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Nov 10 - Dec 31 - California

When the weather started to look unfriendly in Las Vegas, we made a last-minute decision to go instead to the Palm Springs CA area, where the weather was looking nicer, as in warmer. It's not very far from Yuma (41) to the 1000 Trails Palms Springs resort in Palm Desert (42), and it took us just a few hours to get there. We checked in for a 3-week stay.

Al was still recuperating from his strained back, so our activities were pretty low key for a while. But within a week or so, everything seemed back to normal, and he stopped the extra meds. Actually, we'd kind of decided to tuck back a little and try to be a little more economical. Of course, making that kind of a plan around the holidays maybe wasn't the greatest timing, but we worked at it.

We'd also made a decision a few months ago to spend much of the winter in the Palm Springs area, so getting there in mid-November gave us a jump start. We were pleased that the RV park would be offering a Thanksgiving dinner, so we immediately signed up. And for the 3 weeks we were here, we mostly rode our bikes around the park and enjoyed the weather. One day we decided to see if we could actually find the San Andreas Fault, which runs right through the Coachella Valley. We knew that most of the natural oases in the valley occurred along the fault, so we went to the 1000 Palms Oasis, a few miles east of the RV park. And for an hour or so, we wandered among the palms, crisscrossing the San Andreas fault several times. As it's been many many years since the fault has ruptured around Palm Springs, it was a pretty tame experience. And we hope it will be many many more years before it does go off.

A few days before Thanksgiving, the RV park's caterer pulled out, the dinner was cancelled, and we scrambled to find a backup. We managed to get the last available reservation at a Mimi's Cafe for a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Most enjoyable, and probably way better than we would have gotten at the park. And we spent a fair amount of time on the phone with relatives hither and yon, mostly yon, and all in colder places than we. (insert slightly smug smirk here)

For several years, we've been promoting the idea of giving charitable donations instead of exchanging gifts, as most of us have everything we need and most of what we want. This year we tried to extend that concept to the kids in our world. Palm Desert Community Presbyterian Church, which we attend when we're around here, had a Christmas Giving Tree for kids who come through the local Rescue Mission. We took 9 tags from the tree, went shopping for stuff those kids wanted, and returned the wrapped gifts to the church. Then Judy made some ornaments, and we sent an ornament, card and explanation of what we'd done and who we'd given to to all of "our" kids. From what we hear, the concept was well received, especially by kids over the age of six or so.

Toward the end of November, there were some ominous storm warnings for Southern California, and to avoid travel during what was projected to be a major windstorm, we left Palm Springs a day early and drove the 75 miles to the 1000 Trails Wilderness Lakes park (43) north of Temecula CA. Next day, the storm hit, and while most of the serious weather was north of us, we were still glad to not be traveling or hooking up during the weather we also had. We chose a nice site adjacent to one of the several "lakes" in the park. The lakes are actually canals, stocked with fish, and also with hundreds of birds - coots, ducks, herons, geese, and a few of undetermined ancestry. But most of them came visiting for a bread crumb buffet, and we fed them a couple of times. Some days, that's about as exciting as our life gets.

On December 11, we drove back to Palm Springs and settled into the space that would be our home until Feb 1. We're not sure how this will work out - it's as long as we've ever stayed in one place since we started this nomadic life. But the Palm Springs area is a very nice place to experiment with the concept of less travel.

After modestly decorating the RV for Christmas, we started looking for places to see some real Christmas Lights. The Living Desert (part zoo, part botanical garden) was decorated and open evenings, and we went one night. Some of the displays were very nice. We left the zoo when it started raining, went home and pulled up the webcam from Shore Acres in Oregon to see a far better holiday light display. Another night we visited Candycane Lane in Cathedral City, a neighborhood that goes all out with their lighting. There are about 50 homes and yards, decorated to the nines, some tacky, some beautiful. We drove up and down the street. Quite nice. And nearby was a home that had been chosen last year as one of the best decorated in the country. It was indeed spectacularly decorated, with computer-driven displays synchronised to music and lots of animation. Not to our particular taste, but now we can say we've seen a national champion.

We got into the Christmas spirit further on Dec. 18 with a lovely concert at the Presbyterian Church, featuring two choirs, a full orchestra, a four-harp ensemble, a bell choir, and a traditional Carolers' ensemble of four very professional singers.  The church was beautifully decorated, and a lovely candlelight Christmas eve service on the 24th helped make up for having no family around here in the desert.

We started shopping around for someplace special for our Christmas Day dinner. As you can imagine, a resort area like Palm Springs has lots of places to choose from. After rejecting a couple $150-a-plate places (no food could be THAT good), we settled on the Oasis Buffet at the valley's oldest casino, the Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs. For our Christmas, a spectacular feast, multiple entrees, eat all you want, and just $30 a head. And after dinner, Al managed to win enough on a slot machine to partially offset some of that cost. Of course, we called around the country to chat with relatives in cooler climes.

We were anticipating being able to celebrate New Years Eve by watching the east coast celebrations. Unfortunately, on Dec 31 we got absorbed in watching a movie and completely forgot about New Years until the next morning. It happened without us. We doubt we were missed.

As we're about to start our sixth year of RV living, we've been reflecting some on the past five years. We've been exceptionally fortunate. We set out to travel, and travel we have - almost 60,000 miles on the motorhome. Of the roughly 400 places listed on the National Park Service website, we've been to about 100. We've driven on practically every major interstate highway in the country, and lots of the minor ones. The motorhome has taken us to 44 of the lower 48 states, and we've managed to get to Hawaii and Alaska by other means. We've been to some of the highest and lowest points in the US, and we've seen all sorts of stuff. George Washington's teeth? A meteorite shaped like a hand basket? Route 66? The highest waterfalls in the country? Lions and tigers and bears? Seen 'em all, and then some.

We ended 2011 pretty much where we started it, at the 1000 Trails Palm Springs Resort. What will 2012 bring? Assuming the rampant interpretations of the Mayan Calendar are wrong, we'll see where we end up. And trust us, getting there will be much more than half the fun.

Not a lot of pictures in our slide show this time, 'cause we didn't do all that much and take all that many. See the 32 pictures we did keep here.

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