The first time I went to Salton Sea, I assumed it was some tiny little body of water, so figured it would be a cinch to find Bombay Beach. Sara and I got there and found a closed visitor’s center and a very smelly run down shack. This time, I made sure to actually research where it is. This time was also my boyfriend’s first Dart and Map adventure, where it takes 8 hours to go on a 2 hour trip.
Brian and I went to Pappy and Harriets to meet up with some of his friends and to see Lucinda Williams, who was already on the stage playing by the time we got there. Pappys is a great little restaurant and music joint in Pioneertown, which is about 1 1/2-2 hours from Los Angeles. Pioneertown was originally built as a set for Hollywood Western movies. Now, it has a motel, Pappys & Harriets and the old set buildings with weekend shoot-out reenactments.
We chatted Lucinda up a little bit after the show, which was very cool, and since I had a few drinks by then, I babbled about how I had learned to play one of her songs on the guitar. Except, it probably sounded more like “ohhh! You inspired me to pick up the guitar and PLAY! bleeh awesome! woo supporting women woohoo” or whatever I said. My happy drunk is very puppies and rainbows. And then I was probably asleep by midnight.
The discovery of the International Banana Museum trumped my excitement of finally knowing the location of Bombay Beach. Ever since I met a banana in San Francisco, I have developed a bit of an obsession for all things banana. (No, I do not have a million little banana trinkets.) Brian and I got up and out of our hotel room and drove to the banana nirvana. The website said it was open. I didn’t think to call anyway. So, of course, it was closed.
The owner did answer the phone when I called while in front of the place, but he was on his way out of town. Banana dreams. Foiled. (I can’t think of a good banana pun, so foiled will have to do.)
Next, we went to Bombay Beach. Its heyday was in the 1950s and 60s, with Hollywood celebrities flocking there. The high salinity, followed by storms destroyed this playcation hotspot by the 70s. If you look up the Salton Sea, you always see a picture of a decaying van. So, when you get there and do not see it, there is disappointment. Fortunately, Brian knows a lot of people and ran into a guy he knew. That guy was with a girl that had been visiting since the 80s and directed me to the iconic van. Now it looks like this:
There were some dead fish and random objects along with the rubble of what once was.
Brian grabbed the camera and snapped this very awesome photo.
There are a bunch of trailers off of the beach where people still reside.
We went to a local place called Ski Inn for lunch before we darted off to Salvation Mountain, which is another iconic place you have to visit when you are in Southern California.
Salvation Mountain is the recently deceased Leonard Knight‘s way of sending his message to everyone that “God is Love.” It is about 20 minutes East of Bombay Beach.
People donated paint to him so that he could create his brightly colored mountain, filled with art. We walked around and checked out all of the cool art on and within the mountain. We were curious about Slab City as well, being that it is RIGHT THERE, but have read enough about it to maybe go when we are feeling more adventurous. Slab is an off-the-grid kind of place. Though it sounds like there are plenty of artists and very interesting types of people there, we were advised to skip it.
We decided to go around the Salton Sea instead of back tracking.
Love driving through new places! I don’t know why it fascinated me that it is so close to Mexico, as was made very clear by the Border Patrol stop we had to make on our way back up. Since we weren’t smuggling anyone or anything, we zipped past and watched the Sea on our right until we reached the 10 Freeway to Los Angeles.
Plans are few and far between on the road, as are reservations when Jenn and I travel, and traveling solo was no different for me. As I made my way from East to West across the states I pretty much stayed where I wound up by day’s end that had a vacancy and a cheap rate. And always only after a bedbug bed check Jenn had instilled in me whenever we traveled as I’d watch her strip the sheets of her bed while I was more worried with checking Yelp for what nightcaps were in the area. Once she was satisfied they were clear, we’d settle in and head out.
Sometimes we’d note places to go and things to see and even get to them if they were of utmost importance, and sometimes we’d see a road sign for a landmark or local must-see and take a segue from the path for that instead. For the places we’d wind up missing as a result or didn’t get to in time we’d just add them to our list for the future.
And then there are the fruitless but fun pursuits. Somewhere outside of Atlanta Jenn texted me that the Big Banana Car was on display. So with her as my co-pilot in spirit I turned around and drove in its direction. If you know anything about Jenn then you know she loves her bananas.
And if you know anything about GPS and map apps you know they’re not always right. Half an hour into my journey the directions sent me to some industrial park with a similar named street. There was no banana where I wound up, just an office building and a cop who pulled up alongside to tell me to pull into the parking lot nearby instead of the side of the road where I was attempting to re-route my route. Eventually I did see 3 banana yellow colored cars but no actual banana.
Finally I made it to the strip mall where they had tweeted they were at when Jenn texted they just posted they had packed up and were off to their next destination. Mission Banana was a bust. By this point I was hungry and saw something banana yellow nearby calling my name.
It was named Moe’s and had a great big sign hailing it as the original Moe’s.
I figured it was a local southern fave. Turned out it was more South of the border as it served up southwest fare and was a chain rather than a Mom & Pop’s type place I prefer, but new to these parts it wasn’t a franchise I was familiar with and I’m always up for a quesadilla to quell my hunger, so I ordered up a chicken club one and sampled the salsa bar as I took a bite of a new (for me) regional staple. I was less bummed I passed up something more regionally Southern in these parts, like the BBQ joint I passed back by the industrial park, than I was about being able to connect with a banana for Jenn. We have a very odd bond. But when someone has saved your life in the past you’re willing to jump on board and support what they live for.
On my way to Nashville that night I made a detour to Chattanooga and delighted myself (I’m easily amused) by standing on the tracks of where the Chattanooga Choo-Choo once chugged along.
Whiskey is another passion of Jenn’s. Bananas and whiskey, what’s not to love about that gal? She’s a fun friend. It’s a shared love, as I do enjoy a good whiskey sour time and again, so in her honor as I continued on and saw signs for the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in the distance I also made a sidetrack trip to see that. Sadly it was closed by the time I made it to its gates, which is ironically situated in a dry county, but the scent of the pungent forbidden spirits filled the air. I paid my respects and took a photo before moving on.
Unfortunately Nashville would prove to be a dry stop for me as well even though it was soaking wet. After managing my hydroplaning car through a torrential downpour on the highway I could only find an affordable hotel on the outskirts of the city. I drove down the main strip of fun bars and listened to the live country music coming from each, but decided that to stop for a drink and try to find my hotel in the rain or bothering to go back was not particularly wise or safe (or would be near the legal limit if you saw the number of fun bars there were to try) so I stayed in and added a night out in Nashville to the future to do list for another visit.
The next morning I did find a funky banana yellow van in the parking lot registered to seekers of the paranormal. Proving that on the road you can count on the abnorm.
On my way out the random encounters continued as I drove through the city on a sunnier morning. I was greeted with participants dressed in tutus and even bunny ears gearing up in costume for some sort of run/walk fundraiser. I saw a big boot, a giant guitar, and the birthplace of bluegrass, Ryman Auditorium.
Somewhere outside of Music City there was no love as I came across a very likeable little place called the Loveless Café.
Well in lieu of love they had something even better, lots of bacon!
The BBQ smoker house adjacent was at it filling the air with rich smoky goodness for the dishes being served up inside but there was a line out the door and a wait for a seat so sadly I passed on some ribs and got some of their Piggy Popcorn, candied bacon popcorn, which they sold in their shop alongside an assortment of bacon concoctions and themed gifts as well as a variety of another local fave, pralines, including whiskey ones. I was really enjoying my taste of Tennessee.
As I drove out a loveless-themed tune called “Merry Go Round” by Kacey Musgraves came on the radio with the lyrics, “Mary Mary quite contrary, we get bored so we get married… Jack and Jill went up the hill, Jack burned out on booze and pills and Mary had a little lamb, Mary just don’t give a damn no more.” I turned it up as I was even starting to enjoy Country music too. They sure do know how to turn a phrase and tell a story. I looked forward to my next new story on the horizon as I headed down the road.
On a recent cross country road trip I grew giddy when I discovered I’d be passing through a must see city on my list, Memphis, and was sure to stop to see its local treasure, the hallowed home of Elvis. It was even apropos that my visit to Graceland would fall on Easter weekend to take in where the King of kings once lived.
With my AAA card I got a discount for the Platinum Tour which included a tour of his 2 planes and his beloved car collection.
Daddy’s little girl, Lisa Marie, got a plane named after her. And what a nice ride it was. My dad gave me the keys to the family station wagon to borrow once in a while and later the spare Hyundai we had parked in the driveway growing up. This was definitely a different kind of dad.
There was plenty of leg room on the Lisa Marie luxury liner. The couches and chairs were plastic wrapped for their protection from the public, as well as his bed. And oh what a bed. Would you expect anything less than a blue suede bed for the the man who sang about blue suede shoes?
A friend whose young daughter, Zoe, who was the same age I was when I first fell for the King had just discovered him and wanted to know if it was true Elvis had died on the toilet as she’d heard. I told her I didn’t ask but I did get her a photo of his bathroom on the plane.
In order to tour Graceland you take a shuttle bus you board across the street where you are given a headset device which talks you through the home, room by room, and throughout the total Elvis experience. It was lightly raining that day (or was it the angels shedding tears for the King?) as we drove through the gates and up the driveway to the entrance, decked out with lion statues, naturally.
What was surprising was how in comparison to today’s celebrity homes and suped up cribs of those with lifestyles of the rich and famous how much smaller Graceland is than I had imagined, but what was lacking in size was made up for in the grandeur of decadence as only Elvis could do. Upon entering the residence you are greeted by one of 3 nearby chandeliers.
Off to your right is the peacock themed living room housing a 15 foot couch and a grand piano in the adjoining room reminding you of the music that built this palace.
The upstairs is off limits, as Elvis preferred his privacy and out of respect for that (and for the fact that may very well be where the bathroom is that he passed) you are kept to the first floor and below. (Sorry, Zoe, I couldn’t get close enough to find out.)
The bedroom his parents stayed in is on display just down the hall.
The one love Elvis and I share is for TV, and he loved to have one in almost every room, including his formal dining room.
As Lisa Marie informs us on our recorded headset presentation the kitchen was the central core of the home with ’round the clock meals thanks to there being so many guests and friends over and was a favorite hangout area and has been left intact as it last was actively used and decorated in its current 70’s tone. It was rather homey vs. luxe, and there is a TV there too.
And speaking of TV, again, next up is the downstairs, where you descend a mirrored wall staircase to discover Elvis’ triple threat of 3 TVs on a wall, which we’re told he had airing the 3 different networks at the same time so he could keep up with what was going on just like world leaders and newsmen of that day as he’d heard. Decorating another wall of that room is a lightning bolt, an image he became associated with during the 70’s and liked to have emblazoned on items and clothing. The monkey sculpture is funky and strangely makes sense in that setting.
The pool table in the adjoining room, where the walls are covered in cloth vs. paper, still has a tear on the tabletop where one of his buddies messed up a challenging pool shot as he tried to shark the King.
As you ascend back up another staircase you encounter the jungle, or rather another popular hang out room and recording space, The Jungle Room. Complete with tropical wood carved furniture, a waterfall wall, animal prints and the ever classic floor to ceiling green shag carpeting, it was inspired by Hawaii, one of Elvis’ favorite vacation spots. Talk about a man cave, this is about as groovy as they get.
Just outside is a brick enclosed space once used as a smokehouse by his dad, Vernon, and then later converted into a firing range so the King could get off some shots.
Along with his passion for karate Elvis also took up a love of racquetball and oversaw the building of his own personal court and leisure space, including a piano, for that pastime.
The court has now been converted into a space to showcase his performance wardrobe and several of his many awards.
Another whole room on the premises, The Hall of Gold, has been built to house the King’s gold, his extensive gold record collection and other outfits that marked his well lived life, including his wedding attire and his G.I. uniform.
Presley enjoyed a little poolside time and an area to relax with the Meditation Garden right next to it. Today fans can pay their last respects to where the King now rests alongside his parents.
Last stop on my tour was the Elvis Presley Automoblie Museum.
Quite a roomful of classic cars.
After all of that Graceland gawking it was time to go get me some good eats. As I was in Memphis there was only one thing on my menu: some good ol’ Memphis barbecue! And luckily just down the road was a sweet spot to go get some.
If you’d like, they’ll even give you a little Southern hospitality via their VIP service and pick you up in one of their pink limos.
I opted for their pink drink, called the Pink Cadillac of course. As you can see, even Elvis is a fan.
With its Elvis-themed kitsch adorning the place, in case you didn’t get enough at the Graceland gift shop, Marlowe’s is a tourist’s delight, but that doesn’t take a thing away from its BBQ. In fact I was in for a tasty treat, and award winning at that. The scent of rich smoky goodness envelops you as you walk through the doors courtesy of the barbecue pit in the kitchen.
I ordered the 2 entree combo plate featuring my two BBQ favorites: ribs and pulled pork, accompanied by coleslaw and corn fritters and the most delightful fried bread concoction. At first I thought they were just larger corn fritters but they turned out to be dinner rolls, if you deep fried them like a donut, lightly crispy on the outside but with soft warm delicious bread baked inside. I’m more of a sauce gal vs. a dry rub when it comes to my meat but they feature both and I was not let down. My plate came served up with some of the best sauce that has smacked past these lips. Their sweet tender pulled pork was a delight and the ribs had a deep dense smoke flavor that went beyond the pit and straight on into the bones themselves. I’ve never tasted anything so smoked through and through and it could darn well set off a smoke detector if it too had a tongue to take a taste.
With my belly blessed with some BBQ and my everything Elvis experience checked off my list I hopped back in my Honda, as no King ever got me a plane or a personalized Mercedes, but Memphis had loved me tender and it was time to hit the road.
On a road trip to Big Sur. . .we ended up in San Jose. It just so happened that every hotel anywhere near Big Sur was booked and, naturally, we had not planned ahead. Luckily for us, one of the only hotels available happened to also be one of the very coolest. We completely scored and stayed at the historic Dolce Hayes Mansion. Yea, we did that. We stayed in a mansion. Albeit, a converted to a hotel-mansion, but a MANSION! Yes, please! Unfortunately, we arrived too late to dine, but did enjoy a glass of wine in the Coyote Creek Lounge, which was just a quick elevator ride downstairs..in the basement. bawhawhawhaw!! Actually, it wasn’t a creepy-ass place at all. I really liked it and am totally leading you on right now.
The next day, we wanted to be able to say we lounged at the pool of a mansion, so made the effort to relax (woa! that is SO an oxymoron!) instead of rushing off, as we tend to do. For a little while, we were frou-frou heads in the fancypants hotel robes they provided. . . until hunger pains and ghosts called.
We had to check out the Winchester Mystery House™. The story of the house goes as such: Basically, a woman, Sarah Winchester (as in Winchester guns – pew! pew!!), lost her child and years later, her husband. She went to a spiritual advisor that told her to move West, buy a house and continue working on it 24/7 to appease spirits that allegedly took her family and would take her life as well. There were hundreds of rooms at one point, crazy stairs and doors that lead to nowhere. Oh, and it is supposed to be haunted. Sounds like my kind of place! It would have been a lot of fun to check it out without the tour, but it wasn’t allowed, so we took the 1 hour tour, hoping to have a supernatural experience. The tour costs $30, which is a wee bit expensive (though I do understand there are costs to keep it open.) Our tour guide was super actor tour guide dude. He was VERY into his job. Sadly, we didn’t see any ghosts. (Figures!) But, ghosts didn’t come out to greet me at The Stanley Hotel in Estes, Colorado a few years ago, either. Soooo, maybe it’s just me. (Watch your backs, ghosts! I’m going to see one of you someday!)
This place is cool, historical (duh) and it is definitely worth checking out.
A long time ago, I visited Fisherman’s Wharf and bought a poster of The Cliff House and always wanted to see it. It was on the list for this trip. I could not wait!! We zipped on over and found it… and it did not look a damned thing like my picture. The structure I was hoping to see managed to survive the San Francisco earthquake, but a fire burned it down a year after that. (Yes. I know this little thing called the internet could have cleared this all up for me, but sometimes not knowing things like that cause you to experience all new things!) I was definitely disappointed about that. Big Duh to me.
The part that was extremely NOT disappointing, however, was the view!
Look! I’m Alfalfa!
It was sunny and every color was so vivid it felt unreal. Another bonus was the wind. Something about the wind just makes me really feel alive. We had a few more places to see before the day’s end, so we left the lovely Pacific and wandered into the city.
Sara and I live in Los Angeles, which likes to tear down anything even vaguely historical, so we are always quite excited to see things that are a part of history. We went to China Town, had lunch and then took a stroll to 728 Montgomery Street. This was the site of the first meeting of the Free Masons in California. The building that is there now is supposed to be from the 1850s, last I heard. Wow. Bet it’s a cool building.
Yep. Our luck! Under construction!
Next stop was 750 Kearny Street. It’s a Hilton Hotel now, but it once was the site of saloons and gambling places during the gold rush! Come on! That’s freaking amazing! It is so incredible to stand there and think about what it was like during that time; how different it was. (Or was it?)
Unfortunately, by the time we were ready to see the Jackson Square Historic District, we were a bit tired. There are buildings there that are the only surviving ones from the gold rush. We should have gotten out of the car and waltzed around, but we didn’t. I am not sure which are and which are not originals, but believe me, I will return and find them. (p.s. It is on Jackson Street and between Montgomery and Sansome.)
We stayed in San Francisco for a few days (with many stories for another time), but the event that has kept me laughing more than anything, was seeing a gorilla chase a banana down Lombard Street.
We caught up with them half way down the street to meet them. They were very nice and it made my day!
I have always wanted to check out Spring Training, but assumed it would be extremely expensive. Why did I never even LOOK at the prices? Oh. Because I am a total dufus. I was so convinced I would be disappointed that I was afraid to even look! DUH! Ticket prices depend on the ballpark/team, but the parks are small and there are no bad seats. The cheapest is $8… EIGHT DOLLARS! Double DUH to me! Nay, triple duh.
Due to a car accident (someone else caused), I had a free rental car from Enterprise for a week (unlimited mileage!!) and decided it was time to see some baseball in Arizona! Sara and I arrived in, uhm, beautiful Glendale, Arizona with no hotel booked. (See? Still have not learned our lesson.) We drove around the endless strip malls aimlessly for a bit, until we decided on Ramada Arrowhead Towne Center for the night. When our stomachs started to growl, we met up with a friend of mine at The Lodge in Scottsdale, AZ. They had fried pickles. You heard me! FRIED FRICKEN PICKLES! The food was great and the view of the good looking baseball players sitting next to us was great, too.
The next afternoon, we were off to the Peoria Sports Complex for the Chicago White Sox @ San Diego Padres. I was in such an excited daze that I liken my behavior to a pinball machine. Thankfully, Sara was there to keep me from running into things. The stadium is crazy small. We had seats behind HOMEPLATE for only $20!! Are you kidding me!?!?!?! Oh.. And check out our view!
Yea. That’s the White Sox and they were that close to us! In front of us were a lot of scouts with their radar guns.
This ballfield was a bit on the quiet side. I am used to loud music to get the fans pumped and that wasn’t happening here. I still LOVED it, even though Sara and I were sort of reprimanded for leaning on the railings and standing on the wrong side of the walkway.
I even ate a hot dog!
That evening, we ate at Bobby – Q. I definitely recommend this place! It was delicious AND was NOT in a strip mall! We made two incredibly awesome new friends there that kept us laughing all night. There is a lounge in the room next to the restaurant. Not at all my type of music, but WOW was it crowded for a Tuesday night!
Ramada only had one night available, so we switched to Thunderbird Executive Inn. I highly recommend this place! Very nice! It is on a college campus, which is different. It was clean, quiet and close enough to the ballparks for us! We got free passes to use the very nearby YMCA for our morning workouts, too. Rock on, Sara, for this find!
The next day was Anaheim Angels @ Chicago White Sox at the Camelback Ranch. This felt much more like a regular game. There was music to get everyone excited for the game and it was noisier.. Oh, and the Sox won. : )
After the game, there was a Senior Stroll. As in Senior Citizens. So you can understand why this photo is so hilarious!
I hated leaving the ballpark, but…
alas.. there was one more game to attend that day…
We high-tailed it to Talking Stick and grabbed our tickets. My friend works for the Rockies and was able to take us on a tour of the facility. We got a behind-the-scenes tour that rocked!
We trained hard where the ball players train hard.
And we learned hard lessons about
not following the rules!
The last day, I was DETERMINED to meet the White Sox. It seemed logical to me that they would warm up at the ballpark at which they were to play. I was wrong. Duh, again. We did find them at their own park, watched them do batting practice and patiently waited for them to pass so I could meet a few.
This was a very amazing experience. Watching baseball on tv or even at a big ballpark is absolutely awesome, but seeing them in small parks and having access to actually meeting them is priceless. I highly recommend this trip for everyone that loves baseball!!
I had read about the Salton Sea many times in years past. The photos made it seem unreal and amazing. I think National Geographic, or something similar, posted an article about it right before one of our road trips. I was so stoked! Salty decaying stuff!!!
What I expected was this:
What we got was this:It smelled like Death’s Urinal. Oh, did I mention there was a glory hole in the back of that shack? Yea. I had to run out of there before I un-ate from the stench, but Sara ventured in further for photo opportunities. Her stomach must be made of steel.
There were actually people fishing in the water.
I don’t know how I feel about that.
So, it turns out that the Salton Sea is way bigger than I realized. Not only were we at the wrong place, but we got there on a day the Visitor’s Center was closed, so couldn’t get directions.
Not sure why this area even HAS a Visitor’s Center, actually.
I am definitely bummed that I blew this site, but, we laughed our asses off (though my ass, apparently, ran after me and jumped back on) and had a blast anyway. Awe, look at us.. turning dirty-bird-shit-death-smell-shack-with-no-salty-decay into lemonade!