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Transit tales: Desert crossings

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

Transit tales: Desert crossings

Careful what you wonder about. As we crossed the high desert on our way back to the Bay Area from the Grand Canyon at Christmas, I wondered what it must have been like to cross those miles upon miles of Desert Road-like terrain without truck stops, bottled water, and DVDs playing in air-conditioned comfort.

Well, I got to find out in a small way when I was down in the low-desert city of Palm Desert a few days later. Used to the plentiful public transit options here, I was completely unprepared for the lack of so much as bike lanes—they have golf cart routes instead—and found myself walking several miles back to my motel from St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church through the midday heat.

At least it was winter! But a winter day there is pretty much the same temperature as a NZ summer day. Like any desert traveler, I searched for the shadiest route possible, which wasn’t all that easy given that some streets didn’t even have sidewalks. Hurrah, then, for the Hope Lutheran church, which happened to have its doors open and afforded me a comfort stop and a vending machine that sold water.

::Bad timing::
Not realizing I could have gotten accreditation to the Palm Springs Airport part of the Ford state funeral, I decided to leave town early and was waiting at the Amtrak bus stop at 9 in the morning when the family motorcade went by, It was en route to the church for what was supposed to have been a 9:45 am departure with the casket to the 747 waiting at Palm Springs airport to take everyone to Andrews Air Force Base and then DC.

The Amtrak bus arrived as scheduled at 9:15, but had hardly made two blocks’ progress when it was brought to a standstill by the funeral cortege setting off from the church for the airport half an hour ahead of schedule. Accordingly, Amtrak couldn’t get into the airport to pick up the eight passengers waiting there for their transfer to the train at Bakersfield because all the road entrances were blocked off for security reasons.

Though they’re plenty out of date now, here are some handheld-sized photos of the leaving of Palm Desert.

In lieu of bike lanes and sidewalks, Palm Desert supplies Golf Cart Routes.

The 747 known as Air Force One when a living US President is on board at Palm Springs International Airport.

The state funeral logistics support aircraft at Palm Springs International Airport.



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