October 9 – 11, 2020
We’d spend the month of October at home with the exception of two weekends out of town, the highlight of the month being two separate one week visits from Jessica, Kris and Gemma. They’d also spend a couple of weeks in-between with Kim and Marty in Henderson (we’d run there for three nights of it) and so it was a quiet, but very full month.
On Friday the ninth I drove to Wildomar to pick up JB so that the two of us could then drive to Palm Desert to meet up with Doug (AKA the Griz) for a slightly depleted Cisco Fest. Doug had made the journey west from his home in Cedaredge to Indio to deliver a slot machine to his sister and brother-in-law, Marlene and Joel, so meeting with him just outside of Palm Springs made travel easy for all.
Due to Covid considerations neither Evan nor Rendy would be joining us, but we would all meet via Zoom the next day from our hotel room, so it was as good as we were going to get in 2020. Our home for the next two nights would be the Fairfield Inn and Suites, just off the I-10 in Palm Desert. A property similar in style and furnishing as its sister Marriott property, Springhill Suites, we’d secured a large room, not quite a suite, there at a special rate through Doug’s friend Gavin, making for the first time I’d shared space with more than one person since our Camino journey in 2017.
That first night we hung out in the room in order to watch the Lakers play one of their championship games (they lost that one) and ordered pizza from Billy Q’s. I got sausage and mushroom to split for JB and I as the Griz is a finicky eater, thus a small pepperoni for him. When I picked up the order I was impressed with the place, busy but friendly, the kind of joint you’d frequent regularly if you lived nearby.
Our plan for the next day was to drive up to Mount San Jacinto and then back down on the western side to Hemet, repeating the day trip Joanna and I did some months back, as Doug and I lived there for nine months back in 1978. But first, it was time for breakfast and soon we found ourselves at the Paradise Cove Café. Sitting outside on a broad patio, I was finally able to find that omelet I’d been seeking for months, their Vegetable Factory (Spinach, mushrooms, Bell Pepper, tomato, onion, and Swiss Cheese). It was all I could ask for although we all agreed that what they called home fries were a disappointment.
We drove up the mountain to the small summit town of Mountain Center, stopping for something to drink, and then down the other side and into Valle Vista, an eastern suburb of Hemet on Highway 74 (Florida Ave.) before turning left onto State Street to head south out of town. After a short dogleg on Cactus Valley Road, it becomes Sage Road and a mile or two later one comes to a moderate sized ranch with three houses on it, the former lodging we’d referred to at the time as the Snail Farm.
Returning to a town forty years after you lived there is a mixed bag, particularly one that has grown in size like Hemet. Most of the places we worked at no longer exist such as the 24-hour USA gas station where on alternating nights we worked the graveyard shift, and then Soboba Awnings where we did a variety of jobs (loading trucks, driving same, shipping and receiving, etc.) while making frequent forays to what was known as the corner shed to indulge in a then illegal mind-altering substance.
Our favorite breakfast joint, the Country Kitchen is gone as is the coffee shop where I met my short-term squeeze Rhonda, but still hanging in there is the bar known as Chappies, where many a gin and tonic was consumed. Unfortunately, it was closed due to the virus and we couldn’t enjoy a nostalgia laden drink, but the memories still remain.
Back on Florida we drove west through town before turning north past Gilman Hot Springs on Highway 79 to the town of Beaumont and then a return to Palm Desert on the I-10. Later that night we’d head to Si Bon for dinner, a recommendation from Doug’s sister Marlene. It was well worth the visit. Seated outside we checked the menu, a diverse selection of moderately priced appetizers and entrees which would normally have made the decision on what to eat a hard one except the special that night was Halibut in a Basil Beurre Blanc Sauce.
I’m a sucker for Halibut, ordering it whenever I can and this dish was as good as it gets, highlighted by sautéed vegetables, a mound of garlic mashed potatoes and a corn Soufflé that together made for one of those nearly perfect dishes. Normally I’d drink wine with this type of food, but they had Karmeliet Tripel on draft and how could I resist? My tab came to $60 including the tip as the Halibut alone was $36, which is often the going price for this piece of fish. Regardless, if it’s on the menu I’ll likely order it.
In no hurry the next morning, we dawdled a bit in the room and then set out for breakfast towards Palm Springs and landed at The Palms Cafe on Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. Seated outside we perused the menu and I noticed that they had a Machaca, Cheese & Egg Burrito and JB asked if it could be made into a plate. With a yes answer we both ordered one and much like with the veggie omelet, I successfully concluded the one I had been pursuing for this great Mexican breakfast dish.
JB and I bade farewell to Doug and returned to our respective homes, glad to have safely spent the weekend together. Since these two and Evan helped me ferry my two cars across the U.S. to Charlotte from Los Angeles when Joanna and I moved in 2008, the four of us (and sometimes Rendy) have met up under the guise of the Cisco Fest, twelve years running. Although we all couldn’t make it physically this time, Zoom helped us make it remotely, proving once again that its hard, if not impossible, to keep a good Cisco down.
Fairfield Inn and Suites: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/ctdpd-fairfield-inn-and-suites-palm-desert/
Billy Q’s: https://billyqs.net/
Paradise Cove Café: https://paradisecove.cafe/
Si Bon: https://sibon-sogood.com/
Karmeliet Tripel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosteels_Brewery
The Palms Café: http://www.thepalmscafeinc.com/home.html