Reflections on a Month in Coachella Valley

A month has gone by and we are about to leave Indio and the Palm Springs area. We’ve never spent any amount of time in California other than a week long trip to Disneyland and San Diego with the kids a bunch of years ago, and that’s nothing like being in an RV. We’ve enjoyed our time here, and have come to the conclusion  that we’d like to come back at some point in the future, but it’s not necessarily a priority for us. The following observations are based on an admittedly short time here, and do not necessarily reflect the views of other bloggers, tourists or residents. But they are accurate 19 times out of 20 +/- 3.5%.

We chose the Indian Waters RV Resort in Indio for a couple of reasons. It had a couple of pickleball courts, it had some RV sites that were completely grass, and the resort wasn’t too large. Actually we haven’t found a park in this area anywhere near the size of the mega resorts you see in Mesa with their 2000+ sites.  Indian Waters only has 274 sites so it’s comparatively small. What we didn’t quite realize at the time we booked the park was how far it actually was from Palm Springs itself and some of the attractions we wanted to see. The Palm Springs area consists of about 9-12 cities (the number varies depending upon what you read and how populated an area has to be to be called a city) with a total population of about 600,000. It’s quite a long narrow metro area, with Palm Springs at one end, and Indio and then Coachella at the opposite end. The whole metro area is about 30 miles long and usually no more than 4 or 5 miles wide other than Desert Hot Springs which sits by itself on the opposite side of the Interstate that passes through the area.

-Palm Springs is an older city, with a lot of character, and a bunch of very nice looking real estate. The communities further east towards La Quinta also appear to be quite affluent. What we found was that most residential and Resort/RV parks are surrounded by some sort of golf course or tennis complex, and most of them are gated. With all the gates, fences and high hedges we didn’t really get to see much in these communities. The best viewpoints we had were on our mountain hikes. Indio seems to be the city where the help lives. There are some nice communities in certain parts of Indio, but it is mostly working class neighbourhoods.

-The whole area is built on an underground aquifer, so it’s much greener than any other desert community we’ve seen so far in our travels. There are also many more fountains than we’ve ever seen anywhere else. They give the illusion of a wonderful oasis, and just of sight and sound of them make you feel cooler on a hot day.

-The water here is pretty good. It’s harder than West Coast water, but softer than Prairie water. It also tastes pretty good right out of the tap and doesn’t clog up our kettle and coffee maker in a couple of weeks like Arizona water.

-It’s downhill all the way from Palm Springs to Indio. Palm Springs sits at 550 feet above sea level. Indio sits at 50 feet below sea level.

-Speaking of Big City, there is no defined City Center like you find in most larger areas. By that I mean a business center where you will find skyline filled with tall buildings. In fact, I think there are less than a dozen buildings more than 4 stories tall and none more than 8 stories. I don’t know exactly why this is the case, but I can speculate that it has something to do with being right along the San Andreas faultline, and they must figure that taller buildings mean larger piles of rubble when the eventual earthquake happens.

-Having a grassy RV site is nice, but it also means that each and every night the sprinklers are on at your site. It also means that your windows are constantly showing water spots. So is your truck. So is everything you leave outside. You also have to pack all your lawn furniture up on lawn mowing days. Do I sense a trend here? Grass and green is nice, but not necessarily without it’s issues.

-The desert around all these green cityscapes is quite dull and uninviting, mostly desert scrub and creosote trees. I know it’s a desert, and by definition it’s not going to be a lush paradise, but the desert surrounding Phoenix is quite green right now. Palm Springs sits in a very distinct rain shadow and it shows. If it wasn’t for the aquifer this place would be a dustbowl. We’ve been receiving pictures from some of our friends who are already in Gold Canyon, and it’s much more colourful, and there are much more cacti and desert trees and bushes there than here.

-There are hundreds of things to do here, and we’ve probably done about a dozen of them. We never got to Borrego Springs, never got far down the Palm to Pines highway, never drove to Disneyland which is only about 90 minutes away, never drove to the ocean which is about 2 hours away, never – well, you get the idea. There are many many things you can do in this area that you can’t do in other sunbelt locations, as long as you’re willing to take a drive on a multi lane freeway along with about a million other drivers.

-Speaking of drivers, the locals aren’t on my list of the best drivers in North America. I’ve had guys pass me on the left when my left turn signal was on as I was entering a shopping centre, had people who were making a u-turn from beside me take a VERY wide slice of my lane before they veered left, and never felt that convinced that most people actually knew how to drive well. Motorists here really don’t keep up to the posted speed limits either. Whether you are on the interstate, a main thoroughfare or the well travelled secondary highway through town, you are always coming up on people driving slower than the posted speed. That’s one of the most dangerous things on the road in my opinion.

-And speaking of roads, they’re some of the best around. We never got backed up in any sort of rush hour as there are a few routes across town, the speed limits are pretty high, and there are usually 3 lanes of traffic going each way on any of the routes. There’s also left turn lanes and turn lights at almost every intersection which helps move the traffic along. I wish they could build road systems like this in Canada.

-The weather is warmer here than it is in Gold Canyon where we’re spending the rest of the winter. At least it has been this December. I have a little widget on my laptop from The Weather Network that allows me to track the temperatures at a few different places. This month I’ve been tracking Palm Springs and Gold Canyon as well as Calgary and our home town. The difference between here and home just makes me feel glad to be here, but at any given time during daylight hours the weather is about 5 to 10F warmer in Palm Springs than where we’re heading to. We’ll see if that gets better or worse as the winter rolls along.

-There is also far less wind here than where we’ve stayed in Arizona. We only had one windy morning and afternoon, and one evening where I pulled in our Awning. Other than that it’s been deployed all month, and I haven’t had to install our de-flapping devices or tie it down at all. That’s definitely a plus for Indio, but I don’t think all areas can claim to be this calm. They do have a couple of thousand wind turbines at the West end of the valley after all.

-Being parked in a relatively urban area has advantages and disadvantages. We’re really close to shopping and attractions, even here in Indio. We’re also really close to fire-halls and police stations so we’ve heard our fair share of sirens this month, especially on Friday nights. There’s also been a couple of break-in’s while we’ve been here. A fella with a trailer that he uses to haul his motorcycles down, lost about $8000 worth of tools and motorcycle gear just before we got here. They suspect the thieves are local residences, as unemployment is very high. There’s also been a suicide in the park this month, but I don’t think you can blame that on being in Indio. At least I hope not.

I hope this gives you some idea of our time here. We’ve enjoyed it, but at this stage of our lives we really think we can have a lot more fun doing what we want to do in Gold Canyon. That may change over the years, we’re still young yet after all.


5 responses to “Reflections on a Month in Coachella Valley

  1. Interesting review. One thing though. The speed limit is the maximum speed people are to travel not the speed each driver is to go. It took me a long time to learn that fact.


    • I still think it’s dangerous to go 10 to 15 MPH below the posted speed limit and impede traffic, especially if the slow driver insists on traveling in any lane other than the extreme right lane. Just a pet peeve of mine.


  2. Good review of your time in Indio and the Palm Springs area. I concur with pretty well all of your thoughts.

    We like this area a lot and we also like the Phoenix area too – especially Gold Canyon. I guess that is why we RV over having a fixed desert address. We like the variety offered by the Yuma area too, extreme southern California, and so many other spots; including southwestern Nevada.

    I guess we’ll continue our nomadic desert lifestyle for the foreseeable future.


  3. Happy New Year to you and Sylvia. I hope you enjoy a good one, and may you find much more adventure in 2014!
    Enjoy the posts Rod; keep ’em coming in the New Year.


  4. I think it has been much warmer in the Palm Springs and Yuma areas as well as our area in Mazatlan this winter. Global warming?? Just enjoy what you have wherever you are.

    Happy 2014 and wishing you many wonderful experiences for the entire year.


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