We pulled into the Emerald Desert RV Resort on January 26, 2020, for a seven-night stay in Palm Desert, California. With the freeway and train tracks to the north and Frank Sinatra Drive to the south, we worried about how we would ever get to sleep. Luckily, the fan on our space heater provided sufficient white noise to drown out any sleep-depriving disturbance.
It had been at least 30 years since we last visited the Coachella Valley, and our mouths watered for a date shake. So, we drove to Shields Date Garden, which has sold the “World’s Finest” date shake since 1936. They also sell dates, nuts, and dried fruit—their apricots are the best I’ve ever tasted.
A twenty-five dollar purchase in the store covered our entry fee to the 17-acre date farm gardens.
We walked through the oasis in the middle of the city, following the winding path through palm trees, around a lake, and past 14 scenes with 23 statues depicting Christ’s life.
The statues once called Vancouver, Canada, home until William and Lillian Vanderzalm sold their biblical garden in 2011 to Shields.
Be sure to catch the movie The Romance & Sex Life of the Date produced by Mr. Shields. It describes the labor-intensive production process of dates from pollination (done by hand) to picking and distribution.
Cabot’s Pueblo Museum
One day we drove to Desert Hot Springs, California. The Desert Hot Springs Spa and Hotel was a place we went during the 1970s to soak in the hot mineral waters, roast in the sun on lounges, and cool off in the swimming pool. We were pleased to see that it was still in business, even though sunbathing is no longer one of our pastimes.
During the drive there, we ran across Cabot’s Pueblo Museum. When we saw the building from the road, we had to stop and take a look. Lucky for us, we arrived just as a tour of the inside had begun. Due to close quarters and the number of people on the tour, photos of the inside could not be taken.
Cabot Yerxa (1883 – 1965) began construction on his cabin in 1914 on homesteaded land using reclaimed and found materials from around the Coachella Valley.
In 1941 he used supplies from the cabin to build the Pueblo Museum in its current location, making the adobe style bricks in the courtyard. He was an early adopter of the reuse, renew, and recycle movement, by incorporating old telephone poles, broken pieces of glass, and even a buckboard as a door. He also purchased abandoned cabins, dismantled them, and reused the wood and nails.
Construction of the museum was completed in 1949 and officially opened in 1950. The four-story structure consists of 5,000 square feet, 35 rooms, 150 windows, 30 rooflines, and 65 doors. Sensitive to Native American sensibilities, the living room, or parlor, has a dirt floor.
What I thought was ingenious was the air conditioning system he designed. The walls include upper and lower cutouts so air flows through the museum to regulate the temperature whether it is blazing hot in the summer or cool in the winter. Desert Hot Springs is known for its wind, evidenced by the numerous windmills in the valley, so it was good to see he took advantage of the natural surroundings.
Cabot Yerxa was known not only as an architect and builder; he was also an adventurer, artist, collector, entrepreneur, explorer, idealist, visionary, and writer.
Below is a photo of Peter “Wolf” Toth’s carving Waokiye (Y-oh-kee-ay) “Traditional Helper” dated 1978. Toth used a single 45-ton Sequoia redwood log carving. Waokiye’s face stands at 22 feet tall. The feather is 15 feet tall and was carved from an incense cedar from Idyllwild, California. The total height of the statue stands at 40 feet tall, weighs over 20 tons, and overlooks the museum and the City of Desert Hot Springs. The statue is part of the Trail of the Whispering Giants created by Toth throughout the United States and Canada. Waokiye is the 27th Giant in the series.
Slow down while speeding along Interstate 10 through the Coachella Valley Desert, turn off at the Desert Hot Springs exit, and take a tour of this unique museum to learn more about the man who helped found the town.
We couldn’t pass up cruising down Palm Canyon Drive while in the lower desert. Jon and I had one of our first dates at the Plaza Theatre in Palm Springs. The name of the movie is hiding somewhere in my memory. What I do remember is riding down the freeway in a rattle trap that was more like a go-kart than a car and standing in line roasting in my sweater and long pants. We had left the Inland Empire under “late night and early morning low clouds along the coast and inland” conditions only to arrive in Palm Springs where the temperature approached 90 degrees.
This trip, we enjoyed a wonderful early dinner and Mai Tais at Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar.
I’m usually not a fan of toffee because it is too hard to bite. Brandini Toffee changed my mind. The chocolate-covered pieces melted in my mouth. My mouth is watering as I type this. Maybe I’ll order some online.
Next up in Part Two: The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Tahquitz and Indian Canyons, and a street fair.