Saturday, December 06, 2008

Thanksgiving in the desert

In a very much appreciated gesture, my mother-in-law rented a condo in Palm Springs, California, and invited her immediate family (my wife and kids, and my wife's sister and her family) to spend Thanksgiving there.

From Sacramento to Palm Springs is about an eight-hour drive, and we wanted to get there as soon as possible and avoid holiday traffic, so my wife and I packed up the night before, woke up at 4am, put our sleeping children in their car seats, and we were on the road by 4:40am. We rolled into Palm Springs just after 1pm. I had never been to Palm Springs; all I really knew about it was its ritzy "Golden Age of Hollywood" reputation. My final analysis of Palm Springs is that I would never want to live there, but it was certainly a beautiful place to visit.

As soon as we rolled into town, My attention was naturally drawn to the mountains that the city is literally jammed up against. They are those steep, rugged, rocky, almost treeless leviathans that make you almost forget that you are in a desert. Observe:

The pinnacle of these mountains is the 10,800 foot San Jacinto Peak. In front of the peak however are many smaller foothills that were accessible enough for my brother-in-law and me to take our children (age span: 2, 4, 4, and 6) on a hike one afternoon. Here are some of the highlights of that trek:

My daughter the mountain goat trying to catch up with the big kids.

Almost there!

My kids and I enjoy the view.

Whoops! The sun is beginning to set; time to head back toward the car.

The sun goes down fast around here.

My son takes one last look at the sprawl below before we start heading back into it.

On one of our days in Palm Springs, my sister-in-law and her family went miniature golfing, my wife took her mother and my daughter shopping, which left me alone with my son. Rather than sitting around the house twiddling our thumbs, I took him to the Palm Springs Air Museum. I took more pictures than I could possibly care to post, but here are some of the highlights:

The highlight of our visit was their fully functioning B-17G Flying Fortress. This World War II bomber has always been one of my favorite airplanes. For a further thrill, my son and I received a personal tour of the interior of the aircraft from one of the docents. I would show you pictures, but it was so dark in there, my camera flash didn't carry very far. I used my son for scale to show how absolutely cramped it was for the gunner who stuffed himself into the ball turret on the belly of the B-17. I can't even imagine how naked I would have felt in that thing as a German ME-109 raked the underside of the aircraft with machine gun fire.

The museum was dedicated to mostly World War II-era aircraft with the building divided into two wings: one for aircraft from the European Theater and another for aircraft used mostly in the Pacific Theater. Here are some of those airplanes in no particular order:

P-51 Mustang

P-47 Thunderbolt

P-40 Tomahawk

Dauntless Dive Bomber

My son loved the model aircraft display!

He was even more intrigued by the display of the many firearms used by the different countries that participated in the War. He's such a boy!

On display outside was a German 88mm anti-tank/anti-aircraft/anti-personnel artillery piece. American soldiers hated this weapon probably more than anything else in the German arsenal.

After a hard day of playing and visiting, we would all go home to the comforts of a rather plush condo. The two most inviting aspects were the master bathroom and the backyard. In the master bathroom was a tub and shower that reminded one more of a Roman bath:

And then in the backyard was something that looked like a mini-swimming pool, but was actually a hot tub. It even had a waterfall!

Even if it was just for a week, it was nice to experience how the other half lives! However, after a total of 16 hours on Interstate 5, we are ready to stay home for Christmas!

Good Day to You, Sir


Law and Order Teacher said...

I loved the pictures. We have the National Museum of the Air Force here. I can only imagine the love of aircraft that your son feels. I loved the planes growing up as my dad took me to the Air Force Museum as it was called in those days. I love aircraft. Maybe that's why I went into the USAF. My son, to this day, love to read about aircraft. I work hard to keep up with the books he gives me.

The Vegas Art Guy said...

The P-40 was one of the more under-rated fighters of WWII. It was perfect for dealing with the Japanese fighters over China as it had better weapons and was tough enough to deal with the conditions there. My favorite fighter from that era is the P-38 Lightning. I'm glad you had a good thanksgiving.

Polski3 said...

Sounds like a nice trip....almost to my backyard....have a good last few weeks until Christmas Break !

Anonymous said...

Great pictures and looks like you had a wonderful time.

My mom worked on the Flying Fortress line during the war. She was a real Rosy the Riveter.

Darren said...

I had a roommate at school whose father (RIP) had been a WWII Luftwaffe pilot. After the Russkies had shot too many aircraft out from under him, he was assigned to 88mm guns.

Next time we meet up I have some interesting stories of his to tell.

Chanman said...

I look forward to it!