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The Coachella Valley is made up of over a dozen communities and is part of the Colorado Desert, extending northwestward for 45 mi (72 km) from the Salton Sea through Riverside County in southern California.  The valley is 15 mi wide and lies between the Little San Bernardino Mountains in the east and the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains to the west. Of all the communities in the Coachella Valley Palm Springs is probably the most well known and is almost synonymous with the rich and famous but times have changed and the very wealthy have moved east in the valley towards the small community of Indian Wells. 

Palm Springs 
We have visited the valley several times. The first two times we stayed in Desert Hot Springs. Today, with a population of around 14,500, Desert Hot Springs is a quiet resort offering relaxation to many visitors who come to enjoy the desert air and the hot mineral waters. While staying in the valley during May, I took advantage of the spas in Desert Hot Springs and spent four hours being totally pampered. It was fun. 

The hot spring mineral pools at Desert Hot Springs.
But the valley has something that is not relaxing; it is the wind. If you have ever driven I-10 through the valley you had to see the infamous windmills which are at the western end of the valley (Desert Hot Springs). Increasingly popular as alternative sources of energy, wind turbine generators produce electricity by harnessing the wind. A type of windmill, wind turbine generators are much less harmful to the environment than other sources of energy, but are not always practical because they require average wind speeds of at least 21 km/h (13 mph). This wind farm on the San Gorgonio Mountain Pass in California's San Bernadino Mountains contains over 4000 separate windmills and provides enough electricity to power the entire Coachella Valley in southern California.

But in reality one must realize that this is a windy area. The winds when we were there (May 2002) were from 20 to 50 miles per hour and they stir up the dry desert and blow it all over. Some days it reminded us of a snow storm in Michigan. The sand blew straight across the freeway and visibility was very low. Then the road graders (snow plows?) came out to scoop the sand which had drifted along the freeway back off the road. In some places we actually saw snow type fences. The news was full of people complaining about the sand which was inches deep in their swimming pools. 

We personally didn't think the desert was pretty either. Unlike the Arizona desert that we are used to there is very little vegetation. And the hills are barren and rocky too. But people like it in the desert especially in their grassy, flower filled gated communities

We were in a park model at Desert Shadows a gated RV park in Cathedral City. The grass was green and lush. There were pretty flowers everywhere and somehow the outside fence cut the wind some. 

Cathedral City supports a population of 34,000, the town has several golf courses. The community's business district is known locally for building supplies, home furnishings, general mercantile stores and auto sales, plus antique and second-hand shops. It is where the workers for the rich live and the population is decidedly Hispanic. The homes are modest and neat.

As you can see from the map above, Cathedral City is adjacent to Palm Springs. Incorporated in 1938, it is one of the major cities in the lower desert, with permanent residents numbering 40,200 and the population more than doubling during the high (winter) season. Because it is only 100 miles from Hollywood many of the movie stars made their winter homes there in the 50's through 60's. Much of the architecture is of that period. Bob Hope's home is a landmark and easily viewed from the main drag through the valley communities. 

Stores of all description line Palm Canyon and Indian Canyon drives, the main streets through town. Numerous art galleries display works of contemporary artists, and apparel stores sell the latest in resort wear. Luxury items used to fill the Desert Fashion Plaza, in the heart of town. It has been closed for remodeling the sign says, but there is no indication of any activity going on. Still the downtown is lovely. The grand old lady now shares its reputation as a desert playground with the rest of the Coachella Valley, but still boasts the region's most walkable downtown. It is fun to have lunch at a sidewalk cafe or just wander in and out of the shops. 

The largest community in the Coachella Valley, Palm Desert is also the region's retail center. Palm Desert was created as a real estate development in 1964. Today, with a population of about 35,000, the community boasts a sizable shopping and commercial district along SR 111 and Monterey Avenue. Palm Desert Town Center, Coachella Valley's largest shopping mall, houses an ice rink, movie theaters, five department stores and numerous smaller shops. El Paseo shopping area offers dozens of boutiques and specialty stores ranging from antiques and brass to tennis clothes and swim wear, plus a variety of art galleries, restaurants and cafes. Palm Desert also is the home of College of the Desert community college and the Bob Hope Cultural Center. The Pines-to-Palms Highway (SR 74) provides a scenic and convenient route from Palm Desert to the resort and wilderness areas of the San Jacinto Mountains.

La Quinta Whose name translates to "country estate", is the home of the well known La Quinta Hotel Golf & Tennis Resort, built in the 1920's. The community's village atmosphere attracts tourists, new residents and businesses. The city's permanent population is 16,634, with a seasonal influx of some 8,000 temporary residents. According to a local publication, La Quinta has"...more golf courses on a per capita basis than any city in the world." Noteworthy annual events include major golf tournaments and the La Quinta Arts Festival. It is the fastest-growing community in the Coachella Valley. 

Indian Wells: A small community best known for its destination resorts and wealthy enclaves. Indian Wells as the name implies, was once a well site used by the Cahuilla Indians, The town was created in the 1950's to sell residential lots adjoining the Indian Wells Country Club. Today the city's established population is 3119, which nearly doubles in winter. Indian Wells has the reputation of being one of the highest income per capita communities in the nation. It is home to several major resort hotels and golf courses.

Rancho Mirage: The "Playground of Presidents" also is home to Eisenhower Medical Center and one of the valley's largest restaurant rows.

Indio: The "City of Festivals" also is Riverside County's unofficial second seat, hosting regional administrative offices and the Larson Justice Center.

Thousand Palms and Bermuda Dunes: These unincorporated communities in the center of the valley offer the extremes of valley life: wide open spaces in Thousand Palms and orderly neighborhoods behind the gates of Sun City Palm     Desert in Bermuda Dunes.

In each of these communities which lay along California's Route 111 there are many gated communities all with lovely trees, flowers and lush grass. The street names could be part of Who's Who in America. Frank Sinatra, Gene Autrey, Gerald Ford, Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, Fred Waring, are just a few of the streets. It is a fun place to visit or winter. Don't go in the summer unless you like it hot. 

Copyright © 2002, Movin' On with Ron & BarbTM- All Rights Reserved