We were woken early by the people in the next apartment arguing about finances. The walls of our Airbnb triplex were thin as paper.
“I work hard for my money,” she insisted. I could hear her angrily putting clothes into a washing machine. The man said, “You think I just piss mine away?” She banged the lid of the washer shut. I imagined her giving him a sour look. There was a pause. He pressed her — “Is that what you think?”
We were in Port Hueneme, California. It was our first day of vacation.
The worst part? During the night, about 2:30 AM, we were awakened by the shouting of two men in the street. They were getting louder and angrier and so we went into the living room and peeked out of the drapes. They were pushing and threatening each other. Other men had begun to gather around. Bill said, “If shooting starts, it will come through these flimsy walls…” Which was exactly what I was thinking. We could see lights going on in other houses.
Then we heard the sirens. Police cars, one after another, screeched into a line in the street. I counted nine of them. Nine. Police were running from house to house and commanding the men to “step back!”
This was an inauspicious start to our vacation. We had driven for eight hours from our home in Sonoma County to Southern California. We were exhausted and needed sleep. But that wasn’t in the cards.
We were dressed by 7:30 AM. I toasted bread for breakfast then made sandwiches for a picnic lunch.
We planned to hike all day at Santa Cruz Island. To get there required a boat ride of more than an hour and Bill wondered if we would get seasick. Though I didn’t think we would, we bought dramamine and swallowed them with coffee before driving to Ventura. I’m glad we did. The waters were choppy for at least a half hour and the crew began handing out sick bags to some passengers.
I remember how dramamine made me feel when I was a kid on long family driving vacations — as if I was wrapped up in a protective force field. It also made me sleepy, but the boat ride was too exciting for that.
About forty-five minutes into the trip, we came upon a megapod of dolphins, roughly 3,000 of them. Amazing to see them leaping out of the water and racing alongside the boat. In the video, notice the choppiness of the distant waters — those are dolphins, too.
When we arrived at the island the sun had come out and we could shed our jackets. The island has one inhabitant, a caretaker, who lives in a house built by the original owner of the island before it was taken over by the National Park Service.
We found a rock outcropping at the highest part of the island to have our lunch.
The next morning we drove about four hours to the desert. We stayed in Palm Springs a week and enjoyed the city immensely. Restaurants and businesses were reopening from the pandemic, including the Museum downtown, which we enjoyed one afternoon.
We rode the Aerial Tramway — the world’s largest rotating tram car — two and half miles through Chino Canyon and up to Mt. San Jacinto State Park.
Down in the valley where we parked our car — in the desert — it was 90 degrees. But up in those mountains?
We spent much of a day driving through Joshua Tree National Park. At one point we hiked to the top of a huge outcropping — look at this breathtaking vista.
The park itself is huge, more than 800,000 acres of desert. It looks like a moonscape: barren, arid and sandy with boulders scattered here and there. And Joshua trees, of course.
And it isn’t even a tree. It’s a yucca plant. They only grow in the Western states in desert areas of at least 2,000 feet elevation. They are federally protected because there are so few of them. They live for about 500 years. The Mormons in the 1800s thought they looked like the prophet Joshua raising his hands to the heavens, or so the story goes as to how they got their name.