Judith Lautner (judith) wrote,
Judith Lautner

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Palm Springs Weekend

April 19 Friday

I drove into a little heaven today. Dorothy and I took off down highway 101, through LA traffic and out on I10 toward the desert, and landed in Desert Hot Springs, about 310 miles from home. On the way we stopped to see the dinosaurs in Cabazon, even took a picture of us there.

We knew we were lucky going in. Two nights in a motel designed by my father and recently restored and brought to life by two men who have become obsessed with it. I had seen photos of this four-room motel but had not been in it before. We didn't know how it would affect us.

Desert Hot Springs is about ten miles from Palm Springs and in some ways its antithesis. A desert community that exploits the many hot springs in the area but has none of the glitz or high prices of its neighbor. As we neared the motel, traveling on roads not far removed from gravel, through neighborhoods lined with run-down housing, we wondered who would build a motel here?? It is off the beaten track, not near anything spectacular, not exactly convenient. But not all that remote, either, if it is the motel that is the destination.

For us it is. We made no plans for the weekend, although we discussed several ideas. We are taking it a minute at a time, going with what seems good at the time. Once we stepped inside the first motel room, though, we both knew we could simply stay here and be happy.

The little motel looks a little like a small desert fortress from the outside, low-slung, adobe-like, although it has some striking orange angled beams pointing toward the sky, forming a kind of zig zag roofline. The section through the building looks like this:

The plan:

The parking lot is gravel. There are some desert plants on the outside of the building. It looks unassuming. But inside it becomes the perfect desert oasis, a retreat of retreats, a sanctuary.

The ceilings angle up from left to right, hanging from the orange beam, which is visible at the left end and again on the right side of the room. There is a small gap between the edge of the ceiling and the dimensioned wall, which is filled with flat skylight glass. This means there is daylight throughout the room, coming from all sides, but the westerly walls of three of the units have only the skylights, providing protection from the deadly heat.

The rooms are remarkable in their detail architecturally. The owners have expanded on this detail, outfitting them with everything one needs to live, from food to extra bathtowels to books to read and even globes. Steve says nobody has ever taken anything from the rooms. Of course, the rooms are only available by reservation. You would not be able to book one for the night by driving by. You would not even know it is a motel, for there is no sign or even address here.

Saturday morning

This morning we plan to do a drive-by tour of interesting architecture in Palm Springs. And after that, the newly-revised aerial tramway. Later I want to go on a hike in Palm Springs.

Birds love the desert gardens in the patios. They fly in, munch on berries or other little fruits, forage in the gravel, and fly on out. We just saw a terrific desert bird. Large, maybe pigeon size, with some kind of thing on its head. We were unable to capture the guy on film in time. I hope he comes back again.

This has been a kind of real vacation for us, more than I thought it would be. Tonight we'll go to the hot springs and soak a bit. Steve made arrangements with another spa owner to use their pools, so we have pool passes that allow us to come and go all day if we wish. He intends to rebuild the pools that were a part of this development plan originally, that have been demolished. He'd also like to build about twelve more of these units and some meeting rooms. Making it a good place for conferences and retreats.

The wind is blowing rather hard. We can see the windmills beyond, scattered across the distant desert, like public art. The temperature is nice, not too hot, comfortable.

Sunday morning

Yesterday the aerial tramway, newly done. Bigger car, rotates twice during the 11-minute trip. it was great and I was not afraid. The last time I took the tram my fear of heights made it not the best experience for me. I hiked a short nature trail there on San Jacinto Mountain but that's all the hiking I've been able to fit in on this trip.

We went to dinner in Palm Springs, again as guests of Steve. Had martinis because it seemed right. Downtown PS is very busy on a Saturday night, quite a place to "be seen", I imagine. After, Dorothy and I went to nearby spa pools, using passes Steve gets for all his guests, and soaked for a while. Nice water here.

We learned that the bird we saw yesterday was a roadrunner. How cool. What a great looking bird! I hate to leave.

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