RiverCat Journal : Palm Desert, CA : Thousand Palms Oasis

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Where I’m At: Palm Desert, CA
Campground : Palm Springs Thousand Trails

Visiting : Thousand Palms Oasis


Double-Oasis, Double-Fun

The Thousand Palms Oasis is part of the Coachilla Nature Preserve. The preserve has a few different trails with guided tours throughout the week. Although I didn’t see it this time around, the San Andreas fault also runs through the park and is said to be quite visible.

The McCallum Nature Trail starts off with a bang! This is the trailhead through the first of two wonderful oasis’s right in the middle of the desert.



You then wind your way through a little marsh on this boardwalk.



Then it’s back to desert terrain. But not for long. It’s only a 3/4 mile hike to the next oasis! This one is an alkaline pond in the midst of a small forest of massive palm trees.






This pond, this oasis is just…magnificent. I don’t even know what to say, really.





It’s so easy to take things for granted, sometimes.

Right now I’m recovering from 3 years with a debilitating eye condition and a sick pet that led to dysfunction and total disorganization. Finally, I laid Jeepers to rest and got the treatment I needed for my own health. Things are GOOD! I have good vision, rarely suffer from dizziness and headaches, and have a lot more freedom now that I no longer need to care for a special-needs cat.

But it’s easy to forget. Now I’m in Palm Springs focusing on losing weight after a couple years of neglect when I simply couldn’t exercise. Now I’m finding my files and projects in complete disarray due to a couple years of climbing back into bed after only 20 minutes of exertion. I’m trying to get my life back in order — a monumental task, at times.

But there are moments. Moments when I’m gazing down on my pickleball courts breathing in the crisp morning air while sipping my coffee. Moments when I’m planning trips and find myself astonished at how many options I have available to me. Moments when I’m enjoying scenic wonders like this one and finding myself so grateful that I can SEE!

I’m grateful. I’m excited. I can’t wait to see what’s next…





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RiverCat Journal : Palm Springs, CA : RoboChristmas

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Where I’m At: La Quinta, CA
Campground : Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area
Day Trip : Kenny Irwin’s RoboChristmas and Candy Cane Lane



When I heard about Kenny Irwin’s RoboChristmas, I simply couldn’t resist the largest residential Christmas Light Display in the world! I simply couldn’t imagine 7 million Christmas lights in one person’s back yard.



I really had no idea what I was in for. Kenny Irwin constructs gargantuan sculptures out of appliances and household items — it’s like recycled art on steroids! Most of his exhibits are bizarre, to say the least. (Note the microwave head. Irwin really likes microwaves).



He basically turned his home into a small theme park.



There’s even a roller coaster…



The endless art displays are astounding. Some of my favorites include the “microwaved microwave” and the toilet merry-go-round. The man has a sense of humor!


Candy Cane Lane

Also known as Minerva Lane, these residents really do it up!



Perhaps less than a mile long, you can choose to join the procession in your car or get out and walk. I did both! It was great to get out and enjoy the aroma of campfires and the sound of children’s laughter. The decorations were fantastic.





A Peculiar Kind of Christmas…

I won’t lie — it’s been a strange holiday for me. As soon as I’d been able to conjure up a little Christmas spirit, it sort of disappeared just as quick. It’s been a little “funky.”

2017 has been about “letting go.” Letting go of Jeepers. Letting go of normal good health. Letting go of relationships that no longer serve me. The entire year has been learning how to adapt and accept change.

And now I wonder if Christmas will ever be “quite” the same, again. It probably will…

I think I’m mostly missing having my companion with me right now. I miss you, Jeepers!



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RiverCat Journal : La Quinta, CA : Lake Cahuilla

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Where I’m At: La Quinta, CA
Campground : Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area


Perplexing Little Oddities

I’m not sure why I chose a desert country setting for my Christmas “out week” in the Palm Springs area. I’m guessing because it was the “cheapest” at $183. Even so, at that price I assumed I was getting full hook-ups. This was not the case. Now I’m conserving water and washing dishes outdoors for 7 days so that I don’t have to bother with the dump station during the holidays. Easy.

I found myself a little perplexed by a few things at Lake Cahuilla. First, the water hookup is in the front of the site.


Which is no problem except it sort of forces you to park right on top of your fire pit…


Again, no problem as long as the park isn’t full — I can simply move my vehicle. Other oddities in the park include an embarrassing attempt at a pickleball court, inconveniently-located dumpsters, pay-showers, and a combination-code padlock for gate entry after 10 p.m.  But here’s my favorite…


That’s the wi-fi station. And, yes, those are rolling office chairs on gravel! And, no kidding, it’s a very popular spot.


But Sunrises Trump All Oddities…

As often the case, after solving a campground with challenges, a new day brings new perspective. The sunrises are spectacular here! Not the sky itself, but how the morning light brings out the vivid colors of the mountains and the lake.


Despite only a couple dozen RVs in the entire park, the campground comes to life before 8 a.m. That’s when the fisherman start trickling in and start surrounding the crudely-formed man-made lake. It’s when campers start walking their dogs. Some simply get up to sit in their lawn chairs and soak it all in.


And there seems to be one common denominator here — RVers and staff members alike — everyone here seems extremely happy!


Small inconveniences aside, I love my site. I have a spectacular views right from my window and some very nice shade. I’m still on the lookout for the bighorn sheep that apparently roam these hills, but I’m hopeful.






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RiverCat Journal : Palm Springs, CA : Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

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Where I’m At: Palm Desert, CA
Campground : Palm Springs Thousand Trails

Day Trip : Palm Springs Aerial Tramway


Going Up! (Straight Up)

Welcome to Mt. San Jacinto State Park, home of the world’s largest rotating tram car!



Prepare to “Oooooh” and “Ahhhhhh” during the nearly straight-up ascent to the 8500-foot peak through a magnificent canyon. All this, while the car is slowly rotating for your viewing pleasure.



Oops! I Did it Again

I didn’t do my research, again. It didn’t even occur to me there might be a stop on this ride! I put 2 and 2 together when I saw everyone bundled up in winter clothing at the boarding station — I, of course, was the only fool wearing a t-shirt and shorts.

When we reached the mountaintop lodge, I stepped out onto one of the back decks…



This, of course, if part of a 50-mile trail system that gives you access to the natural history museum and theaters. The temperature? About 35 degrees.


Plan B

Fortunately, there’s plenty to do at the lodge (known as “Mountain Station”). First, I enjoyed a healthy lunch at Peaks Restaurant.



I opted for the Hummus and Tapeneade dish with fresh vegetables from the Coachella valley. The tapeaneade is made predominately of crushed olives and capers. Very tasty, but powerful, as you can imagine. But when I offset this with the celery dipped in ranch dressing I was simply in heaven.

I followed this up by bouncing around the various observation decks and simply taking in the scenery! It’s said on a clear day you can actually see Las Vegas 175 miles away. (I’m a little skeptical. Maybe with high-power binoculars)?






I Found My Christmas Spirit!

It can be challenging to tune into my Christmas Spirit in the desert, sometimes. It’s not quite the same as my rural Illinois holidays wishing for snow on Christmas Eve.



But I was in for a treat this night. Christmas carols at the lodge! I purchased a hot coffee and enjoyed an hour of holiday tunes by a very talented high school choir. I soaked it all in, a perfect evening.

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RiverCat Journal : Palm Springs, CA : Joshua Tree National Park

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Where I’m At: Palm Desert, CA
Campground : Palm Springs Thousand Trails

Day Trip : Joshua Tree National Park


I Love it when a Bad Plan Comes Together

So, here was my idea: I’d begin my journey at the far eastern entrance of the park and end up near the Palm Springs exit for some great sunset photo ops of the iconic trees the park is named after. Simple, right?

But I goofed a bit. There are definitely a few highlights on the eastern half, such as the Cholla Cactus Garden…



And the splendid rock formations at White Tank Campground…



And how about these campsites at Jumbo Rock Campground! The dry camping sites at Joshua Tree are simply spectacular. You can stay at these humongous picturesque sites for only $15 per night for up to two weeks. (You can also stay on the BLMs just outside the entrance for free and get a 7-day park pass for $25 but it’s worth the $15/night, trust me).



After I’d spent half the day taking snapshots of rocks, I realized I hadn’t seen a single Joshua Tree, yet! I’d make my way to the western half of the park to accomplish this, but the sun descended too quickly for the great photo ops I was hoping for. Here’s the good news:

The ranger at the eastern entrance of the park couldn’t take my money for park pass and said I could just pay on the way out. Ultimately, I would exit the park just after 4:00 when the ranger had just closed her station. My cost on this day? FREE!


But Rocks are So Much Fun!

Even knowing I was losing daylight to capture my total amateur money shot of a Joshua Tree, these rock formations kept slowing me down. Can you blame me?





Finally, Joshua Trees. This shot was taken at the “Hall of Horrors.”



I had a great time. But I missed a few things, too. When I revisit the park I intend to visit the Forty Nine Palms Oasis and Keys View. And there will be a next time. This will be an excellent “out week” dry camping opportunity next time I’m in the area for an extended stay.

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RiverCat Journal : Palm Springs, CA : Pickleball

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Where I’m At: Palm Desert, CA
Campground : Palm Springs Thousand Trails



Palms and Oranges

It’s quite a sight when you pull into Palm Springs Thousand Trails. It’s difficult not to relax instantly when you roll into a palm tree forest.


There’s no shortage of oranges, here. So sweet. Incredibly, the grapefruit are, too! It didn’t occur to me last time I was here that we were permitted to pick these trees. In fact, the rangers will even provide baskets!



They’re not on my diet at the moment. However, I’m going to allow myself as many carbs as I want during Christmas, and I will snag a few.


Diet and Exercise

My main objective while spending at least 5 weeks in this area is fitness. I’ve already had a great time playing water volleyball and riding my bicycle (yes, everyone leaves their bikes unlocked here).



But I’m really focusing on pickleball. This sport is similar to tennis, but uses paddles and wiffleballs. Because the courts are small, it’s the perfect cardiovascular activity for old folks and fat guys alike. I’ve already lost a few pounds!



Evenings are for Sunsets and Barbeques

The weather is spectacular. With brisk mornings for pickleball and then temperatures in the 60’s the remainder of the day, I’m rarely preparing a meal indoors. I’m enjoying a lot of picnics and sunsets.


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Snapshots : Cherokee, NC : Oconaluftee Islands Park and the Bamboo Forest

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Where I’m At: Cherokee, NC
Lodging : Frontier Motor Lodge
Work : World Series of Poker Circuit Event
My Home is in Storage in Las Vegas











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Snapshots : Cherokee, NC : Mingo Falls

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Where I’m At: Cherokee, NC
Lodging : Frontier Motor Lodge
My Home is in Storage in Las Vegas



















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RiverCat Journal : Cherokee, NC : Five-Minute Commute

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Where I’m At: Cherokee, NC
Lodging : Frontier Motor Lodge
Work : World Series of Poker Circuit Event
My Home is in Storage in Las Vegas


Overcoming Logistical Challenges

This particular event is a tough one to put together from the West Coast. While many of my co-workers were simply able to drive from another East Coast venue and stay in cheap cabins on the river, those of us coming from Vegas had to make additional arrangements such as flights and the 3-hour rides from Atlanta to Cherokee. Not knowing how I’d even get around Cherokee, I opted to walk to work…


The Daily Routine

The Frontier is your typical 1-star motel, which is just fine by me.



My daily commute begins here. The Pancake House is open for breakfast on weekends. Today, I treated myself to a nice little birthday buffet.




This is the crossover to work.



And, before you know it, it’s time to deal cards.



I’m enjoying my stay here and, while I probably won’t work the multiple circuit events they have here each year, I’ll probably plan on making this a regular August gig.




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RiverCat Journal : Tonopah, NV : Tonopah Historic Mining Park

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Where I’m At: Tonopah, NV
Campground : Tonopah Station RV Park
Day Trip : Tonopah Historic Mining Park


According to legend, Jim Butler struck it rich when his mule wandered off and, while he was chasing his ass around the desert, stumbled upon some rocks lined with silver.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. After Mr.Butler established the claim he allowed individuals to mine the property in exchange for a small commission — and sealed the deal with nothing but a verbal contract and a handshake!

The visitor center is notorious for having the only movie theater in town. There’s only one movie and, while it’s not exactly a feature film, I found the history of the Tonopah Mines very interesting. The many mining tools and artifacts displayed throughout the museum were also interesting. I particularly liked how the miners of the day filed their important documents — in tobacco tins.



“Stopes” seem to be the more primitive version of mining tunnels. On average, they’re 500 feet deep and are popular nesting-places for a variety of birds. Incredibly, the wooden beams somehow prevent the stopes from collapsing.



The price of the self-guided tour is only $5.



I would have loved to spend several hours here. But I was feeling a bit tired this day and opted to explore just one of the major mining companies : Mizpah Mine.



In front of the mine is one of the first-ever metal-frame hoists.



And this little architectural wonder was used for dynamite storage.



Another must-see in rural Nevada!



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