We woke in Las Vegas on the morning of Christmas Eve. Or was it ancient Egypt?
The revelers were all sleeping, so we made our quiet escape.
Back to the open road, with one more adventure before this chapter of our travels drew to a close.
The plan was to drive to my Dad’s condo in Palm Desert, but we decided to make the most of the journey. Our favorite part of the week just past was our visit to the Mojave, and so we retraced our steps, driving south to the town of Nipton.
There at the trading post, we met one of Santa’s Elves, who consented to let us photograph her hat, if not her face.
We’d come for another meal in the tiny restaurant adjacent to the historic Nipton Hotel.
Alden surveyed the options.
While I admired the beautiful brown-painted windows in the bathroom.
My breakfast was authentic and delicious.
Good food made fresh by this husband and wife. I’m only sorry the tamales weren’t ready by the time we left.
From Nipton we drove south into the Mojave, watching carefully for tortoise as we went.
We drove to the Hole in the Wall trailhead. Alden showed us the cairn that marked the way.
And then…away she went.
We had been battling sunset the last time around. So we took our time, walking the desert path to the cluster of rocks that was our destination.
Our intrepid leader showed the way.
While Augie showed various tiny ditches who was boss.
Before long we came to the mouth of the canyon.
All the way to the tiny slot of rock at the far end.
This time, August joined the climbing crew.
Hole in the Wall is a magical place, without a doubt my favorite spot on the entire trip. In part because of its beauty and in part because of the accomplishment the kids felt to make that climb. If you’re ever in Mojave, don’t miss it.
From there we drove south to Palm Desert, a man-made oasis surrounded by dramatic mountains. Dad and Judy bought a condo there not long ago that they mostly use as a business rental.
But it’s also available for special occasions such as Christmas in the desert.
One of my life’s great regrets is that my parents don’t get to see the kids as often as I like.
We played. We ate. We swam in the pool. Yes. this is what Christmas Eve looks like in Palm Desert. Kind of weird, but also kind of wonderful.
Eventually, it was time to go to bed.
In case you’ve been wondering, it seems that Santa does deliver to the desert.
On Christmas we enjoyed the traditional Swanson feast of Roast Beast and Who Pudding. Dad whipped up a particularly appealing batch.
The next day we played with our presents. My stepsister Gina was tasked with the unenviable task of inflating the Wubble.
A task well worth the effort, I will add.
On December 27, we drove to Joshua Tree National Park, where the loose tooth Alden had been nursing since we left finally made its dramatic escape.
It was extremely exciting.
But it did not deter us from our planned explorations.
Joshua Tree is beautiful and vast.
It is full of rocks to climb.
And Joshua Trees with which to pose in ways that are best described as mysterious and alluring.
Someone should name a legendary rock album after this place.
Alden took her climbing spirit to previously unknown heights. I can almost hear her former teacher Holli audibly questioning my judgment as she looks at this photo.
As the sun dropped behind the mountains, we reached the famous Cholla cactus garden. Cholla are kind of beautiful and kind of horrifying.
Advice: Do not sit on one. My dad did accidentally one time some years ago and had to have the spines removed with a Leatherman.
Seriously: Sit elsewhere.
It was well into evening by the time we returned to Palm Desert.
I served my famous lasagna and called it a night.
The next morning we had proof that the Tooth Fairy also makes desert visits. Our guess is that Santa tipped her off as to Alden’s location.
It was time to move on, and so we had some hugs and went on our way.
We passed a wind farm that contained hundreds (if not thousands) of windmills. I wish I had been able to capture a photo that showed more than seven.
Our next stop was the town of Ranchos Palos Verdes, where we were to attend a gathering of entrepreneurial types.
Along the way, we stopped to admire various snakes in various cages.
Robbi’s admiration was perhaps the most pronounced.
The view from our hotel was magnificent. I see why people love the West Coast.
At the conference, we had the good fortune to reunite with old friends from college—some of the finest people I know.
If you happen to know the remarkable Brian Wecht and yet have somehow managed to avoid seeing his tiny child on Facebook, here she is, the one on the right in the photo below.
It struck me throughout our stay that we don’t have trees like these in Chestertown.
Nor are our sausages quite so abundant or appealing.
I am also quite fond of the Spanish tile.
That said, I remain unmoved by the West Coast climate, vegetation, architecture, and insistence on excessive sunshine. I am pleased to occasionally visit, but I am a child of the Midwest and a man of New England who is very much enjoying his Mid-Atlantic sojourn, thank you very much.
On New Year’s Eve we attended a costume party.
We were the North and South Pole.
Below you will also find two vikings, Carl Sagan, and Arthur Ashe.
Below you will find a detail study of an ice cream sundae bar that offered more than 40 toppings.
Of course there was a band and of course it was led by the remarkable Brian Wecht.
Anchored by the slashing guitar of the honey-toned Dahna Goldstein.
Made unabashedly badass by the soul-piercing crooning of Rachel Wecht.
And undeniably elevated by the remarkable spectacles of Kenneth Harmon.
Not to mention the questionable late-night antics of the South Pole.
We stayed up late and got up early. The next morning we were off.
There was one final adventure yet to be had.
We’ll tell you about it later this week. For now there is the matter of my bloated inbox. Apparently, it did not get the memo about us being on vacation.