This fun road trip chronicles a driving adventure one chilly late November starting in Calgary, Canada on the Alberta Highway 2 and progressing through the USA via the Interstate 15 (I-15) route to Palm Springs and back (one province and 5 states). Radical temperatures ranged from -11°F to 92°F (-24°C to 33°C). Stops included: Great Falls, MT; Idaho Falls, ID; Salt Lake City and St. George, UT; Las Vegas and Mojave Desert, NV + CA; Palm Springs, CA.
The Car: 2013 Fiat 500 Lounge, with sunroof and heated seats
The Adventurers: A couple bent on putting a pause on the pending Canadian winter to seek sun
The Gear: One set of golf clubs, one bike and all the gear; a small cooler, luggage and laptop bags
The Distance: 2,500 kilometres each way (approx. 5,000 kms roundtrip)
The Route: Calgary, Alberta, Canada to Palm Springs, California, USA via I-15 or bust
DAYS 1 & 2:
Left Calgary and at 6 AM the next day, hit the road from Idaho Falls, 1°C (34°F). Temperatures rose to 7°C and fresh snow was visible in the mountains. Although it appeared as though we were not at a high elevation, we were actually on a gradual climb and experienced frighteningly heavy rainfall and snow for hours. The Fiat sailed through the less than ideal conditions, no problem. Reached St. George, UT at 1:45 PM and went back to ideal driving conditions. Temperature was a disappointing 12°C at St. George.
Spectacular scenery where the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Mojave Desert all converge. Will revisit this area on the way back when (hopefully) it is warmer.
Due to its predominate Mormon culture which prohibits the consumption of alcohol for its members, we could not find a place to buy a bottle of wine or liquor in St. George on Sunday. Maybe there was a place, but we didn’t find it. Utah has the most restrictive alcohol laws in the US which remain unchanged since prohibition times. Deal-breaker. Onward to sin city, Las Vegas. Note To Self: Make sure to book show tickets in advance. Next time.
TIP! Pre-book your hotels for the entire trip or at least the first leg in advance if you can so that you can drive into a town and go straight to your hotel. SAVE MONEY: Depending on the time of year that you travel, ridiculous deals can usually be found online for Las Vegas hotels during the week, such as paying as low as $12 per night at popular casino hotels. Always review complete details about a hotel including scrolling down to the bottom of the page to read the Small Print details. Many but not all hotels on Las Vegas Boulevard and Downtown (Fremont Street) charge a one day resort fee. But if you’re paying only $12 for a room, the added $20 resort fee still makes it a steal of a deal!
TIP! Don’t even think about going to the US without adequate medical coverage; it’s not worth the risk. Check with your health plan or buy extra insurance to make sure you’re covered.
Left Las Vegas at 7:30 AM, 13°C and stopped for breakfast at the Primm Casino pancake house. Walking through the casino to the restaurant, we witnessed the early morning hard-cores gambling, drinking and smoking. This venue is also apparently popular with the portable oxygen-tank toting crowd. Missed the Fashion Outlets LV which opened at 10 AM. Will revisit this on the way back if possible. Decided to veer off the I-15 into the Mojave National Preserve and go to Palm Springs that way. Glad we did.
Vastly varied and fascinating earth forms and desert vegetation. Wished to have seen a tortoise or road-runner, but didn’t. Hope to one day. Witnessed the long US government train filled with thousands of desert sand-colored tanks, hummers, trucks …. hmmm … Mojave Sand Dunes that suddenly appear through the largely gnarly sun-scorched earth. Volcanic crater and lava flows. Experienced a free “stomach-fluttering ride” through the large dips in the highway.
DAYS 4 to 10
Arrived in Palm Springs at 1 PM, 30°C. Finally, low-elevation Palm Springs has the hot weather we’ve been seeking. Checked into the uber-cool Del Marcos Hotel in downtown Palm Springs – a stunningly restored 1947 gem. Enjoyed the hotel’s weekday special: stayed for 3 nights and got the 4th night for free. Witnessed a couple of Rat Pack look-alikes riding up to the hotel in a baby blue vintage convertible.
Floating and swimming in the salt water pool. Sipping ice water filled with lemons and limes from local fruit trees. Picking and eating fresh, sweet grapefruits everyday that are literally falling off the trees. Sight-seeing and walking to the downtown restaurants, bars and shopping. Enjoying the daily 30° to 33°C weather. Riding vintage bikes supplied by the hotel and discovering that the surrounding area is filled with guest houses, casitas, B&B’s and other small hotels but there is little signage so you really have to look for them. Enjoying the low key atmosphere and now see why Hollywood stars seek anonymity here. Frequenting Trader Joe’s for the best, curated and highly addictive food, drink and other products. Seeing aged hipsters zooming around in golf carts as transportation.
Time change caused the sun to go down earlier than usual. Bummer.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this Road Trip as we continued on to Los Angeles.