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  • Writer's pictureRobert Gidley

Ghost towns and Memories

March 21, 2024 (Thu)

7:20 am Quartzsite, AZ

It’s early, and we want to get going before the sun begins to roast everything around here. We’re getting more efficient at preparing Harvey for travel and it only takes 40 minutes to get everything secure and the tanks emptied and ready to go.

 


Harvey is ready to hit the road in Quartzsite

 

8:30 am Desert City, CA

We’re cruising down Highway 10 on our way to the coast (well, we won’t make it all the way to the coast). The highway is straight as an arrow and there’s a whole lot of nothing here. The (very) occasional offramp leads to a gas station/fast food place.

 

Robert is cruising for a place to have breakfast, since we didn’t take time to eat before we left. For the last 60 miles, he’s seen signs for “Desert City,” along with how many more miles to go.

 

Usually, when you see a sign for a town, it means it has something to see. A couple hundred people, a few gas stations, a quaint little café serving Fair Trade Medium Roast Guatemalan coffee—you know.

 

We finally arrive and get off at Desert City. Sure enough there’s a café (the Family Café), but it looks a bit closed.



Um, we think maybe the Family Café is closed

 

Since Robert is up-to-date on his tetanus shot (although he’s giving serious consideration to getting a booster when we get back), he heads on into the café.

 

It looks like at some point, somebody just locked the doors and walked away. There are still chairs and tables and booths. There are sugar and salt packets scattered on the floor, along with broken glass shards everywhere. There’s even a jug of cherry fountain syrup sitting in the decrepit kitchen.

 

Robert follows the traditional Hacker’s Code (look around, but disturb nothing). It’s easy to imagine people filling up this space, waitresses scurrying to refill coffee, cooks frying up bacon. It’s creepy as hell.

 


View of the lunch counter at Desert Center


We hope this customer isn'still waiting to purchase their mini purse...


The row of booths is ready for customers


Back in the kitchen, a bottle of cherry fountain syrup and a package of decorative toothpicks sit


You think your desk is a mess!


The front door is always open--because the glass has been shattered!


View from behind the counter


It looks like there used to be a hardware store next to the cafe--there's bits and pieces of inventory still on the shelves


Harvey waits safely outside


Ready to check you out!


The market across the street--even we weren't crazy enough to walk in here!

 

Our crack research team (Gini’s daughter) turns up this article, which claims the place closed in 2012. We think it might be a little older than that—we found an sales slip from the gift shop dated 2010.

 

If you want the history of the place:

 

 

9:00 am Chiriaco Summit, CA

We are still hungry though, so a few miles down the road, we stop at Chiriaco Summit (which hasn’t had any signs telling us about it), and they have a café that’s not collapsing. It’s also right next to the George Patton Museum, so we get to see how Harvey stacks up to a WWII tank. The museum, sadly, is closed, so we’re not any smarter about General Patton.



Harvey and a WWII tank—Harvey is taller!

 

11:30 am Palm Springs (well, Cathedral City), CA

We thought it would be fun to stay at an RV Park in Palm Springs and see how the other half lives. We had visions of velvet lined golf carts, maybe plush electrical connectors and uniformed Camp Hosts briskly bringing us magnums of champagne.

 

What we found was a bunch of RV slots, right next to each other, “cheek-by-jowl” as our grandmothers might say. There’s not even a table (usually, you get a table—see the picture of Harvey at Quartzsite earlier). The spots aren’t even level. This is a Big Deal for RV folks—although most RVs can compensate, we like a good level spot. Also, we left all our levelers at home, because this is the first RV Park we’ve ever encountered where we would have used them.



For $100 a day, you don’t get a lot of space in Palm Springs

 

Still, there is a pool, and a hot tub and Robert avails himself of them, followed by a shower with enough water pressure to scour your skin off (“When you want to be really clean,” says Robert).

 

 

4:00 pm Cathedral City, CA

As long as we’re in the area, Gini arranges to see her cousin Michael, whom she hasn’t seen in 30 or more years. He kindly makes the trip over from West Hollywood with his wife, Sharon. They have a good old time talking about relatives alive (and dead) and catching up on what happened the last quarter-century or so.

 

5:30 pm

Robert is always reading the bulletin boards at the various parks we stop at. At this park, he’s seen several signs for a place called Nick’s Bistro, and pays special attention to one that says there will be Live Music at Nick’s Bistro tonight!.

 

According to Siri, Nick’s Bistro is practically next door. Only a brief quarter-mile stroll. Easy!

 

6:15 pm Nick’s Bistro, in the next freakin’ county

Ha ha! That mischievous Siri! Seems he (Robert’s Siri is a British butler), thought that Nick’s Bistro was right at the entrance to the Date Palm Country Club where it resides. It is, instead, a half-mile down the road.

 

“But look at the appetite we’ve worked up!” says Robert. Gini glowers at him.

 

Still, there is a jazz trio and they know lots of classic songs and the food is good and the company excellent and the wine fine and a good ol’ time is had by all.

 

We take a Lyft to get back to our RV.



The Jazz Trio at Nick’s Bistro

 

Day 37 Travel



Our travel on Day 37 (Thu)

 

 

 

March 22, 2024 (Fri)

8:00 am Cathedral City CA

It’s laundry day, and we have until 11:00 am to get it done and get ready to depart. Robert is our laundry guy and he’s poked his head into the laundry room and seen that it takes cards.

 

“Woo hoo!” says Robert, “No more quarters!”

 

So he gathers up our smelly clothes and heads over. Robert’s experience:

 

  • Huh. It’s not reacting to any of my credit cards. It’s just saying “Error. Not recognized.” Time to read the directions on the wall.

  • The directions say to download the Wash app. Okay, let’s do that.

  • The Wash app is supposed to detect the location of the laundry room. It’s not finding it.

  • Double-check—can I just use quarters? No?

  • Head over to office. “Um, things not working?”

  • Office: Oh yeah, you have to buy a card for $5 and then add money to it. $5 at a time. And it only takes $5 bills.

 

Fortunately, last night when Robert decided to tip the Jazz Trio, his kindly heart led him to tip them the $20 bill in his wallet. This means that he has three $5 bills, which is just enough to do the laundry.

 

With, of course, $3.25 left over. He donates his card to the next hapless soul with dirty clothes.

 

We will never whine about having to use quarters again.

 

12:00 noon Costco, Palm Springs, CA

Almost all the streets here are named for famous people. So we go down Gerald Ford Dr. and turn onto Bob Hope Road and then turn right onto Dina Shore Dr.to get to Costco.

 

Why are we at Costco? Well, we both take pills to help us live longer. When we left home, we thought we’d be on the road for three weeks, and we had plenty of pills. As we pass five weeks on the road (and we haven’t killed each other!), our pill supply is getting dangerously low.

 

Gini jumped onto the phone, called up Costco where we get our prescriptions filled and they said, “Sure, you can pick them up at any Costco, including the one in Palm Springs!”

 

Whew!

 

And, in case you were wondering, the Costco in Palm Springs does not have velvet lined shopping carts. It’s also huge, even for a Costco.



On the way out of Palm Springs, there’s a bunch of windmills—are we in Holland, yet?

 

2:00 pm P&G Burgers, Colton, CA

It’s time for lunch, and Robert wants to avoid chain burger places, so we end up at a seedy-looking burger joint next to the freeway.

 

The burgers are excellent, the location less so (if you don’t mind getting asked for spare change on the way back with your burgers—“Sorry man, I spent my last five bucks on laundry!”).

 

4:00 pm Huntington Beach, CA

We arrive at our “water front” RV park! For the same amount as we spent in Palm Springs, we are packed even closer together on an asphalt parking lot (with water and electricity, though). These places are dead level.

 

Best of all: We’re across Pacific Coast Highway from the beach!

 


Harvey at the RV Park in Huntington beach; well, at the office, really. The rest of the place is one big parking lot with no palm trees.

 

It turns out that the State of California has figured out that people like to go to the beach. So they have a little program where you get to buy a daily parking pass for $15 to go into the beach. Gini grumbles, “What happened to public beaches?!”

 

4:30 pm Huntington Beach Beach, CA

Robert, being from a proud line of cheapskates has found a place to put Harvey outside the park where we can just walk over to the beach and thumb our noses at the $15 a day people. This is a big beach and the breeze is refreshing (and much cooler than the 86° in Palm Springs).

 

Aah!



Gini in her natural environment—on the beach!

 

 


Gini is quite taken with the patterns made by seagulls in the sand. Robert thinks the patterns could be messages from space aliens.

 

Gini realizes that we are less than five miles from where she grew up in Newport Beach, so after rubbing our feet in the sand, we head south and do some Reminiscing Tourism.

 


This is the site of the old triplex that Gini’s Grandparents used to own

 

The triplex that Gini’s grandparents use to live in is on the market and is now a duplex. One of the plexes is going for $3 million, the other for $1.5 million. Gini is somewhat surprised at how small everything is.

 

“It used to have more open space! Now everything is built up, filled up, and crowded!” she proclaims. Turns out all available space is at a premium. The Newport Beach zip code is among the 10 most expensive zip codes in the country now.



This is where Gini learned to swim when she was eight

 

We try to stop for a drink at Newport Beach pier, but it’s Friday night and everybody else had the same idea, and parking isn’t a happening thing. Instead, we head back to a bar in a strip mall (lots of parking!) that turns out to have very tasty Mai Tais.



Robert relaxes with a Mai Tai after a hard day of driving and loafing


Day 38 Travel



Our travel on Day 38 (Fri)

 

 

Gini & Robert                                                                                

Harvey Staff

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