It has been a tough couple of years and we’ve been feeling the need for a small getaway. Since travelling internationally is not really an option for us at the moment, we started looking at deals for local trips. After some research, we decided to fly to Las Vegas and do a road trip to Los Angeles. Once the “where to” decision was made, we got a little carried away (as usual) with our itinerary and the length of our trip.
Planning our Trip
This is one of the parts that Pieter just loves. We looked at maps and possible routes for a couple of days prior to finalizing and booking some hotels. We booked our first night in Las Vegas, and also our last three nights in Vegas. The rest of the accommodations would be booked as we travelled since we wanted to be flexible.
Our four-hour flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas was later at night and besides the required mask-wearing, quite comfortable and without any drama. We arrived in Las Vegas after midnight and were too late to pick up a rental car as planned. Instead, we ordered an Uber to take us to our hotel and went to bed.
Day 1: Las Vegas, NV to Palm Springs, CA – 232 miles
Pieter got up early and took the hotel shuttle back to the airport and then to the car rental plaza. He picked up our Kia for the week and came back to the hotel so we could all check out together and get on the road.
The plan for the day was to drive from Las Vegas to Palm Springs. We didn’t want to stay on the Interstates (the US highway system) so found a route that would take us through the Mojave National Preserve.
We headed south on Interstate 15 (I-15) as soon as we checked out of the hotel and very quickly we had Las Vegas in the rearview mirror. Our first stop was at the Terrible Herbst Convenience Store to stock up on water and snacks for the road. Pieter tried some White Castle burgers and Sidney and I walked around the store admiring the oddities. This included a replica of the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign.
We crossed into California not long after leaving the store and got our first glimpse of a large solar energy farm. From far away it shimmered just like a big body of water and then as you get closer you realize what you really were looking at. Fields of heliostat mirrors that focus sunlight on centrally located receivers. According to a local guide, the initial investment cost was $2 billion dollars.
Mojave National Preserve
Shortly after passing the solar farm, we left the highway and headed into the Mojave National Preserve, a desert wilderness of 1.6 million acres. Here the roads were quieter and we could stop for some cool pictures.
After some more driving, we crossed over I40 and joined Route 66 near Amboy, California. Here we found an excellent little tourist stop called Roy’s Motel Cafe. While not currently an operational motel, the gas station and convenience store were open. I didn’t know it at the time, but we would meet up again with Route 66 at the coast. Of course, we had to get some pictures standing on Route 66 before continuing!
Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree
Our route took us through a town called Twentynine Palms, which is also one of the entry points into the Joshua Tree National Park and home to a Marine Corps Base. Approximately 20,000 active-duty marines and sailors are stationed here and it is a popular training location for about 50,000 more. We didn’t stay long, driving through and only stopping in Joshua Tree to stretch our legs. Named for the actual Joshua Tree, it’s not a big city, but very pretty in a dry kind of way. A lot like Garies, for those of you who were wondering! We drove through some of the neighborhoods and even posed for pictures with an actual Joshua tree.
Arriving in Palm Springs
We knew we were getting closer to Palm Springs since it was getting more populated and traffic picked up. Along the north end of the valley, we now got to see how wind farms operated. I’ve never seen so many wind turbines in one area. They were everywhere! The Palm Springs wind farms were established in 1982 and are the first thing visitors see when they arrive in the Coachella Valley. Not as pretty as I imagined and they did take away from the natural beauty of the valley (in my opinion). But, we got to have energy, right?
Before long we were in downtown Palm Springs and checked into our hotel. We needed somewhere to cool off and immediately went to the pool. No other people were around, and we had it all to ourselves. The water was way too warm, but what else can you expect when it is 110 degrees Fahrenheit outside!
After the swim, we needed a shower and got ready for dinner and a walk downtown. We got a table at Lulu California Bistro, a colorful and modern restaurant with all-day American eats. It was too hot to sit outside though!
I love how the palm trees are lit up in the downtown area. We walked up and down the street stopping for some ice cream before calling it a night.
Keep on reading for Part 2: USA West Coast Road Trip – Part 2