Motorcoach Country Club, May 26 – May28

The Motorcoach Country Club bills itself as “The Crown Jewel of Motor Coach Resorts”. I’m not sure how stiff that competition is, but it is true as far as our experience goes. It is probably even nicer “in season” which apparently ends at the end of April, because the on-premise restaurant (which is supposed to be pretty good) is now closed. On the other hand it is wonderfully uncrowded at this time of year. It’s a good thing we liked it because our stay here was four nights – longer than any other park we’ve been to.

In fact Indio was much nicer than either of us had expected. After what we had seen throughout the desert, we expected a pretty hardscrabble dried-out place, but in fact it is quite nice. We were on the eastern edge, right next to La Quinta, which is also a nice town. It is a big retirement area, and during our stay we ran into several people who had moved from Pennsylvania for that purpose.

On Friday morning, May 26, we intended to get started reasonably early, but we had contacted an RV detailer who has an arrangement with the RV park to wash the Dutch Star and the Jeep. They showed up an hour late, but ended up doing a pretty decent job (not quite as good a job as Sal in Las Cruces, though). They did the Jeep first, and when that was done we headed for the Palm Springs Air Museum, which is at the Palm Springs Airport. We expected to stay a few hours at most, looking at the airplanes and then heading out. However, the museum is a lot more than just airplanes. Three of its four large hangars are dedicated to WWII, one focused on the Pacific Theatre and one on the Atlantic Theatre. Both have many extensive and well-written exhibits. Perhaps the most interesting were those explaining the origin of the respective conflicts, going back to events in the 1800’s. There are many detailed models of the airplanes and ships of both the Allied and Axis combatants, and an impressive discussion of how air power, particularly ship-borne air power, changed the course of WWII and all wars since.

Therese and Bell from USS Widgeon, built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard
Grumman F7F Tigercat
B-25 Mitchell Bomber
North American P-51 Mustang “Bunny”
Army version of Ercoupe

The museum was gearing up to give rides in a few of their warplanes over the Memorial Day weekend, so quite a few were out on the ramp rather than in the hangars. They try to keep as many of their airplanes in flying condition as they can.

Bell UH-1B Huey Helicopter

After spending a few hours looking at the Pacific exhibits, we ate lunch at the museum’s “cafeteria” which is a little grill at the corner of one of the hangars. It was not crowded, and surprisingly good.

One of their main exhibits was a B-17 Flying Fortress, “Miss Angela”. We took individual guided tours of the aircraft, with one of their cadre of volunteers explaining the role of each of the crewmembers and the function of the airplane hardware. My guide was an Air Force veteran of the Korean conflict, and he was very familiar with the B-17, so with all my questions the tour took almost an hour. The B-17 hasn’t flown in 10 years or so, because that isn’t allowed by the trust that owns it (it was at one time owned by one of the co-founders of the museum, Bob Pond, who has now passed away). But they expect that ownership will pass to the museum at some point, so they keep it in near-flyable condition. Unpressurized,  B-17s were commonly flown at about 29,000 feet, where there isn’t enough oxygen to support life, and it is about -40 degrees or colder. The crewmen were on oxygen, and wore heated flight suits, but there were many cases of frostbite of hands and feet.

Cockpit of B-17 Flying Fortress
Belly gunner portal, B-17 Flying Fortress
B-17 Flying Fortress, “Miss Angela”
Therese, Barry and WWII airman under wing of Flying Fortress
Flying Fortress cutaway drawing
Therese and landing gear for B-17

In addition to aircraft, there are other exhibits with equipment related to aircraft. For example, there’s a Link Trainer – thousands of WWII airmen learned flying on instruments in such trainers.

Link Trainer used to train WWII pilots

There’s also this Norden Bombsight – credited with giving allied bombers very good accuracy, and thus enabling them to destroy enemy targets and shorten the war.

Norden Bombsight – credited with helping allied bombers destroy targets. Only two planes in a squadron were equipped with bombsights, others just released when instructed by bombsight-equipped planes.

There were several jet engines on display, but this 28-cylinder radial engine was pretty cool, too.

28 cylinder radial engine


And here is the frame of the fuselage of a glider, many of which were used in the D-day invasion.

Glider fuselage, as used in D-day invasion

Another unexpected aspect of the Palm Springs Air Museum is their library. They have many airplane-themed books, but for some reason they also have every issue of Life and Look magazines going back to when they were first published. You can (and we did) find the issue that was current when you were born. In the “more things change the more they stay the same” category, have a look at the editorial from Life magazine on the April 16, 1956 – it is criticizing the income tax system, the politically-motivated deductions and exemptions, and calling for an overhaul and simplification of the system. They could rerun it practically unchanged today.

Income Tax Editorial, Life Magazine, April 1956
Buick ad from Life Magazine, April 1956

Their fourth hangar at the museum is dedicated to the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, but that was scheduled to debut just in time for the Memorial Day Weekend, the day after our visit, so we weren’t able to see it. After spending about five hours at the museum, we were “museumed-out” for the day anyway.  You could easily spend several days there, and still not see everything.

For dinner, we treated ourselves to a very nice French restaurant in Palm Springs, Le Vallauris. Therese had been there years ago on a trip to Palm Springs with her two sisters and her cousin. We ate semi-outdoors in a courtyard shaded by large cottonwood trees. Highly recommended if you are in the area.

On Saturday, we avoided Memorial Day weekend crowds by doing just about nothing. We took care of getting some stuff done on the Dutch Star, and hung out by the Motorcoach Country Club Pool. It was about 98 degrees at its hottest, but by 8:30 or so, it cooled down enough to sit outside and snap this picture just after sundown. I also re-washed the Jeep – one day and it was already pretty dusty, and a bird had taken advantage of its (former) cleanliness to “leave its mark”.

Just after sunset from our campsite.

On Sunday, we got going comparatively early to beat the heat, with our objective being a two-mile hike to the waterfalls at Tahquist Canyon in Palm Springs. We got there just before 9:00, when it was still in the high seventies, but it felt hotter due to the strong sun. The hike up the canyon was easy and scenic.

Tahquitz Canyon cliff
Looking down at Palm Springs from Tahquitz Canyon trail
Lizard on trail.

The waterfall was quite a treat. There was much more water flowing (its source is snow melt) than I had expected this late in the spring, and it was easily 15 degrees cooler near the falls, both from the shade and the cooling effect of the evaporating mist from the falls. There were lots of other people with the same idea, so the area was pretty crowded, but it was well worthwhile.

Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall
Barry and Therese (and part of large crowd) at Tahquitz Canyon Falls.

In the afternoon, we decided to go to a movie. By that time it was 107 degrees out, and when we got in the car, any surface that was in the sun, especially the seat belt buckles and the steering wheel, was hot enough to burn you.  It seems to me you just about have to have a garage if you have a car out here. Otherwise, it will be continually coated with dust, and your paint and interior will age prematurely from the heat and sun.

The  movie we saw was “Guardians of the Galaxy”. If you get a chance to see it, my advice is to pass it up.

Tomorrow, we head for Goleta, which is about 20 miles west of Santa Barbara. A lot of easterners would think that I mean north of Santa Barbara, since it’s on the coast, but look at a map – the coastline of California is just about due east-west in that area.

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