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Wake up, see mountains

Apart from driving into Palm Desert on Sunday afternoon, we've been arriving everywhere after dark and looking up in the morning and seeing mountains; and even having seen the mountains out of our window Sunday night they were still somehow a surprise on Monday morning. Mountains loom over Palm Desert and Palm Springs and Mojave in a way they just don't in London, or even San Jose; great long ranges peering over your shoulder. Tuesday night at the Travelodge in Palm Springs, which is very swish for a Travelodge; dark wood and blue walls and stylish decor and a spa pool the size of a village pond. And mountains looming up in the sunny morning light. The mountains were speckled with green almost all the way into Joshua Tree national park, where we repaired for a day, although they turn bare and red closer to the park and the rocks in the park itself are odd curves and lumps of white tank granite. We walked the short nature trail and saw wildflowers and a horned toad and noticed how much greener all the plants were than in November. The phainopepla bird was showing off its crest in the same tree as last time, I think, and the cholla cactus was as spikey as ever, with lots of little tribble chunks breaking off to spread across the desert. We drove into White Tank campground and walked round to see the arch then drive back up to Keys View, where we could actually see the view: maybe Mexico and definitely the ridge marking the San Andreas Fault. Out of the park at sunset and across the desert where they filmed the dune buggy scene in Mr & Mrs Smith and into Mojave for the night. Mountains and wind turbines and trains - which by the sound run through the parking lot of the motel! Our usual stop in the diner at Keene, where the waitress now recognises us: we're never in time for breakfast but the tri-tip melt is always good and the quesadilla is three inches thick with a lake of refried beans. As we have a meeting in Palo Alto tomorrow we just pushed up the 5, but the mountains just past Tehachapi were tinted orange with poppies, the fruit trees were white as snow and pink as strawberry ice cream against the blue sky in the valley and some fields of white-blossomed trees were carpeted with bright yellow flowers for extra strikingness. The hills at the top of the 5 were lashed with rain, giving us flashes of lightning and then a vivid double rainbow. Along the way we paused at the Harris Ranch for coffee and a to-go cup of trifle made with chocolate cake and organic grape juice. I now covet a $350 black cowhide to cover a chair in the lounge; must compare prices online... And now for an evening writing, to the sound of Marina and the dance troupe clacking out something on zills that is not 'Dashing through the snow' whatever Simon says...

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full steam ahead
marypcb
Mary Branscombe
Simon & Mary

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