Sunday, 10 November 2019

California, Palm Springs - Windmills and Village Fest

Mike has always been interested in alternative energy, (would love an electric car), so I decided to take him on a tour of the windmill farm here for his Christmas present.
Between the coast and the Coachella Valley lies the San Gorgonio Pass. A railway, Hwy 10 and a lot of wind funnel up through it. It has been the site of wind turbines since they were originally conceived as it is one of the windiest places in the U.S.
The tour started in a building in the midst of the wind farm where we watched a video (promoting the wind energy sector job opportunities) and  then listened to a lecture about the evolution of the technology.

Randy, the tour guide, then took us outside to look at the various pieces of old windmills while he outlined the advances made and problems with the various designs.
Most of the older windmills have been dismantled but some still remain as reminders of the early technology and some because of the expense of taking them down. New contracts require that the developer assign funds for their disposal before they are allowed to build them.
Next we all got into a bus to drive around the wind farm and look at the different examples.
Although this style is still in use it is considered a failed design as the vibration of the blades loosen the bolts of the supports and they have to be regularly tightened.
There are over 3,000 windmills in the pass, powering the Coachella Valley and beyond.
The modern ones are larger, more efficient and produce more power and as they gradually replace the older ones there will actually be fewer windmills producing more energy.
When asked about why some of them were not turning, Randy explained that some may be decommissioned, some may be down for regular maintenance and some may have been turned off because there is currently an excess of power and the storage facilities are full. He said the biggest challenge for both solar and wind production is how to store it if it is not immediately needed.

We also saw 2 solar farms, utilizing land between the windmills and this, a Compressed Natural Gas facility that can be turned on at times of peak usage. It can start producing energy with a 10 minute start up time.

The tour took about 2 hours, was entertaining and informative and ended with a stop at a little market for a complimentary date shake.
 We were home in time for a swim with the kids and then Chris and Jason arrived and we drove into downtown Palm Springs, where, every Thursday night, one of the main roads is closed to vehicles and filled with tents for Village Fest.

There are buskers (I am not sure if the picture is clear enough but this guy was playing guitar with a live rabbit sitting on his head)
artists and food tents. The kids both were given American flags and waved them enthusiastically all evening.

Lots of people and dogs.

Plenty of food choices. I ate Greek ( had to share my Baklava with Avery and Maya while they waited for their meal - sigh). The kids had pogos and funnel cake, Chris and Jason had burgers and Mike and Aimee; Mexican.
 We met a very nice group of United Air stewards who gave Chris some free drink vouchers when they heard she was flying home United.         

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Grandkids and San Jacinto Mountain Tramway

The pool was a big hit with Avery and Maya, as it was with Mike and Aimee too. The hot tub was also pretty popular, usually in the evening.

Maya tended to stay in the shallow area of the steps
and was very interested in her own wet footprints.
Michael found a Jujitsu club to train at every day while Aimee ran the neighbourhood most days and then relaxed in the pool.
Avery getting ready to jump in and splash her.
He jumped and splashed and kicked
and generally threw himself wholeheartedly into the pool as often as possible.
 We decided to take the cable car (called a tramway here) up the nearby mountain. Aimee expected the kids to be a bit unnerved by the experience but they both loved it.

Fascinated by the views
of the mountainside
and the Coachella Valley, as the cable car rotated 360 degrees in the 10 minute ride to the top.
We opted to hike the Desert View Trail with Avery constantly on the lookout for Rattlesnakes. He was disappointed.
The huge pine trees offered another form of entertainment
Moving their huge pine cones onto rocks and logs.
Mike and Maya. The Desert View Trail took us to 5 look outs, or "noches", where there were magnificent views.
Avery and I were in the lead when we spotted a doe.
Then Mike and Maya pointed out the buck. They posed for us and then bounced across the trail, ahead of us, and disappeared.

It was only supposed to be 1.5 miles but felt like more.
Probably because of the rocky parts.
It was cooler up there, so we all had jackets on.
I managed to get Avery to pose without his weird "grimace" smile.
Maya is always happy to pose so sometimes its fun to catch her unawares.

The kids were slowing down on the way back
Maya was getting slower and slower. She needed a nap.
The last rays of sunlight were hitting the trees as we reached the tramway terminal
turning the dessert views a rusty red.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

California - Joshua Tree State Park, part 2

Over a mountain ridge and the topography changed, with huge rounded boulders scattered across the landscape.
We started to see occasional Joshua trees
which had recently flowered.
More and more Joshua trees and they look like something Dr Seuss would have invented. They are of the Yucca family but their lower trunk look just like a tree while their upper parts look more like a cactus.
Seed pods at the base of the flowers.
We parked in a forest of Joshua trees to walk the Barker Dam trail.
We chose this trail as it has a reputation for Bighorn sightings
but this was the only wildlife we saw.
Growing out of the rock, the only actual flowers that we saw in the park.
It was a well marked and well traveled trail with steep rock sides that lead to a natural pool (no water at this time of year) that had been dammed by early cattle ranchers.
We were glad we had brought Eve's hiking poles.
It was an area for rock climbers and we saw a number of groups.
The sun was sinking behind the nearest mountain ridge as we walked back towards the car
resulting in some long and dramatic shadows.
It was dark by the time we drove into Pioneer Town and checked into our motel. A coyote had crossed the road at dusk as we climbed the hills to Pioneer Town.
Pioneer Town was built as a movie set and many old cowboy movies were filmed there. It was abandoned and then remade into a tourist destination but our many reason for being there (aside from being too tired to drive home in the dark)
was Pappy and Harriet's.
This rambling, rustic restaurant/bar has a reputation for great music with both the musicians and patrons traveling up from  L.A.
We had a 7:45 reservation, had a seat by the stage, shared some food, drank some wine and danced until the house band finished and packed up. I can't remember when I danced that much!
We just had to walk across the parking lot to get to our motel. The beds were comfy but the next day we were sore from all that dancing. We drove back to the house and Rick and Eve finished packing to leave the next day. Mike, Aimee, Avery and Maya arrived that evening after spending a few days in San Diego and visiting Leggoland.