It’s Not Always Rainbows

Palm trees in downtown La Quinta.

The chop got my attention. A toddler in the seat ahead whimpered. He’d fussed and cried for much of the two hour flight. Over tired, I suspect. The last stewardess standing swayed with the pitch and roll of our descent. She buckled in. Soon after, the plane hit the tarmac hard, bounced once, and settled. Its reverse thrusters sucked in the dry air of Palm Springs. We had arrived.

We rented an Airbnb in La Quinta, 20 miles from the airport. Our quiet street had no sidewalks. But cars did not clutter the curb. Most were either parked inside garages or gone for the day. Those on the driveways were cleaners, I theoried, jobbing out other neighborhood rentals. 

On day one, we hiked desert trails nearby. The parched air shrunk my throat. It was warmer than we’d hoped. Yet the expanse of sky bathed us in peaceful blue hues. We ate Japanese takeout for dinner and watched the Winter Olympics on TV.

On day two, we drove an hour north to Joshua Tree National Park. We hiked three short trails. Each had arboretum like placards describing the area’s ecology. 

Milder temperatures made walking comfortable. We four, my wife, her sister, brother-in-law, and I spent an entire day in thrall of granite boulders and the magical forest of Joshua Trees.

We travel well together. Family vacations going back three decades are the bedrock of our relationship. The kids are now in their 30s and 40s. We’ve watched them soar and crash and soar again. We’ve shared their successes and their challenges. We wonder when or if raising them will end. But, honestly, we still hold on and let go, hold on and let go …

Traffic thickened on our approach to the springs. The road heading out of town clogged when a hay truck caught fire. We missed the worst of that misery. The crush of cars, however, made my rural Northwestern antennae prickle. We were a long ways from the land of rainbows

After a rest, dinner was Mexican, outdoors at a downtown restaurant. Entertainment at the Airbnb was a TV special, Riveted, The History Of Jeans

Day three was roadside attraction day. A visit to Moorten Botanical Garden surprised us. Its vast collection of desert vegetation is an authentic addition to Palm Springs. The gardens thrive in contrast to what is often, otherwise, excess: artificial oases of golf courses and a Möbius strip of shopping malls. 

Sigh. I can be such a snob. 🙄 

Later, the brother-in-law and I ventured downtown. It bustled with tourists just like us. We all searched for the perfect pizza and a parking space. Back at our joint, in the wide streeted no side-walked quiet neighborhood of La Quinta, we watched the movie, C’mon, C’mon.

Desert living is not for me, especially in the air conditioned environment exemplified by Palm Springs. But the desert’s “adapt or die” credo does resemble the life I’m living with blood cancer. 

In December, my oncologist recommended we re-stage the disease. She was unimpressed with its borderline stability. 

So, I underwent several diagnostics: blood draws, a biopsy, bone imaging, and  an ultra sound of my heart. We also stopped the drug combo that had prevailed for the last four years. Currently, I’m enjoying a drug holiday … I think. The significant cancer markers continue their slow creep but are not yet rushing into the vacuum.

Results from these exams were presented to the hospital’s Tumor Board for review. I’ll begin a new program as soon as insurance approvals are in place. 


Red Flowers in a Vase.

Getaway day from Palm Springs was uneventful. The crowded airport and mediocre food seemed a fitting end to our desert sojourn. All in all, this second short vacation from our retirements added comparative texture to the fickle Oregon winter. We parted at PDX and headed home. In early March we have planned one more escape: Oakland and San Francisco.

To close, a song: Red Flowers in a Vase.

10 thoughts on “It’s Not Always Rainbows

  1. I lived in the Coachella Valley in the late 80s/early 90s. Loved it. While I’m sure it’s grown way too much for my taste, it seems that you found the parts that captivated me all those years ago – the roadside attractions and mystical landscapes. So nice to hear that you’re getting out for some fresh air.


    1. Hi Julie. 🥰 Yes, the growth in the Coachella Valley has been phenomenal over the last 50 years. I am too old to hike, camp, and fully experience the desert’s natural delights. But, the trip was educational about an ecology foreign to my life of mountain living.

      Read your latest on Ukraine. 👍 Actually, it’s probably my second reading going back to your visit in 2014. I take inspiration from your eloquent immersion into your travels.


      1. Thanks, John. If you ever want to share your thoughts on my Substack newsletters or just say hi you can also reply to the newsletter email. 😊


  2. So glad y’all had a getaway. Even imperfect vacations are still vacations. I’ve visited Palm Springs but didn’t go to Joshua Tree. Hope to hike that park one day. Thanks for the pictures. Also, C’Mon C’Mon was my favorite movie this past year. I watched it twice!


    1. Hey Gary. Thanks for commenting. I am sometimes self conscious about my judgments. But, the irrigation necessary to maintain the desert’s entertainments stretches credulity.


  3. Wonderful post, John. Getting out into the fresh air of another place is always a blessing, and loved your philosophy of family and vacations. Over dinner a little while ago my sisters and I were recounting our favorite vacation when we were kids (torrential down pour in the East Eagle Cap wilderness) and the look of horror on my parent’s face was priceless as it was miserable for them 🙂 You mention whether or not raising your kids will end 🙂 Isn’t this the fun of life. As for Joshua Tree, one day I do wish to go but I am a mountains/ocean type of guy but JT stories seem to be popping up more and more. Take care ~ enjoy the coming weekend.


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