Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Julian, CA

Gold mines and apple pies-this is the draw for Julian.  It has that brand of touristy charm that, as a traveler, can make you feel like you should either be in grade school on a trip with your parents who are carrying a check list of local historical attractions...or in your retirement age, staying at a bed and breakfast and going to bed at 8pm.  I guess one end of that spectrum must resonate with me because I was totally into it.  And it probably didn't hurt that, when we visited Julian, I was in the midst of a bit of a gold mining obsession.
The historic mining town is clinging to nostalgic notions and packed with souvenir shops, bakeries, and wine tasting rooms.  And when I say that, I'm not trying to sound snotty- there's a dark part of me that actually likes this sort of thing.  Horse drawn carriages roll up and down the main street carrying tourists and if you walk next to them you can pick up on the guide's speil.  It starts to feel weird after about a block, when the passengers start watching you instead of the sites, but you get over it.  There was an unexpected standout shopping-wise- a little record/vintage clothing shop housed in building that contained an old well.  It was aptly named, The Old Well.

Nitpicking aside, we didn't go there for the apple preserves and bags of chocolate coins- we went for the Eagle Mining Company gold mine.  Dude, the gold mine is awesome.  Your guide, Kim, is awesome.  Walking through the dark narrow tunnels that are stacked on top of each other is awesome...and a little creepy.  And, if you've ever complained about the physical tribulations of having to work at a desk all day, you'll feel like an a-hole.  There's a "Company Store," on the property which has a few dusty display cases full of news clippings and iron pyrite.  Plus- you can pan for gold there and pretend you're the real deal.

Watts Towers

Moorton Botanical Garden- A Living Museum of Desert Lore Palm Springs. CA

I think I'm the only person I know that doesn't want to marry the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs.  However, had we not stayed there and taken a walk around the area, we wouldn't have wandered into the Moorton Botanical Garden.  From their hand-painted signs guiding you through their collection of desert cacti and succulents to their CACTARIUM, it's one of the most genuinely interesting and informative gardens I've ever been to.  Despite all it's charms and impressive collections, my favorite element was the sweet older man working there.  We bought a couple plants from their nursery and, upon checking out, we noticed two pictures of Pee-Wee Herman at the counter.  Having stopped at the famed Cabazon dinosaurs on the trip, we started to wonder if there was a P.W. theme emerging.  "What's with the Pee-Wee pictures," Jeremy asked.  "Oh, See-Pee?  He sends me holiday cards.  I used to work with him years ago- doing landscaping at his place.  I don't like landscaping in LA, but if that's what See-Pee wants-I do it!" Hearts.  I'd like to find some way to work that last sentiment into everyday conversation.

Cabazon Dinosaurs

Monday, June 27, 2011

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Museum

OK.  Stop.

Think of the craziest person that you know.  That lady that misplaces her socks in her freezer and her cats in the dryer.  Your friend that barks like a dog when he's mad at his neighbors because he's convinced the CIA  will recognize his voice if he speaks.  Maybe it's the guy at the corner store that collects jars of his own urine because he swears it makes the most hygenic mouthwash.

Now, pause a moment and look around: this is what the inside of their mind might look like.

This is not to say that Noah Purifoy was crazy.  In fact, you have him to thank for the preservation of Watt's Towers, as he was the founding director in the 1960's.  Once the riots broke out, he literally picked up the broken pieces of his community and transformed them into art.  Make no bones about it, this was outsider art.  But once it blossomed against the lifeless landscape of the Southern Californian desert- it took an acid bath.

One would be hard pressed to find a better canvas than the dusty desolate Mojave desert for Purifoy's sculptures made out of cafeteria trays and headless mannequins.  Take the dirt roads out of downtown Joshua tree and make a right past the private residence that has a hand scrawled sign in the driveway that says, "NO JERKS.  THIS MEANS YOU." 

Trust me, you'll know when you've arrived. 

Pioneertown & Rimrock Ranch

If you've been, you know you've harbored dreams of living here.  Who wouldn't want to move into an Old West movie set in the middle of the desert?  I will admit that growing up in the theme-y Danish town of Solvang may have warped my ideas of common commerce but if your town doesn't have staged shoot-out, well, then you may be missing out.  There's a bowling alley that Roy Rogers rolled the first ball at and a motel that has stalls for horses- if that's your mode of travel.  And Pappy and Harriet's is pretty much the backdrop I'd like the movie of my life to be filmed at.  If I wanted it filmed at a bar. There's been a handful of lazy days in LA where I contemplate driving the 2+ hours just to get a couple drinks here.

On this trip we stayed in the Airstream at Rimrock Ranch.  Beyond rad.  We sat on the trailer patio.  We used the 8-track.  We reclined on the star-gazing deck - which is speaking strongly to the vibe because "recliner," is pretty far down the list of adjectives I'd use to describe myself- and the number of shooting stars we watched easily rivaled the number of times I said, "I think we could probably make it work living here."  Which is, to say; a lot.  A couple of people climbed up the deck in the pitch black of night and, after a little bit of conversation, it turned out that one of the girls was one of Jeremy's old co-workers who was preparing for her wedding there in the upcomming weekend.  To make this pinpoint of a place an even smaller location for coincidences- the other girl lived just a block over from us in LA.  

Less than a year later, Jeremy held his bachelor party at the same spot.  If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is.