary car and a woman beating a man to within an inch of his life. Driving on the freeway for ten minutes and still no sign for fuel. It’s me who starts to feel a little nervy now. Where the fuck are these fuel stations? We’ve driven close to hundred miles without seeing one!

And then, as if my eyes deceive me and I’ve just stumbled upon a mirage, a sign says fuel 1mile!! Hooray!!!! We’re saved! I expect to see ZZ Top appear singing ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’ as we pull in. I refuel and take a few minutes to calm down and grab a coffee.

I then connect to WiFi to check the Man Utd score to see we’ve drawn 1-1 and have been knocked out of The Europa League to our bitterest rivals, Liverpool. Back home, I’d be pissed off. Out here, I really couldn’t give a shit. This trip is showing me there is far more to life than being pissed off about football which I cannot control one bit. Travelling, I can control…..and probably should’ve controlled our fuel situation better!

So with a full tank, calmer nerves and just over an hour to go, we descend into California and onto Palm Springs. I now feel like putting the tunes back on aswell.

The approach to Palm Springs is another beauty on the eye. Huge grey and brown like rocky mountains surround the area in every direction. It’s like Palm Springs has been built as a large arena in the middle of the mountains. There is so much lushness about the area. Palm trees sprout up from everywhere and it’s a proper picturesque drive through the town itself.

Our hotel, ‘Musicland’, is fantastic, and after chatting to the owner, it turns out his sister lives in Bolton. Makes you realise just how small a world we live in! The owner is a very helpful guy, and without his advice we never would’ve experienced what we did that night. After such a long drive and a one night stop over before hitting LA for four days, I was quite content with finding the nearest bar/restaurant/diner and chilling in there with some good food and a few beers. Considering it’s St Patricks Day, I sense something must be going on somewhere as we know that Americans really go to town with the celebrations, probably more than the UK, but I’m not fussed about finding it, or driving there if it’s a trek away.

The owner confirms my suspicions about St Patrick’s Day and tells us that the centre of town is a mile away and we can get a free bus directly outside the hotel on a straight road into the action. A tennis tournament is also happening in Palm Springs so more people will be about for that too.

The owner’s advice was key to us having one of the best experiences of the trip. Palm Springs, on St Patrick’s Day, during Spring Break is one rocking place! It’s a huge street fair with bars, restaurants, and quirky gift shops all set up along the pedestrianised area. All the shops either side of the stalls are open too, and the place is packed. Music fires out from all the bars and even on the street corners and organised stage areas from various musicians. It’s a really great atmosphere. On recommendation of the owner we find an English pub called ‘Hair of the Dog’ that serve British beers including Boddingtons. Sue decides to spend the whole night talking Irish in a bet with me that she can score us free drinks. We chat to a few people and her accent is spot on that they believe she’s from a little place called ‘Killymecunt’. The Americans don’t get it. Despite their love for her accent, she fails to score a free beer.

After a few beers from our own pocket, we grab some quick food in Ruby’s Diner and make our way down the other side of the fair, hitting another bar that was recommended to us called, ‘The Village Pub’. Now this is the place to be! It’s a huge pub/bar/music venue/nightclub and its awash with a mixture of all types of people all having the best time with smiles on their faces. A band is playing when we arrive and are playing covers of classic rock songs. I’m completely amazed to see everyone dancing and singing along to the likes of AC/DC, Tom Petty and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Young girls are singing their hearts out to these classic tracks too. That would never, ever happen in the UK. The likelihood is that most wouldn’t even know who these bands are, let alone know the lyrics. I am amused when the band play, ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, and given it’s adopted theme song for America these days, the place erupts. I laugh at the reactions and think our equivalent is ‘God Save the Queen’……..by Sex Pistols.

It made for one hell of a unique and incredible night, and it completely happened by chance and took me by surprise. It’s a shame we were only here for one night, but Palm Springs…..I will be back again!

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