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Palm Springs

Started: 2020-02-21 13:01:10

Submitted: 2020-02-21 20:38:26

Visibility: World-readable

15th February 2020: In which the intrepid narrator flies to SoCal to visit the sun in Palm Springs

In Seattle, Calvin gets two distinct one-week breaks in the second half of the school year: one week in February, correlated with President's Day; and one week in April. (As a consequence, his school year stretches through the end of June so they can fulfill the state's mandate of 180 days of instruction during the school year -- longer if Seattle gets more snow than it can handle.)

This year, for Calvin's February break, we took the opportunity to visit the sun in the Coachella Valley, at a sprawling resort in the sunny desert east of Palm Springs.

To get to the Coachella Valley we flew from Seattle to Ontario on Saturday afternoon, the 15th of February. (This being the Ontario in the Inland Empire, east of Los Angeles; not the province of Ontario in Canada. Which I'm sure is a nice place but does not really fulfill my objectives of visiting the sun in the dreary northwest winter.)

By the time I bought my tickets to Ontario, Alaska Airlines had sold enough seats on our outbound flight that they were no longer willing to give me a seat assignment up front. When I checked in the boarding pass said "See gate agent for seat assignment". That was supposed to be enough to get us through security and reach the gate, but the TSA's scanners couldn't read the barcode on the boarding pass from my own laser printer (possibly because the printer is running low on toner, or because the printer blurred the edges of the barcode), so I had to go back to the Alaska Airlines kiosk to print duplicate boarding passes. At least the line to TSA Precheck was short enough that we didn't spend too much time reprinting boarding passes.

We ate lunch inside the airport, and took our boarding passes to the gate to get actual seat assignments. (Kiesa thought it would be great to seat Julian in some random seat elsewhere on the plane for someone else to take care of.) We ended up with three seats next to each other near the back of the plane, plus a fourth window seat in the row in front. (I referred to this as "L-shaped" but also occurred to me that it resembled a Tetris piece.) I sat in the middle seat between Calvin and Julian, and Kiesa got the solo window seat ahead of us. (We brought our au pair Sharon with us; she got an exit row seat in the middle of the plane.)

Julian looks out the window of an Alaska 737-900 at ONT
Julian looks out the window of an Alaska 737-900 at ONT

As we began our descent into Ontario I looked past Julian out the window and saw the Mojave Desert running up to the San Gabriel Mountains. We flew along the north side of the mountains, descending until we were almost level with the high point on the ridge, then crossing the mountains above I-15 to land in Ontario to the west. As we descended I pointed out things we were flying over to Julian: the roads and highways and four-level stacked interchanges and houses and buildings and warehouses and a massive freight yard.

On the ground on Ontario we picked up a rental car and headed east along The Ten through the suburban sprawl. (I proved earlier in the winter that I can get a direct flight from Seattle to Palm Springs, but demand was significantly higher for this week in February, presumably because everyone else had this week off school and was trying to escape the depressing winter, so the flights to Ontario were more affordable.) The sun set behind us as we drove past Loma Linda, ascending towards San Gorgonio Pass, before descending into the Coachella Valley surrounded by twinkling red lights indicating the presence of phalanxes of wind turbines guarding the pass.

We stayed at Marriott's Shadow Ridge "The Villages" property, a sprawling resort in the town of Palm Desert, east of Palm Springs. (There was a brief moment, while driving into the palatial entrance flanked by towering palm trees, I felt a brief wave of impostor syndrome.) We stayed in a two-room "villa" in the "Roadrunner Village", tucked away in a corner of the resort, with enough room for everyone. I went to get groceries at an Albertsons down the street and we settled in to our winter vacation.