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Postcards from Travel Near and Far by Jia-Rui


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92264, Palm Springs

Robson Chambers house, 1947

Dear ——–,

Bryan signed us up for the Palm Spring Modern Heritage Fund‘s Modern Homes Tour on Saturday, with the caveat that we could take a time-out at any time if the baby was fussing/crying/peeing/pooping. With the baby tucked into a Baby Bjorn, we managed to see all the houses except for the first and the last on the tour, including this house designed by Robson Chambers as his own home. (For those of you who want to own a piece of architecture history, it is for sale — $575,000.) Most of the homes on the tour were vintage, including a house Arthur Elrod designed for himself that seemed frozen in the early 1960s, with a quaint orange-green color scheme in the living room, an enormous King-Arthur-esque round dining table, and a Steinway designed by the architect. The houses we liked best — a Dean Davidson house from 1965 and a Stan Sackley house from 1971 — mixed the indoor-outdoor space, with floor-to-ceiling windows, access to the pool from most rooms and terrazzo floors that allowed for wet feet from the pool. As the setting sun glowed golden-pink on the San Jacinto Mountains, we mused at how fun it was to see private houses in neighborhoods we never would’ve explored as tourists. You could almost hear the clink of cocktail glasses behind us.

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92262, Palm Springs

Vintage Porsche 356

Dear ——–,

The Cook family took its first vacation together this past weekend, packing the baby, the dog, our luggage, plus the baby’s swing and Pack n Play into the Mini Cooper. (We definitely needed the roof box.) We got a great deal on a room at the Riviera in Palm Springs thanks to Jetsetter. As we pulled in on Friday, we saw Porsche flags waving. What was that about? Turns out, there was some kind of rally for Porsche 356s — the first of the mass-produced Porsches — and we found them in all candy colors on the lawns the next morning.  To me, these cars pop right out of sun-drenched scenes in a Fellini film, driven by some Casanova scamp. The Riviera was an old Rat Pack hangout, so why not conjure up the Italian version? We ordered a little take-out from Trio and it was a good start to the weekend.


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92264, Palm Springs

The scene at the Ace Hotel

Dear ——–,

On the last day of our “babymoon,” it finally got warm enough to sit by the pool. The blades of the wind farms stood eerily still and the sun warmed Palm Springs to cozy 80 degrees. Bryan treated me to a “Mama Goodness” massage at the Ace Hotel, which included wristbands to the pool. What a scene it was by the pool: lots of bronzed, pneumatic male bodies in Speedos, chatter peppered with “honey” and “girl,” and a d.j. mixing Lady Gaga into Katy Perry. What was going on? A quick check of the iPhone told us — it was White Party weekend! I think there were literally 10 women there, including me and a group of ladies on a bachelorette weekend. After about 4 hours of mayhem, we decamped for the Short Bus “family” pool, which, despite squealing children, was actually a quieter venue. I saw a woman lying on a deck chair with her husband, watching me walk by. Their hands were protectively on a little abdomen bump. I could see them thinking, “Now, that’s pregnant!”


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92240, Desert Hot Springs

View from inside the room out to the private patio

Dear ——–,

Bryan was taken with the photographs of Hotel Lautner on the web, but there is nothing like actually staying in one of these perfectly designed mid-century Modern rooms. You almost feel as if you’re living outdoors since windows make up two of the walls. When you lie on the bed, you look directly up through another strip of windows, as if lying in an open field, looking up at the clouds. Instead of curtains, there are various cacti planted around the windows and then a high, wraparound cement wall, which also helps with the wind. The wall was just the right height to allow the morning sun to hit you in the face and rouse you out of bed at around 8:30 a.m. The motel originally opened in 1947, but has just been renovated and stocked with very cool vintage furniture. Because it is newly opened, the room was missing a few things — a pot large enough to boil water for pasta, a chef’s knife, a freezer cold enough to keep gelato solid — but all in all, it was quite comfortable. Bryan especially liked the pod coffeemaker which brewed a perfect cup of coffee each morning. By the end of our stay, we didn’t want to leave.


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92240, Desert Hot Springs

Wind farm at the edge of Desert Hot Springs

Dear ——–,

As our last baby-free getaway, Bryan and I headed to Palm Springs. We had postponed this trip two weeks in the hopes that it would be warmer but this past weekend was still incredibly brisk. The wind was blowing at 30 miles per hour and even the checkout lady at the Walgreens in Desert Hot Springs was complaining about the cold spell. A frosting of snow was sitting atop some of the San Jacinto Mountains, for crying out loud. (What?!) The only people who were happy were probably the folks who run the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, whose turbines were spinning quite vigorously on Friday. We were just going to have to keep our fingers crossed that the temperature would get above 65 degrees. A big part of our vision of this “babymoon” was lounging by a hotel pool and enjoying the indoor-outdoor space at the place Bryan found for us to stay: Hotel Lautner, a beautifully restored mid-century Modern gem.


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93546, Mammoth Lakes

Peacha, striking a heroic pose in the Sierras

Dear ——–,

Last Saturday, I decided to take both Peacha and Tami’s toy poodle Winston out for a walk in the snow. We headed out to Hot Creek, near the airport. As I started walking in my snowshoes, I noticed Peacha trying to consolidate second place, as if to say, “If my human is #1, then I’m #2. Winston, you’re #3.” Every time Winston tried to get close to me, she blocked him. I’ve never seen our submissive little dog act the enforcer! I continued on for a maybe a mile or two, admiring the more picturesque — if exposed — views, compared to the tree-lined Sherwin Meadows. Although I was hoping we’d make it to the aquamarine hot springs, we had to turn back short because we were running out of time (I’d scheduled a prenatal massage at the Healing Arts Centre. Tough life, I know!) It was a good thing we did. Winston dragged a good 200 feet behind me at some points. But he responded well to encouragement and his little face was still plastered with a tired smile. Both dogs fell asleep immediately in the car on the drive back.


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93546, Mammoth Lakes

Peacha, looking back on our snowshoe trail

Dear ——–,

This is my first trip to Mammoth where I haven’t been able to ski. I dropped Bryan and Tami off at Main Lodge in the morning so they could slide and came back to Edelweiss Lodge, our base of operations, to get a map for snowshoe trails. My parents gave me snowshoes for Christmas 10 years ago, but I haven’t had a real opportunity to use them until now. Keith, one of the managers, pointed out a couple of dog-friendly areas and I took Peacha in the car with me to Sherwin Meadows. It was a landscape of rolling hills, so, as I went up and down, there were a couple of times where I nearly tripped over the snowshoes because they flop around. Once I got the hang of it, I had a good time meandering between the lodgepole pines. Peacha sweetly fell into step behind me, probably because it was easier to walk where the snowshoes had tamped down the mushy snow. But I’d also like to think she knew I was the expedition leader.