This tiny house in Belmont Shore is where our life in California began. A pretty, Mediterranean style, beach community near Long Beach. One way streets, packed with brightly stuccoed, terracotta tiled, ‘dolls house’ sized homes, sandwiched between Ocean Avenue, with its miles of deep, seemingly endless, sundrenched beaches and the vibrant shopping and dining community of 2nd Street. Both a five minute stroll away, and which 28 years later seemed little changed and just as charming. We meandered and reminisced for a while then continued our drive east, preparing to embrace the scorching temperatures of the Inland Empire and Palm Desert.
As we left the quaintness of Belmont Shore behind us, the massive petticoats of Los Angeles seemed to fan further than ever, like a huge crinoline, encompassing the ribbons of freeways and densely built up suburbs beneath its vast folds. The L.A. metropolis billowing outwards, almost to Palm Springs itself.
As the landscape gradually became more barren and desolate it was initially hard to understand how or why the Palm Springs, Palm Desert region had ever developed. The baked up earth seemed incapable of farming anything other than pristine, white windmills which dominated the terrain either side of the freeway. They stretched for miles and miles in immaculate, sentry like rows, as if over the years they had self-seeded. Their 40 or so foot blades twirling furiously, producing energy in defiance of the relentless heat, whose all encompassing aura seemed incapable of nurturing anything from this dry, exhausted land! Yet this region, its climate so harsh in summer had developed and thrived.
Native Americans discovered the sparkling waters of the area’s tree-lined canyons over a thousand years ago. They learned to cope with the climate extremities and survived from the multitude of its desert plants. In the 1800’s the region was named after one of these tribes, the Agua Caliente, whose association with the white people led to the their near total demise from smallpox by the turn of the twentieth century. At a similar time, as the area became an important stage stop enroute to Arizona it stared to expand and grow. Old town La Quinta provides a little of the history of this bygone era.
However, it was its popularity with the Hollywood elite, years later which allowed it to really flourish and turned it into a destination.
Today, many of its street names attest to its famous residences, Bob Hope Drive, Gene Autry Trail, Frank Sinatra Drive, to name but a few. From the freeway edges you can see the clear demarcation of where man’s irrigation and landscaping begins ~ one side a barren desert, the other lush and green. A testament to how the life giving miracle of water has turned a desolate, tumbleweed dustbowl into a beautifully manicured, palm tree clad, winter playground, often favoured by the rich and famous. Pristine golf courses, gated communities and vacation resorts, set against an almost moonscape like backdrop of the stunning, pale pink, Santa Rosa Mountains, bathing themselves just below an azure blue sky. A winter haven to escape to, although in August with temperatures well over 110 degrees, perhaps a place to escape from!! However, as we approached this fascinating, fearsome, yet fragile region, the last remnants of day light disappearing, its strange beauty and allure was not difficult to embrace.