Relationships are often about compromise, and marriage—one of the big kahunas of relationships—is positively brimming with it. So it was that I found myself lodging at a decidedly modest motel in Twentynine Palms, California, a small, dusty desert town 50 miles from Palm Springs on what was supposed to be my after-the-year-I’ve-had-I-want-nothing-but-luxury Palm Springs Luxury Spring Break Trip.
I can’t remember how we settled on Palm Springs for this particular trip—it may have been all the beautiful housesits we’ve drooled over on our petsitting organization’s website—but once we decided to throw in a visit to Joshua Tree National Park and the husband did a little research, I was suddenly being pressed to give up a few days of luxury in the name of teenage dream fulfillment.
You see, Palm Springs isn’t the gateway to Joshua Tree. Twentynine Palms is. Well, that and the town of Joshua Tree itself. But Twentynine Palms has something Joshua Tree does not: the very place U2 stayed back in 1987 prior to the release of their Joshua Tree album, which displays a Joshua tree on the cover—not a Joshua tree from Joshua Tree, but rather a Joshua tree from just outside of Death Valley. (And this, folks, is how you weave the words Joshua Tree nine times into a single paragraph.)
A few summers back while on a Southwest road trip, the husband and I forwent a planned side trip to Joshua Tree National Park in favor of an extra day in sweltering Death Valley. This enabled us to
lose half our body weight in sweat seek out and pay reverent forehead-to-dirt homage to the very tree pictured on the cover of U2s aforementioned album.
Staying at the Harmony Motel would complete the husband’s solemn and heartfelt tribute to U2, the band that, to this day, makes him long for his 16-year-old, long-haired, rock-n-roll self. And now, of course, we can claim to be “part of rock history” as the motel website promises.
So stay there we did. But this being COVID times and all, we made sure to nab the stand-alone Jack Kerouac cabin.
When I booked the place, the website said that pool use was on a sign-up basis. (The hot tub, I noted with chagrin as I reluctantly typed in my credit card information, was shuttered.) I generally don’t like to have to schedule fun and relaxation on a trip (or pay full price when major amenities are not available for use), but with the pandemic in play, I knew I had to just grin and bear it. But when we arrived (and COVID case numbers were significantly lower than when we booked) we found this:
Due to the uptick in variant strains, the owner had decided to shut down the pool—the only thing that had gotten me to agree to this place to begin with—in an abundance of caution. I can’t say I blame her, but I was miffed just the same.
Still, the twilight view was nice.
And we enjoyed our morning coffee from this pleasing vantage point.
So that’s the motel. Now let me tell you a little something about Twentynine Palms…
The town is misnamed.
It does not—I repeat, does not—have twenty-nine palm trees. I lost count at 86, but I can assure you the number is in the hundreds. Whether this misnomer was a devious ploy by the city fathers for some nefarious purpose, or whether they simply didn’t understand that plants reproduce, I’ll never know. But if you’re thinking of heading to this Shangri-la because it has exactly 29 palm trees, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Don’t let anyone ever say the Travel Architect doesn’t give relevant and useful travel information.
And here’s some more: despite being a bit run down—dare I say dumpy?—Twentynine Palms provided us with a couple of fantastic meals.
This corner of the southern California desert also has its share of quirkiness, which made it more tolerable for me and made the husband—lover of Small Town America—adore it that much more.
The primary reason we carved out a few vacation days here, though, was to explore Joshua Tree National Park.
Unfortunately, we’re out of time, but here’s a tiny taste of what’s to come:
Until next time . . . 🌵
I feel the heat of your desert heart (Feel the heat of your desert heart)
Taking me back down the road that leads back to you
The Palm Springs Luxury Spring Break Trip series: