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3/3/23, Phoenix to Palm Desert

My dad, who was stifled on his small, familial island, was a voracious traveller as soon as he was able. When we were children growing up in a WASPy New York suburb, he thought nothing of bringing home friends he’d met on his travels to India, France, Brazil, Japan, Scotland to name a few. Much to my siblings’ and my horror, our house was branded Ellis Island, ruining any hopes of fitting in to the American way. My dad encouraged us to be “international” (his hope was that I would become what was then called a stewardess) while being taught and quizzed about the natural resources of, say, Ghana. It was only after he died that I myself took up the wander and am proud to have passed it along to the next gen.

When Philip, Nat and I travelled together, I was the instigator and planner, the one who was most invested in closing the deal. And while never out of inspiration or enthusiasm, planning itineraries never quite materalised as a skill. When Nat was three, we went to Portugal. It was at a time when NYT Travel section had advertisements for shady companies, such as RA Travel, which I had previously used successfully. It’s hard to remember what transpired but when we finally got the tickets sent to us via DHL (it was a long time ago), there was a problem with them that meant we had to spend twice as much to put them right. Our last day of the holiday was spent in Lisbon, and not being a fan of carrying stuff and things, we made the ill-informed decision to not bring a stroller. But Philip being Philip, found a box top and some plastic shopping bags and rigged up a little sled that he pulled her around on the shiny tiles. It was brilliant. When we got back to the hotel from our day of touring, we learned that I had made a scheduling error and that we should have checked out of the hotel that morning. Chaos ensued.

About 12 years later, we were headed to Palm Desert for February vacation, arriving at our LAX airport hotel late at night. They had no record of our reservation and the hotel was full, so we got in a rental car and drove to Palm Desert in the middle of the night, with Nat chattering away to keep me awake while Philip slept. We arrived before our hotel could take us so all snoozed in the parking lot, waking to a magical sunrise through the palm trees. It remained one of our funny family stories.

So when I woke up in the middle of last night at The Clarendon Hotel in Phoenix with the unwelcome knowledge that I had been bitten by bedbugs, it was an easy decision to get in the car at 1:30 and chase the moon west to Palm Desert. It was me and the trucks, the velvety night, vague dark mountain shapes, ithe smell of eucalyptus and very little else. And Nat, from London, texting me for quite a while. So sweet. A postscript that this hotel never acknowledge the bed bugs, they simply didn't return my phone calls or emails, so don't every stay at this dump.

Those two layers of mountain (white higher up and then a different range in brown) and luxurious palm trees served as sentries to the city of Palm Desert, reminding me that while I might not have slept and may have to throw out all my things and shave my head, it would all be OK and was all worth it. I had just been thinking about how much I like writing and how it was much easier to do so when out in the world and experiencing things, rather than having a routine that varied little. And here, these bedbugs, was an experience. A gift? I guess... I won't bore you with the details of this cross between COVID and lice situation, but suffice it to say that they involved garbage bags, crazy texts to Sandra, the website, a laundromat, scarves that now look like drink coasters, social distancing and me wondering whether an airline would let me use an Ikea blue bag as a carry on (they did, but the trick was to put all your thing in a garbage bag and tie it to the Ikea bag. But the day also included the company of a good friend I hadn't seen in a long time, orange juice made from a freshly picked fruit, a nap on a pool chair, tennis, iced coffee, so much floral beauty and a delicious Mexican dinner.

Tomorrow I drop my car off, I will miss her as she became my house, sherpa, dining room, living room, bedroom, guide, fireplace and viewing platform. And she would ask me, when I turned the engine off, whether I might have forgotten someone in the car, which always made me giggle. Aside from her amazing lumbar support, she has a sun roof and now, a pretty dirty drivers seat, a 6 inch crack in the windshield, two other divots in the windshield, a covering of Winslow salt and dirt and still lots of tumbleweed in the front grill. Thank you for your service, car. And to come full circle, I have been wondering why these California drivers are in such a great hurry and don't just calm down and be a little more polite.

I keep thinking that each post will be my last, but tI have been thinking about some things that are of the wrap up variety.

I also wanted to share what a friend replied to me when I was confused about the number of days I had been travelling. "I have a friend who doesn't know if it's Tuesday or July"

The hotel from hell, Clarendon in Phoenix

One of my bedbug bites, so disgusting and they stay with you longer than a bee sting and itch like crazy.

Very mixed feelings

When I put Palm Desert into Apple Maps, it took me to Palm Desert Town Hall

Can you ever get enough?

Dentists office

At my airbnb in La Quinta. After driving all night, dealing with the bed bug crisis, doing laundry and playing tennis, it was an 8pm bedtime.


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