Finding ourselves with a rare gift of a few days with no appointments or expectations, we decided to head down to Southern California to visit with D’s family. Rather than fly, we figured we’d just drive, as SoCal remains about 8 hours distant, barring traffic. Given the choice between being in airports on Christmas or sitting in our own vehicle? Not that difficult a decision, really. We caught up on chitchat and podcasts (NPR’s Latino USA has an amazing piece on Jewish Latino culture that was really worth hearing) and made surprisingly good time.
Our one concern was the roads – the changing season has brought oddly torrential rains and some floods to the lowlands, and freezing temps even to our little neck of the woods, which is at sea level, and we wondered how much it was going to snow, heading over the Grapevine. We found that for Southern California, it was snowy … meaning there were maybe 3 inches built up, in spots, and the road was a wee bit wet, in spots. (It was a bit odd finding ice on the top of the car in San Bernadino, though). It was gorgeous and we were grateful to arrive when it was already on the ground, with no issue of the road being closed.
Our time was mostly spent watching D’s sibs and their various children (7 nieces and nephews!) enjoy their various aerial toys and putting together an evil trampoline that took far longer than it should have (never underestimate the power of people not reading directions). There was plenty of interesting food (potatoes, sliced thinly, on …pizza? Surprisingly tasty, with an Alfredo sauce), many, many, many citrus and palm trees, and a trip to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, to which we hadn’t gone since …2002 or so. An old photograph shows us there in high summer, shivering as we snap a photograph. We’d forgotten that it wasn’t just the cold that had chased us down last time… it was a few other details, like the fact that it’s very high!
The last time we were in one of the trams, they had much smaller cars (you can see one in the picture above). Nowadays, the cars are round, and the floor rotates around 360° over the course of moving up nearly a vertical mile, from 2,643 feet elevation at the embarkation station to 8,516 feet at debarkation. D. thought this would be fun (T was, as she always is in trams, dubious). We found that having the windows constantly sliding to the side, while trying to brace and take pictures, wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Though it did tend to distract from the disturbing bits (going over the pylons and swinging nauseatingly baaaack and forth), overall we think that it would have been nice, for the photographers, to be stable rather than slowly rotating about. Ah, well, the kids got a kick out of it.
Though some of our party were unprepared for the realities of snow (one child discovered that Crocs and bare feet do not make for enjoyable snow play) and certainly neither T. nor D. expected Southern Cal to be cold enough to have brought scarves or ear-covering hats (T. counted herself fortunate to find an extra pair of knit gloves in the car and D. was very grateful for his flannel-lined cardigan), it was a pleasant trip up, but one we won’t be taking again soon. While it’s quite a wonderful view from the top of Mt. San Jacinto, both T. and D. were struggling with the altitude more than they remembered (which is probably why we only made a brief visit the summer of 2002 – yeah, it was snowy up there and we were in shorts, but we couldn’t breathe), and T’s lungs didn’t really enjoy the hike from the parking lot in dry 29°F/-1°C air (her ten-minute coughing jag reminded her why she’d never choose to live in a high desert). We were a bit disappointed in our performance, but high altitude fans we are not. *waves to our friends in Denver*
The air was astoundingly clear for Southern California. We could see all the way to the Salton Sea (which was just cut out of the photograph on the far right in the shot below).
This trip also gave D the excuse to break in his new camera. It was a treat to hold onto something so much smaller and lighter, and get some truly detailed and clear pictures — but focus is tricky — as he realized when T. met a friend from Iowa for lunch (the joys of others traveling to see family nearby!) and he took a picture of them which left them both blurry, but the road behind in sharp focus. We also realize we need to get an additional battery pack for the new rig – at the top of the mountain, D. ran out of power, so spent some time hanging about in the lodge with the charger plugged into a free socket. Ah, well. We’ll be better prepared next time.
And now we take stock of our lives, and tumble into the new year. Joy to you, friends — stay dry and WARM.
-D & T