Saturday, December 16, 2023

Pre-holiday getaway fun


Beluga's view of Mt. San Jacinto

Our first stop was in Desert Hot Springs, right outside of Palm Springs, California.   We like the campground very much, beautiful mountain views all around, lots of Palm trees and sunshine.    The fact that it straddles the infamous San Andreas fault doesn't bother us one bit!

We used Catalina Spa and RV Resort as a base for our explorations in the area.   It's an area we've been to many times, but also one that we enjoy very much.   A couple of the spots we wanted to revisit were closed because of damage caused by Hurricane Hilary, but there were plenty of other things to keep us happy.

One day we drove about 85 miles into the mountains to Big Bear Lake.   The drive up was pretty, and we enjoyed lunch beside the lake.   

We totally forgot how early it gets dark at this time of year, so we decided to head back home using a different route.     Neither of us wanted to be picking our way down the narrow, winding roads following our headlights, so I chose what looked to be an easier drive.    Easier, yes - nicer, NO.     Ugh.

Pretty much every day we drove into Palm Springs for dinners out, a bit of shopping and to watch a really fun parade!    A real old-fashioned parade with lots of marching bands!

It's always windy there - so we drove past (and sometimes through) white drifts in creeping onto the road.     Sand is much less worrisome than snow don't you think?

We made dinner reservations at an old favorite restaurant, Blue Coyote because, well, it's really good, it sits right along the parade route.   Killer margaritas and front row seats to boot!

One of my favorite parts of the parade was this little lady, dancing with abandon (and in perfect time with the passing bands) on the top of a garbage can! 

 So many restaurants, so little time but we did our best, you know we did!

a quick wine stop at Zin before dinner

This particular night, after gorging on Moules-frites, we strolled through Palm Canyon Drive's Thursday night Village fest.   Lot of nice things for sale, but we didn't buy anything: well, maybe just a few cookies......

Orange loafers anyone, perhaps purple then?

black plates?

pretty patio at The Farm

just a quick sniff...they were right behind his chair!

We were even on a first name basis with Helene, the owner/baker of Peninsula Pastry shop.    She makes divine Kouign Amann (there are 5 in our freezer for future pastry emergencies......).

(is that all they do, just eat?)     

One day we drove up into Joshua National Park.    We'd been there before, years ago, so we took lunch and just poked around the fabulous rock formations and weird Joshua trees.      We stopped at the Visitor Center first, to get a map and some possible suggestions of spots we hadn't seen before.....

It was very crowded......We grabbed a map and left.   I managed to take a few photos without "others" in the shot.       We decided to try a different part of the park the next day, a Jeep road unofficial entry from the south side on Berdoo "rd.".    Stay tuned. 

The next day, as I said, we took lunch and set off to find a less crowded area.   We turned off the paved road (Dillon) and headed into the desert, passing through a local shooting range.     It was Monday, so I hoped there wouldn't be too many folks out enjoying blowing to pieces various things,  i.e. old garbage cans, assorted pieces of wood, bottles, cans, old tv's, targets, etc.     I wonder who they think will pick up all their trash?

study in assorted colors

Dave aired down the Jeep's tires for an easier ride.   The road became hard to follow after a while.   Sometimes on very old pavement, but mostly through washes and scrub and around obvious target practice sites.     We made a few "oops" turn arounds and 9 point turns but that's part of the fun.   

pavement ends......

lunch on Rocky's hood

interesting orange lichen

spotter or driver? he says......
driver says I 

All in all, we had a good day banging around in the rocks, it's always a great time for us.

We weren't always on the go, we took time to put up our Christmas tree, now one of Dave's favorite jobs, and just enjoy second cup in the sun.    We love the mountain views and the way clouds play across them at different times of day.

all done!

Lake Havasu City was our next (last) stop before heading home.   We stayed at the Elks Lodge this time, instead of our usual lakeside site at Lake Havasu State Park.    Holidays are busy times and LHC was no exception.   The State Park's sites were booked for months.    The Elks have put a lot of work into their RV sites and we were very happy there.  The entire area is level, provides good services, decent space between sites, and pleasant people - all we needed for our 4 days stay.

We were there specifically to watch the Christmas Boat Parade.    In the past, lavishly decorated and illuminated boats have traveled right past our campsite, but this year strong winds kept them in the channel under the London Bridge instead.  

We were especially looking forward to the evening since Pam and John were joining us!    It was so good to see them and catch up that even the cold, windy night didn't dampen our enthusiasm.   

   Well, enthusiasm was dampened a little as we sat beside the canal to watch the boat parade.    We tried to position our chairs in the lee of parking lot cars, you know, to break the stiff wind, but it didn't really work.   

Participants spent a considerable amount of money and effort to dazzle us, but the wind was just too strong and the water too choppy to be safe.     As the boats continued to shorten their route, turning around before getting to end of the canal,  the bystanders began booing loudly.      We finally gave in to the weather, folded up our chairs and headed back to Beluga for a little supper and more talk.     Nice evening, memorable but COLD.

Pam and John left the next morning, and Dave and I explored one last dirt trail on Planet Ranch Road in the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge.  

We drove along the river through wonderful Lava formations, traveling a well-worn path through the refuge.     We saw no other people, but lots of evidence of wild burros.

great view from on high!

We found another spot to pull off and hike down into a sandy wash among fantastic rock formations.    Some looked like chocolate frosting had poured over the sides.     Our aim was to get down to the water, but as we picked our way beneath the towering cliffs riddled with caves I started to become uneasy.     My hackles were up and I felt like we were being watched.
see Dave?

dark pathway

chocolate frosting?

We saw no evidence of mountain lions, no prints, no scat, but I was uneasy.   The caves looked like perfect places to sleep or hide.    Some of them were obviously well used, paths leading in and out and nice soft sand inside to settle down in.   Hmmm. 

who lives here?

 I think it's important, very important, to listen to your gut, so we did.   We hiked back out to the car and continued on our way.     It was a beautiful, quiet canyon but......maybe another time.

We stopped for lunch along the way and eventually ended our exploration at a locked gate.   I'm actually glad the gate was locked because it was getting late in the day and it made the decision for us - decision as in "how much further should we go, when do we go back, let's just go to the next turn, just a few more miles, maybe just turn down that side track before we leave?"       

The next morning we packed up and headed home.

our new little Palm Springs tree nestles in the sink for the drive

   It was a pleasant and relatively short drive to Wickenburg and Beluga was back in her house and unpacked by the late afternoon.     We had a wonderful time, it was a great start to the holiday season.

Last night we drove into the Mesa Bass Pro store to join Guide Dogs for the Blind's (Phoenix group) annual Christmas photo and to work a Guide dog in training around the huge and busy store.    Fun!

It's getting to look a lot like Christmas here now.....traditions must be upheld!

Judi's cookies came yesterday!

the painting of the Christmas toe

We're off to Spokane for Christmas.    Can't wait to see everyone there!




  1. What an awesome spot to watch that first parade! When I saw the picture of you guys at the restaurant, my first thought was "I wonder if Dave will have mussels." Then boom! A picture of Dave with a plate of mussels! Oh, how I miss those.
    Very cool that you were able to meet up to John and Pam for the second parade, but it looked a bit chilly!

    1. Dave loves mussels, as you evidently know! We try to find them wherever we travel. Yes, it was great to see Pam and John, but it definitely was cold! The four of us aren't used to those temps. anymore, we're wimps!

  2. That was a great trip--with lots of good food and wine as always! I like the way you enjoy life! We have had mountain lion sightings here in our neighborhood--it's good to be aware! So--what's the Christmas toe painting significance?? Enjoy your trip to Spokane--I can't believe we are going to be in Wickenburg and won't get to see you guys--again!

    1. Life is to be enjoyed! Christmas toe - long story short, we used to spend Christmas holidays at our place on Longboat Key, Florida. We'd get all dressed up and go out every evening with our friends, the Krafts. Their daughter, Melanie, was doing her toes one afternoon, in preparation, and Dave was lounging with his bare feet up on a beach chair. She reached over and swiped a swath of red onto his big toe and then pronounced him "ready for Christmas"! It's become a Christmas tradition ever since.

      What a bummer! You'll be literally right down the street, and we won't be home! Sure you can't convince Mike to stay an extra day or two?

  3. Awesome parade watching spot, a good meal with a margarita and live entertainment. Fran and I were married in Palm Springs and we used to frequently enjoy a long weekend there, hiking or people watching ... even have followed your Jeep trail via the shooting range in the park.
    Enjoy your Christmas in Spokane with the family.

    1. PS was probably a great place to get married. We could meet there sometime and you could show us your favorites! Merry Christmas to you and Fran!

  4. What a fabulous post today! I kept on making comments (to myself, of course!) about all the things I wanted to mention in my comment -- but, the mind is weary and old so I might not recall all the great things I wanted to say. BUT, first and foremost, I definitely agree with that feeling of someone *watching you* and my first thought was, like, a person with a gun after seeing all those colorful shells but, then, when you mentioned *mountain lion* my hackles went up!!!! Yikes. Hike back. Keep a look out. Adrenaline pumping. Yup! Now, about all that food -- egads, people! Those were some mighty fine dishes and that Margarita, WOWser!!!! I wish I could have tried that one. Loved the chocolate frosting -- really super interesting. And how did youEVER find that itty bitty flower in the dirt when you have all those BIG rocks around you, grabbing your attention and making you think up things like chocolate frosting!??
    Maybe some other time, we'll see more pictures of the Bass Pro shop -- now, I'm super curious and want to find one so I can check it out. Wish I had a therapy dog so I could play too! And,Dave, that Red Toe is just so becoming (as was the picture of you with Judi's cookie in hand!) Have fun in Spokane, enjoying yet another trip around the beautiful Sun. CindyP

    1. One of the things I love about going off the beaten path is that I have time to really look all around me - high and low, big and small. That tiny flower was in the middle of our tire tracks! What a will to survive!
      The Bass Pro was a great spot to work a Guide Dog in Training, especially at this time of year! Stairs, glass elevators, HUGE bass tank, shooting ranges, lots of people (and kids zooming everywhere), thousands of stuffed animals (not the cuddly teddy bear type....) high and low, etc. Lots of experiences in one spot! I couldn't wait to get outside, phew! Merry Christmas to you and Walter!

  5. Another great episode in “Travels With Sue and Dave”. You could definitely do an article for the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce about the places you enjoy…yummy foods and delicious wines! I always enjoy your back road adventures and the photo of Dave spotting is spot on (😉👏😃)…so much fun! I have always loved Beluga’s Christmas tree. I know you will have great time in Spokane…Merry Christmas!

    1. We find a lot of fun places in that area, especially at this time of year. Eating out and people watching are great fun, but off roading is my personal favorite! Merry Christmas to you and Joe! We may come down to the Tucson area late winter or early Spring....we'll stay in touch.

    2. Awesome…yes, please let us know!

  6. Looks like a perfect visit to a couple fun spots in the desert. That's a "real" parade - and with awesome seats and eats to go with it. Glad you could hook up with the Wrights, but bummer it was even too cold for you four easterners! Definitely smart to listen to our inner warnings. There's a reason we get them. Excited you get to see the grand and her folks for the holiday - her first :-)))))

    1. We really had a fun visit. Next time I'm going to pick your collective brains for some other off-road adventures in that area. We four easterners moved away for that very reason and now our blood has thinned to desert standards! Yes, intuition, sixth sense, gut reaction, premonition, raised hackles, or whatever you call it, should always be paid heed... Merry Christmas to you and Bill. I know you'll have a great time with a house full of family!

  7. Wonderful get away to two fun spots. Glad you had warm weather in Palm Springs. Too bad the one windy, chilly day hit Lake Havasu when it did. But we made it warm with all our conversation. Thanks for welcoming us to join you. We may have to do it again soon!!

    1. The weather is the weather but I'm glad we had a good chance to catch up while the wind howled outside! We look forward to our next visit......

  8. What a fun kick-off to the holiday season! Palm Springs is such a great place in the winter and it looks like you did the restaurant scene justice. :-)) It's a bummer that it was too darned cold and windy to enjoy the boat show at Lake Havasu. But I know you were in fabulous company! Love your glittery little tree addition, and Flat Stanley looks as festive as always. Happy holidays, dear friends, and have a wonderful time with Jesse, Erin, and adorable Annabelle!

    1. Thanks Laurel....I hope you both were feeling better and were able to enjoy the holidays in your sweet little community!