John & Brenda's Excellent Tour travel blog

The tram cables and towers from the base station

Brenda and John at the summit of San Jacinto Mountains

Kurt and John enjoy Heather's wonderfully prepared picnic lunch

A tram car arrives at the mountain station

March 12

Today we followed up on the recommendation from the Johnston's and went to the Hemet Golf Club - Landmark. We had been here a couple of years ago with the Burrows and the Bjorge-Paynes but it took a while to reacquaint ourselves. It went something like this..."I don't remember this hole at all."....whack, whack, whack..."Oh s**t, I remember it now!" For some reason the course seemed to fit what I was seeing because I shot an 83, my best score in years.

Returning home, we found that out had been HOT back in Palm Springs (95F) and we turned on the air conditioning for the first time. By bedtime, it was fresh enough to sleep with just the window open and the ceiling fan on (down to 68F overnight).

March 13

On Tuesday, we decided to go to a different Ross's to check out Senior's Day discounts. There was also a sale on at a nearby Mervyn's with 50% off almost everything. Brenda and I commented that this is the town for niece-in-law Susann and her lovely mother Rosmarie....look out, James, if they ever get loose down here!

We stopped at the River for lunch again due to our enjoyment last time and the fact we were close by. It hit 98F today and there wasn't a breath of wind. This is the kind of day that just screams, "pool time and chilled Margaritas!" so that's where we headed.

We had our first dinner guests tonight, friends Barry and Cathy Bertwell from Aldergrove. They have a hunting cabin on Kurt and Heather's farm in the Christian Valley, just across the Kettle River from their farmhouse. We had visited with them a few years ago and had a meadow golf tournament along with Kurt and Heather on a makeshift course that preceded the recently opened Falkenholt-designed and constructed Tamarock Links.

Barry and Cathy had just golfed at the Rancho Mirage Country Club with a tee off time at 1:15pm in the record high 98F heat. They deserve a medal just for trying, never mind completing 18 holes. We told them about our tournament of Jack On/Jack off and showed them our wonderful home designed and made game board. They took one look and told us we were playing a game called "Sequence" which was available for $20 at Toys R Us. It just doesn't seem to have the same ring as "Jack On/Jack Off"....or maybe we still love our juvenile snickers.

March 14

Wednesday was golf day again and we returned to the Country Club at Soboba Springs. Brenda came up with the idea that we would play a match, guys against the girls. We had begun negotiations for handicaps the night before and by tee off Wednesday morning, we had settled on reasonable numbers. With a $5 bet riding on the outcome, the match seesawed back and forth until the girls triumphed 3 and 1 (there isn't enough room in 10 blogs to explain match play to uninitiated golfers, let alone non-golfers, so I won't even try).

We (the guys) gained a measure of revenge when we swept the night's round of JO/JO with 3 wins, to lead overall 12 - 7 for the month so far.

March 15

Kurt and Heather needed a casino fix after our less than satisfactory outing at Soboba Springs last week, so they headed to the Agua Caliente Casino for some slot action and a buffet lunch. Brenda and I went to the Kaiser Grill for a nice al fresco lunch prior to some home d├ęcor shopping. We also hit the Wal-Mart, not a great idea in the near 100F heat, but we had the pool and cool drinks in our sights.

Kurt and Heather were home when we got back and, while they hadn't made a ton of dough at the casino, they were sated in their quest. At the pool, we ran into the usual suspects (i.e. regulars from our compound) and caught up on local news and gossip. The pool is a great place to find out about favourite restaurants, golf deals and generally what's happening n the neighbourhood. This day, I was interviewed by our American friend on what Canadians thought of their President about a minefield (pun slightly intended).

After dinner, the slaughter in JO/JO continued with another 3 straight; Guys 15, Girls 7!

March 16

Friday is usually golf day, but the heat wave has really settled into the Coachella Valley so, on Kurt's suggestion, we decided to do something we've never done in the 10 or so years we've been coming to Palm Springs; take the aerial tram ride up to the summit of the San Jacinto Mountains. If you recall, this idea would not appeal to Heather due to the height issue, which we had over-tested at Amboy Crater. She was happy to stay home and relax while Kurt, Brenda and I went out and cheated death.

The road to the tram climbs close to 2,500 feet from the valley floor to the base station at 2,643 feet. Then the 80 passenger tram car takes you up to the mountain station at 8,516 feet, rotating 2 complete turns as it passes over 6 towers on the way up. One car goes up while another comes down, counter-balancing each other. There is a real stomach test as they pass over the tower and plunge at least 2 or 3 feet on the other side.

The real treat at the summit is that the temperature is approximately 30F cooler than the valley floor.....way cool! At the top, the thermometer read 60F and we noticed right away that the air is so much thinner at this altitude. While the face of the mountains are very steep and craggy granite, the summit is somewhat flat with large pine trees and even a seasonal meadow/marsh and creek. There are 2 marked, relatively short hiking trails for day use and a number of permit-only routes for serious hikers and campers. We chose the Valley View Trail and were treated to a number of spectacular vistas and photo ops along the way. We had to be careful about our exertion level due to at least a minor risk of altitude sickness.

The experience was really worth the investment in time and we thought the price of $21.95 was a real bargain. On the trip down, the pass over the towers accentuated the drop and created a lot of "oohs and aahs". The operator announced at the bottom that it was 101F in the valley and we could really feel the heat as we stepped from the car.

Once again, we returned to the condo for pool time and cold drinks. Heather was entertained by Kurt's mini-movies taken during the tram ride as well as the scenic photos taken at the summit. We decided that, due to the heat, we'd avoid kitchen duty and head downtown for dinner. At the pool, a couple of nice young women from LA had recommended a restaurant called Pomme Frites so we decided to try it. We were able to reserve patio seating at a good time so we were off. What a find!...the food was fantastic and the people watching from our table was too much fun. The weather (warm but just right) was perfect.

After dinner, I had wanted to try a blues bar (the Blue Guitar) for some live music but the $10 cover dissuaded us. We went around the corner to Dale's Lost Highway and....BONUS....$2 martinis in the piano bar. The clientele was mixed gay/straight and in a fun party mood. Everyone was very friendly and loudly singing along to the show tunes the piano player was pounding out. Designated driver Kurt had a couple of cups of coffee while we three enjoyed our martinis. It was a blast and really capped off our evening. Katie would have killed to be here, had she known. Friends Robert and Cheryl Smith had dropped in here on a Monday last year when it was newly opened and found it deserted; they would be delighted at its evolution.

We returned to our condo with the feeling that our Palm Springs stay was truly fulfilling all our wishes for a really great month.

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